Fortum subsidiary Uniper and the Dutch Port of Rotterdam are considering large-scale production of green hydrogen at a plant in the Maasvlakte area of what is Europe’s largest harbour.

A feasibility study will be completed this summer for a hydrogen plant on Uniper’s site by 2025 with a capacity of 100MW that could be expanded to 500MW, the utility said.

Düsseldorf-based Uniper was formed by spinning off the fossil fuel assets of German utility E.ON in 2016, and later was bought by Finnish utility Fortum. While still heavily fossil and nuclear-based, Uniper has announced to close or convert its coal-fired power plants in Europe by 2025 at the latest, and become carbon neutral in Europe by 2035.

“Our location at Maasvlakte is the perfect place for large-scale production of green hydrogen,” Uniper chief executive Andreas Schierenbeck said.

“This is where everything comes together: large amounts of renewable energy, the required infrastructure, and industrial customers. A better place for green hydrogen production is hardly imaginable.”

North Sea offshore wind

In the production of green hydrogen, renewable energy is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen in a process called electrolysis.

Uniper didn’t detail where the renewable power for the planned hydrogen plant would come from, but mentioned that offshore wind power from the North Sea will come ashore at Maasvlakte, where it already operates various relevant facilities.

Oil major Shell and Dutch utility Eneco last year had already announced plans for a 200MW electrolyser in the Port of Rotterdam that is slated to be fed with power from the 759MW Hollandse Kust North offshore wind project that will also supply energy to online retail giant Amazon.

“The production of green hydrogen on the Uniper site fits in perfectly with the strategy of the Port Authority to make the industry more sustainable,” said Port of Rotterdam Authority CEO Allard Castelein.

Green is the new black. Subscribe to Accelerate

Get the market insight you need into the global oil & gas industry's energy transition – from the new newsletter from Upstream and Recharge. Sign up here

“Green hydrogen is a sustainable alternative for natural gas to realise high temperatures. Besides, it is an important sustainable feedstock for the chemical industry.”

German complaints

Uniper sees a potential market for sustainable hydrogen both in the Rotterdam port area and in Germany, and stressed that major industrial complexes in North Rhine Westphalia State will also be possible through pipelines “in due course.”

The North Rhine Westphalia State renewable federation LEE NRW, meanwhile, criticised Germany's rising efforts to source green hydrogen from abroad instead of better promoting domestic renewable energy sources for it.

"Green hydrogen is increasingly becoming a [business] location factor. Investments will only be made where green hydrogen is available for industry," LEE NRW chairman Reiner Priggen said.

"NRW was once the No. 1 energy and industrial state and negligently gives that up."