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The Netherlands is Placing its Bets on the Hydrogen Economy

Natural gas power plant Eemshaven. One of the blocks is retrofitted for hydrogen.

The Netherlands are “plat als een dubbeltje” (flat as a dime) and as such pumped hydro storage solutions are virtually impossible. The people behind the recent Climate Accord, that is from the industry to environmentalist groups, see hydrogen as the key of the energy transition. Current annual hydrogen production (from natural gas) is 800,000 ton, mostly for agriculture and refineries. The goal is “green hydrogen”, produced from solar and wind, without CO2 as a byproduct. Hydrogen is needed for several purposes: as storage and for certain aspects of industrial society that can’t be covered with electricity alone. Batteries alone are no solution. For the storage of 2000 kWh you would need 3 sea containers per household at the cost of 40,000 euro/year. You can store the same 2000 kWh worth of energy in a hydrogen container of merely 1 m3. And yes, there are considerable conversion losses from electricity –> H2 –> electricity, but hydrogen can be exported via existing but retrofitted natural gas networks, where building new cables would be 100-200 times more expensive.

Dutch industry is already busy with laying the foundations of a hydrogen economy. In the northern Groningen province, GasUnie is developing a small factory where solar electricity is converted in hydrogen (“power-to-gas”). The best location for large scale hydrogen factories is probably at sea, near the wind parks. Fortunately there is an enormous pipeline infrastructure in the North Sea, a left over of the gas and oil age, that can be reused for hydrogen. Large scale hydrogen production won’t happen before 2030, simply because there is yet not enough wind power generated that can’t be used immediately. 3,000 turbines are seen as a critical number from where storage would become necessary.

Currently Holland is competing with post-Fukushima Japan to be the owner of the first hydrogen economy.

[volkskrant.nl] – Ineens lijkt waterstof het antwoord op alle energieproblemen

[deepresource] – Nederlandse Regering Presenteert Klimaatakkoord
[deepresource] – First Climate Neutral Power Station in The Netherlands
[deepresource] – Prof. Ad van Wijk (#1 Dutch hydrogen guru)
[noordelijkeinnovationboard.nl] – The Green Hydrogen Economy in the Northern Netherlands (English pdf, 51p)
[ammoniaindustry.com] – A Roadmap for The Green Hydrogen Economy in the Northern Netherlands

The report contains significant financial analysis on how green hydrogen can be produced at industrial scale, either from biomass gasification or water electrolysis, at a cost of EUR 2.20 to 2.30 per kg.

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