Hydrogen is used as a sustainable fuel for industry. New technology even produces hydrogen without CO2 emissions. Rotterdam is committed to the largest ‘green’ hydrogen plant in Europe.
Hydrogen is a miracle cure. You can use it to drive cars or to heat the house. And all that without emissions. The only residual product is water. The downside is that until now hydrogen has mainly been produced by converting natural gas at high temperatures. And then this energy source is partly fossil.
It can also be done differently: by means of ‘electrolysis’ water (H2O) can be split into hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O). If you use green energy for that electrolysis, such as wind or solar energy, then hydrogen is CO2-neutral. The Port of Rotterdam Authority, together with the companies Nouryon and BP, is therefore looking at setting up the largest green hydrogen plant of Europe.
Corné Boot, Head of Government Affairs of BP Nederland: ‘The plant we have in mind in this partnership must produce 45,000 tonnes of green hydrogen annually. That makes this plant the largest in Europe. In this way, we save 350,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The challenge is that we need a lot of green electricity, namely 250 Megawatt. If you consider that a wind turbine at sea supplies an average of 2 to 3 Megawatts of electricity per year, then this is not 1-2-3 regulated’. The partners have allocated three years to make the ‘infrastructure’ for the plant possible.
Nico van Dooren, Energy and Process Industry Manager at the Port of Rotterdam Authority: ‘We think it is important to sit down at the table from the very beginning of this development. Research has shown that we need forty factories of this scale to replace natural gas with a sustainable fuel. It’s a challenging project, but we’re happy to give it room.
In 2022, the decision will be made as to whether the green hydrogen plant will actually be built. In the meantime, the planning process will continue in many areas. It has to be. Corné: ‘We want a future with low CO2 emissions. So process efficiency, electrification, CO2 capture and storage, reuse of residual heat and green hydrogen. What I like is that the port of Rotterdam wants to lead the way in many of these areas. Of course, we support that!’
Hydrogen is indispensable in the production of oil products. In that case, it is used to extract sulphur from the oil: ‘desulphurisation’ in jargon. The port of Rotterdam has five oil refineries. These refineries do not use all the hydrogen: part of it is pumped to northern France by means of two pipelines. This is how Rotterdam’s hydrogen finds its way into European industry.
What can you do with hydrogen?
Have you ever heard of grey, blue or green hydrogen? These are not references to the colour of the hydrogen (hydrogen is colourless and odourless), but they do say something about the way in which it is produced.
Grey hydrogen is extracted from natural gas. Among other things, this releases CO2 that ends up in the air. Fortunately, more environmentally friendly production methods are emerging.
For example, blue hydrogen: the CO2 released during production is stored in the empty gas fields under the North Sea. But the best thing for people and the environment is green hydrogen. With green electricity, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen; no CO2 is released at all. This makes it ideal if you have large amounts of green electricity at your disposal: then you can produce endless amounts of hydrogen without one gram of C02.
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