Green hydrogen switch based on ‘wishful thinking’: FD

The government wants to generate 16% of energy from renewables by 2023.
An offshore wind farm. Photo:

Tata Steel’s announcement that it would switch to green hydrogen in order to alleviate pollution was received with enthusiasm but large scale industrial use would quadruple the amount of green electricity currently consumed nationally and necessitate foreign imports, the Financieele Dagblad said in an analysis.

This makes the hydrogen-based projects announced by multinationals such as Shell, Orsted, BP, Vattenfall and many smaller companies, so much pie in the sky, experts consulted by the paper said.

TNO hydrogen expert René Paters said the numbers do not add up. ‘The total demand for hydrogen is 1.5 million tonnes. If that has to made with wind energy you will need some 15 gigawatts  produced offshore. But that is the current demand. The next decades will see an enormous increase in that demand.’

‘The term green hydrogen is bandied about very lightly but it is already three times as expensive as grey hydrogen,’ said Frans Rooijers of research bureau CE Delft. ‘You can’t just say: we will replace natural gas with green hydrogen’. Even if we could produce it, it would cost an enormous amount of money. The whole discussion is based on wishful thinking. And industry thinks the government will foot the bill.’

The chances that hydrogen produced domestically will be the cheapest option are not great either, Rooijers said. If companies do transition to hydrogen, imports from countries as far away as Australia, Chile or Oman would be more likely.

However, that scenario would also be an expensive one, Peters said, because transport would add considerably to the costs. That in turn means Rotterdam port will have to take steps if it wants to become the main European hub for hydrogen imports.

Shipping green hydrogen from Iceland may already be feasible before 2030, and Rotterdam harbour chief Allard Castelein said the Netherlands needs to act now.

‘If the Germans are gearing up their industry towards green hydrogen then they will look to where they will get it from: Antwerp, Rotterdam, Bremerhaven. If we wait too long and sit on our hands I know exactly what we will get, namely nothing at all,’ he told the paper.

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