Sweden and Finland have certainly done a good job of ruffling Russian feathers with their plans to join NATO, and the new electrofuel movement could be caught in the crossfire. Sweden, for one, plans on floating gigawatts of offshore wind turbines into the the Baltic sea to support its new electrofuel industry, even while the Russian Baltic Fleet launches new “training exercises.”
The Electrofuel / Green Hydrogen Connection
Electrofuel, aka e-fuel or Syngas, refers to liquid fuels or gases that can be synthesized by combining carbon with hydrogen. Until recent years that would make practically zero sense from a planet-saving perspective, since most of the hydrogen on the global market comes from natural gas, with coal and recovered waste coming into the picture as well, but the emerging green hydrogen market has flipped the script. The primary source of green hydrogen is water, with renewable energy doing the heavy lifting by providing the electricity to run electrolysis systems.
Biogas, biomass, and wastewater are also coming into play, but water electrolysis is the main focus of activity.
The Electrofuel Revolution Has Only Just Begun
With the green hydrogen angle in hand, the cost and availability of carbon is another factor juicing the electrofuel market.
Fossil energy fans have long touted carbon capture and sequestration as the solution to the Earth’s carbon overload. For all the talk, though, the carbon sequestration part of the equation has proved to be a stubborn obstacle. Besides, from the fossil energy perspective, CCS is a business-as-usual strategy that enables continued coal, oil, and gas extraction.
That’s not exactly a helpful approach when the idea is to prevent the worst impacts of the existing carbon overload, not to keep injecting more carbon into the global economy.
All things being equal, recycling carbon is a more sustainable solution than digging up more carbon from underground. The cost of carbon capture is coming down, and various manufacturers are thinking up all sorts of ways — including vodka, fabrics and high end perfume — to use recycled carbon. The electrofuel market appears to be next in line.
CleanTechnica caught a whisper of things to come back in 2017, when the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory came up with an economical pathway for scaling up carbon carbon recycling.
Thing have been cooking since then, and transportation stakeholders are taking notice. In May, for example, Porsche indicated that it is climbing on board the e-fuels bandwagon. Airbus also dropped a hint in the e-fuel area last month, when it provided an update on its airport hydrogen hub plans.
Big Plans For The Baltic Sea, Floating Offshore Wind Edition
That brings us to Sweden, where energy stakeholders are eagerly eyeballing the electrofuel market. Earlier this year, for example, A-listers Vattnfall, SAS, Shell, and LanzaTech combined forces for a new synthetic fuel project that will leverage waste carbon dioxide from a district heating facility in Sweden, with Vattenfall taking care of the green hydrogen angle.
Last week Vattenfall also signed on with the firm St1 to establish a “fossil free value chain for production of synthetic electro fuel,” for a facility to be located on the west coast of the country, primarily aimed at the aviation market.
On the green hydrogen side, Sweden is best known for its hydropower resources, which currently provides for about 45% of the country’s electricity (nuclear weighs in second, at 30%).
However, hydropower is not the only renewable resource Sweden has up its sleeve. The Baltic Sea beckons with its potential for unleashing many clean kilowatts’ worth of electricity. Vattenfall is among those in the running, including a plan to develop the 250-megawatt Arcadis Ost 1 offshore wind farm.
Another major player in the Baltic Sea is the Irish firm Simply Blue, which is on a mission to integrate its interests in the floating wind turbine area with electrofuel production.
Simply Blue has already launched plans to develop floating offshore wind turbine farms in collaboration with Wind Sweden, which will total approximately 5 gigawatts in the Swedish waters of the Baltic Sea.
That’s just the tip of the offshore wind iceberg for Sweden. As described by Simply Blue, the Swedish government is planning to harvest between 20 and 30 terawatt-hours of wind energy per year from its waters, including the North Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to the Baltic Sea.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at Simply Blue’s plans for integrating floating offshore wind into the electrofuel market.
“Floating offshore wind is the dominant market segment in Simply Blue Group’s portfolio, with an impressive pipeline of over 10GW of floating offshore wind projects across the globe,” the company observed just last week. “These projects offer a fantastic opportunity to harness renewable energy at scale that could be used to power large scale e-Fuel production plants.”
“These e-Fuel production plants will be very flexible meaning they can respond rapidly to the available wind energy and increase or decrease the e-Fuel production to suit the weather conditions,” elaborated Michael Galvin, who is Simply Blue’s Director of Hydrogen and Sustainable Fuels. “For example, e-Jet fuel production for the aviation sector can be varied to stabilise the electricity grid due to changing wind conditions or due to changes in electrical demand on the grid.”
Nordic Electrofuel Industry Takes Shape
Not to be outdone, Finland is also on the move. Last January, for example, the firm OX2 received two exploration permits for offshore wind farms to be located in the Gulf of Bothnia,
“The two wind farms could fit up to 310 turbines, which, if completed, will generate 23 TWh of environmentally friendly renewable electricity. As a reference there was 67 TWh of electricity produced in Finland in 2020,” OX2 noted.
OX2 is already anticipating that green hydrogen and other industrial processes will be part of the picture, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Meanwhile, the Finnish agency Metsähallitus also has designs on the Baltic Sea. As developer, Metsähallitus is shepherding the planned Korsnäs Offshore Wind Farm through the construction process. Once completed, the project will contribute 5,000 gigawatt-hours per year to Finland’s grid.
“At the end of 2021, Finland’s total wind power production was 8061 GWh. The project would thus significantly increase Finland’s emission-free energy production at the end of the current decade,” Metsähallitus explained.
Sword-Rattling In The Baltic Sea
So, connecting the dots…Sweden and Finland are both intent on joining NATO, and both are leaning on the Baltic Sea to wean themselves from fossil fuels. That’s a double whammy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who apparently counted on weak-kneed European nations to knuckle under the threat of a gas cut-off.
Capitulation is not in the cards, at least not yet. Meanwhile, Russia’s Baltic Fleet has been rather busy of late, which could be interpreted as a threat to the emerging Baltic Sea offshore wind hub. For that matter, other Baltic nations, including Estonia, Poland, and Lithuania, have also begun to rev up their offshore wind plans.
To make matters even more interesting, Poland is getting a big assist from Shell for its Baltic sea projects.
Lithuania is also of particular interest because the nation recently announced that it would exercise its responsibilities as an EU member, and prohibit the transit of sanctioned goods by rail to the Russian outpost of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, where the Baltic Fleet is stationed.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo credit: Offshore wind farm courtesy of Simply Blue.
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