A consortium of Orsted, Siemens Gamesa, ITM Power and Element Energy aims to develop a megawatt-scale electrolyser to produce green hydrogen directly at offshore wind turbines and transport it to shore.

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The consortium’s Oyster project has been awarded €5m ($6.1m) in funding by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking (FCH2-JU), a public-private partnership of the European Commission, to investigate the feasibility of combining offshore wind turbines directly with ‘fully marinised’ electrolysers, initially in a shoreside pilot trial.

Orsted said that to realise the potential of offshore green hydrogen, there is a need for compact electrolysis systems that can withstand harsh offshore environments and have minimal maintenance requirements, while still meeting performance targets that will allow production of low-cost H2.

“As the largest offshore wind company in the world, we're of course keen to better understand what it will take to produce renewable hydrogen offshore as a potential future supplement to production of renewable electricity,” said Anders Christian Nordstrøm, head of Orsted’s hydrogen activities.

“Having pioneered the offshore wind industry, we know that thorough analysis and testing are required before deploying new technologies at sea.”

Orsted is not the only utility testing the production of hydrogen directly at offshore wind turbines.

Rival RWE recently revealed plans to place two 14MW wind turbines close to the island of Heligoland and produce hydrogen directly from them – as a pilot phase of the giant AquaVentus initiative, which has the long-term goal to produce the green gas from 10GW of offshore wind capacity in the area.

Seawater as feedstock

But while technical details for RWE’s plans are scarce, the Oyster project consortium gave away a bit more information.

The Oyster electrolyser system will be designed to be compact and integrated with a single offshore wind turbine, to follow the machine’s production profile. The system will integrate desalination and water treatment, making it possible to use seawater as a feedstock for the electrolysis process.

The partners in the Oyster consortium aim at producing hydrogen from offshore wind at a cost that is competitive with natural gas (with a realistic carbon tax).

“The aim is the optimal integration of electrolysers with offshore wind turbines to store the energy generated in the form of hydrogen,” said Bart Biebuyck, executive director at FCH JU.

The project is planned to start this year and run until the end of 2024.

ITM Power is responsible for the development of the electrolyser system and the electrolysis trials, while Orsted will lead the offshore deployment analysis, the feasibility study of future physical offshore electrolyser deployments. Siemens Gamesa and Element Energy are providing technical and project expertise.