Northern Netherlands: the hotspot for sustainable hydrogen applications

The industry of  the Netherlands produces around 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen every year as both a raw material and an energy source for the chemical sector. This currently releases another 7 million tonnes of CO2. Chemport Europe has major plans to change this quickly: more hydrogen production, but completely CO2-neutral, making hydrogen a sustainable driver of the green industry. What are the opportunities and challenges in the region?

This article about hydrogen is the second in a series of three articles about the power of the chemical sector in the Northern Netherlands. Also read the articles about green chemistry and innovative recycling.

Hydrogen as a raw material and as an energy source

Why the choice for hydrogen? Simple. Here in the north, we want to transition to using natural gasses (e.g. for central heating). And that is possible. Because we have offshore wind farms with which we can generate green energy for the production of hydrogen and the possibilities and knowledge to make our gas infrastructure suitable for its transport. We have the possibilities for underground storage and companies that can make products from it. In short: we have the experience, resources and expertise, perhaps the most in the Netherlands.

Mega operation

The transition to hydrogen is possible. But it will be a mega operation because it takes a lot of energy to produce hydrogen. According to calculations, about 5 to 6 Gigawatt of electricity is needed. This is four times as much as the largest and most modern power plant in the Netherlands supplies. The region wants to generate sustainable energy needed for this production of hydrogen through new offshore wind farms.
We are ready for this transition to hydrogen: over the next ten years, the northern business community itself will invest €2.8 billion in the North Netherlands Hydrogen Investment Agenda (link in Dutch). An important step in this is the so-called HydroHub. This test center for the production of hydrogen will be located on Campus Groningen. In HydroHub, companies work together with knowledge centers. The province of Groningen is also making a substantial contribution.
In order to realize our ambitions, costs must be lowered and hydrogen production must be substantially higher: to billions of cubic meters per year. It will take another 10 years, but our ultimate goal is clear: sustainability and much less CO2 production. We are already well on our way with that. Since 1990, companies in the Chemport Europe region have already emitted 36% less CO2. With hydrogen this decrease even goes up to 50%.

Two Challenges

To speed up the transition to the application of hydrogen, the region is organising the Sustainable Industry Challenge, in which scale-ups from around the world are challenged to come up with innovative solutions!
Energy company ENGIE wants to investigate how, for example, the engines of existing ships can be adapted so that they can use biomethanol and hydrogen as fuel. And BioMCN wants to turn CO2 emissions into carbon saving with green hydrogen.