The role of offshore hydrogen is yet to be defined. This year the first area(s) in the North Sea for alternative forms of energy generation, the so-called SEN-1 site will be tendered with a capacity of up to one gigawatt. This is huge in the first upscaling step, but still infinitesimal when compared to the North Sea potential. cruh21 aims to shed light on this aspect by exploring cross-border concepts to accelerate the implementation of offshore electrolysis in the North Sea within the MOHN project.
In light of the growing offshore hydrogen projects and initiatives in the North Sea and with cruh21 being embedded between industrial and research projects in the hydrogen field, cruh21 initiated the MOHN project. The need for cross-border communication and alignment appears as an urgent priority. So, which existing national and regional initiatives and stakeholder activities need to be aligned to maximize synergies? What are the regulatory conditions that must be transferred and made available to stakeholders and regulators? And what will be the economic benefit for the countries around the North Sea to plan and steer the development of the offshore hydrogen production in a foresighted manner?
The MOHN project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), through the 7th Energy Research Program strives to tackle these questions. Within 18 months starting from September 2022, cruh21 and Fraunhofer IEG aim to develop a strategy to accelerate the ramp-up of offshore electrolysis in the North Sea. As the project lead, cruh21 concentrates on stakeholder management, offshore, regulatory, and spatial planning aspects. Fraunhofer IEG’s focus is in on system analysis and integration as well as economic assessment. Together the project partners will develop and evaluate systemic offshore hydrogen scenarios for the North Sea.
Why offshore hydrogen?
Offshore Hydrogen production has several advantages. For instance, large amounts of electricity from renewable sources are needed. Offshore wind turbines have significantly high full load hours thereby enabling a high electrolyser utilization rate. Additionally, hydrogen brings its own renewably generated electricity from offshore wind into the overall energy system and enables the bypass of power grid bottelnecks. From a cost perspective, transport investment to shore is lower than for electrons by factor 2 to 8. Furthemore, the ecological footprint is smaller and the water supply as well as brine disposal are easier offshore than on land.
Why transnational scenarios?
The North Sea region plays a key role in the development of large-scale hydrogen production and domestic hydrogen supply for Europe. Indeed, cooperation between countries bordering the North Sea would on the one hand maximize synergies in terms of spatial planning and on the other significantly reduce dependence on international hydrogen imports and mitigate associated challenges (trade partnerships, sustainability standards, transport, etc.).
Pan-European Offshore Scenarios
In this context, MOHN has the challenging mission of evaluating the Status-Quo and providing possible scenarios for the future. To that end, offshore areas and countries in the North Sea as well as associated stakeholders are identified and analyzed. Emphasis is placed on spatial planning, offshore projects and current framework conditions. Cooperation with stakeholders thereby represents a cornerstone of the project. In the coming months, country-specific workshops and a transnational stakeholder survey will be conducted to portrait the situation and leading questions with stakeholders in the countries.
In the second phase, systemic offshore scenarios are developed in an iterative process. Additionally, synergies with ongoing projects such as the German Flagship Hydrogen project TransHyDE will be used. Finally, scenarios are evaluated and based on a comparison of the scenarios KPIs, conclusions will be drawn – for review and comments within the working groups in the North Sea countries.
For cruh21, Meiko Neumann, who has witnessed first-hand the rapid maturation and growth of the offshore wind industry during the last 14 years, is leading the project and coordinating the collaboration with Fraunhofer IEG. He sees his tasks primarily in conveying good ideas and developing the project in an iterative way by integration of learnings and hurdles along the way. "Our company is committed to providing realistic results. In this initial phase of the project many aspects regarding stakeholder cooperation and an impressive lot of parallel industrial and governmental developments are identified which underline the importance of the MOHN mission. In this context, cruh21 uses its network to address as many players as possible in the North Sea region in order to identify the key challenges for a rapid Ramp-up of Offshore H2." Solutions to such challenges are to be elaborated within the next few months with transnational stakeholder. This would form a first step towards the ramp-up of an Offshore hydrogen economy.