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INTERVIEW: UK offshore wind must consider how to integrate hydrogen: Siemens Energy

Highlights

Offshore H2 to give wind producers optionality

Gas turbines becoming hydrogen-ready

Grid stability an increasing issue with renewables

London — UK offshore wind developers need to consider how to integrate hydrogen production and infrastructure into their projects, the UK head of energy technology company Siemens Energy, Steve Scrimshaw, told S&P Global Platts.

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The growing offshore wind infrastructure in the North Sea and elsewhere would open opportunities for hydrogen, whether produced offshore at windfarm sites, or via onshore electrolyzers linked by interconnectors, he said in an interview May 6.

"It gives offshore wind producers potentially another revenue stream in their business models," Scrimshaw said. "This half of the decade, I think you've got to start thinking about those things."

Windfarms could be linked to a centralized offshore hydrogen production facility, with options to send power or hydrogen gas onshore, or via new links to export to mainland Europe. These would provide optionality for producers, Scrimshaw said, allowing them to respond to market conditions.

Other proposed technology solutions include integrating electrolyzers with wind turbines, which Siemens Energy are developing with partner Siemens Gamesa. The companies aim to have a full-scale offshore demonstration project by 2025-26.

The UK has a target of 40 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, as part of its drive to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Current installed UK offshore wind capacity is 12 GW, according to data from industry body Elexon, with a further 3.7GW under construction and 11.7 GW consented, according to Renewable UK data.

In addition, the UK's Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 allocations are underway, with just under 8 GW of projects announced, in the North Sea and Irish Sea. The projects are going through environmental assessment.

Across the North Sea in the Netherlands, CrossWind -- a consortium of Shell and Eneco -- won the 759 MW Hollandse Kust Noord offshore wind concession in July 2020 with a project that included a plan to build a green hydrogen plant in Rotterdam with an electrolyzer capacity of around 200 MW.

UK ROUND 4 OFFSHORE WIND SEABED AWARDS, FEBRUARY 2021

Bidding Area
Region, location
Successful bidder
Proposed capacity (MW)
Bidding Area 1 (Dogger Bank)
Off the Yorkshire Coast, northeast of Scarborough
RWE Renewables
1,500
Bidding Area 1 (Dogger Bank)
Off the Yorkshire Coast, northeast of Scarborough
RWE Renewables
1,500
Bidding Area 2 (Southern North Sea region, the eastern parts of the Wash and the East Anglia region)
Off the Lincolnshire coast, east of the Humber estuary
Green Investment Group, Total
1,500
Bidding Area 4 (North Wales region, the Irish Sea region, and the northern part of the Anglesey region)
Off the north Wales coast, northeast of Anglesey
Consortium of EnBW and BP
1,500
Bidding Area 4 (North Wales region, the Irish Sea region, and the northern part of the Anglesey region)
Off the Lancashire coast, west of Blackpool and southwest of Morecambe Bay
Offshore Wind Limited, a JV of Cobra Instalaciones y Servicios and Flotation Energy
480
Bidding Area 4 (North Wales region, the Irish Sea region, and the northern part of the Anglesey region)
Off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness, west of Morecambe Bay
Consortium of EnBW and BP
1,500
Total
7,980

Source: Crown Estate

Green and blue

Scrimshaw is technology-agnostic on hydrogen production pathways. To reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, both green hydrogen produced from renewable power and blue hydrogen produced from natural gas with CCS would be needed, he said.

"I think the blue will be more competitive in the short term," he said. "But to get to carbon-neutral by 2050, you will have to have large volumes of green."

Scrimshaw expects subsidies or some sort of market stimulation will be needed in the early days.

"We should try and get a pipeline of the smaller green projects going now," he said. The UK needs to be "at gigawatt scale by the end of the 2020s and then deploy at multi-gigawatt scale in the 2030s and 2040s."

But he does not think the UK government's exclusive focus on blue hydrogen projects in decarbonization funding announced in March is an issue for green hydrogen developers, given the smaller scale of such projects and their modular capabilities.

Platts assessed the cost of producing hydrogen via alkaline electrolysis in the UK (including capex) at GBP4.22/kg ($5.88/kg) May 6. Blue hydrogen production by autothermal reforming was GBP1.64/kg (including capex and carbon).

Hydrogen turbines

Siemens Energy produces CCGTs as well as electrolyzers, and the company is preparing its power generation turbines to take hydrogen.

"All of our gas turbines will be hydrogen capable or even 100% hydrogen capable by 2030," he said.

The different characteristics of hydrogen mean turbine burner technology has to change to accommodate the gas, and Scrimshaw said a technological leap would be required for burning 100% hydrogen.

"Some of our smaller gas turbines, like the aeroderivative gas turbines, can burn 100% hydrogen now. They're doing testing on some of the bigger machines. I think you'll see probably 50% is feasible in the not-too-distant future."

S&P Global Platts Analytics said in a report published April 26: "At the moment there are no large projects with final investment decisions that can deliver the scale needed to fully decarbonize the UK power sector and displace unabated gas-fired generation."

"While there are some projects in the works, such as SSE/Equinor's plans for both CCS and hydrogen at Keadby, far more dispatchable carbon-free power generation will be needed to achieve net zero in the power sector, requiring policy support to accelerate their development," Platts Analytics said.

Grid stability

The increasing renewable power supply to the electricity grid has raised questions over stability.

"Everybody has always said the more proliferation of renewables, the more instability the grid will have," Scrimshaw said. "When the grid connections come in as well, you need to reinforce nodal points."

The grid "was originally designed around big, large-scale power plants," he said. "Now you've got energy coming in different directions."

Electricity system operator National Grid launched a "stability pathfinder" project in 2019 to find inertia solutions for a renewables-heavy grid.

Siemens Energy has won contracts to supply rotating grid stabilization technology in Rassau, Wales, and at Grain and Killingholme in England, repurposing two steam turbine generators at the latter. All the projects are due to be operational in 2021.