A movement is afoot to extract hydrogen directly from seawater, but the European Union is not waiting around for the paint to dry. The EU Clean Hydrogen Partnership has just tapped a new consortium for a €20 million grant to send a seawater treatment system out to sea, coupled with along with a 10-megawatt electrolyzer that will deploy renewable energy to jolt green hydrogen from the purified water. That’s just for starters, if all goes according to plan.
Ocean Voyage For A Green Hydrogen Electrolyzer
The US firm Plug Power and the French firm Lhyfe are two members of the nine-member consortium that won the grant, under the name HOPE for Hydrogen Offshore Production Europe.
Plug Power got its start back in 1997 with a focus on the unsung but important area of hydrogen fuel cell forklifts for logistics operations. That was back when the global hydrogen supply relied primarily on natural gas and other fossil inputs. Plug eventually shifted its attention to partake in the electrolyzer boom of recent years and is now a notable supplier of sustainable H2.
Lhyfe came across the CleanTechnica radar in February of 2022, when word surfaced that it is part of a sustainable hydrogen partnership with ABB along with the Swiss utility company Axpo and the Canadian firm Hydrogen Optimized.
The two companies paired up in 2021 to announce plans for supplying green hydrogen throughout Europe. They also launched an offshore hydrogen plant that year, billing it as the world’s first. The setup included a 1-megawatt electrolyzer on a floating platform, powered by a floating wind turbine in the SEM-REV wave and wind energy test site off the coast of Le Croisic in Centrale Nantes.
Offshore Hydrogen Pedal To The Metal: From 1 Megawatt To 10
The 2021 offshore hydrogen project was a proof-of-concept model that paved the way for the 10-megawatt facility. Once up and running, the new floating electrolyzer will pump out 4 tonnes of hydrogen daily.
The new operation will be located at an offshore test site in the North Sea, off the port of Ostend in Belgium. The hydrogen will be sent to customers on land within a 300-kilometer radius.
The plan is to make Ostend the centerpiece of Belgium’s green hydrogen industry. The HOPE consortium also eyeballing the prospects for a network of large scale offshore hydrogen production sites all around the EU, beyond the 5-year term of their grant from the Clean Hydrogen Partnership.
More Green Add-Ons For Offshore Hydrogen
The HOPE project involves a couple of other sustainability elements in support of the green hydrogen mission. Overarching the project is the idea of starting up new energy industries at sea instead of taking up land. That’s important because today’s electrolyzers are enormous. Ten megawatts is more impressive than 1 megawatt, but it’s small potatoes compared to another newly announced Plug Power project that involves a total of 100 megawatts’ worth of electrolyzers on land at the Port of Rotterdam.
Instead of building a new floating facility for the new offshore electrolyzer, the plan also calls for repurposing a jack-up barge previously used for oil and gas operations.
Another sustainability add-on is the energy efficient seawater treatment system, which will run partly on heat generated by the electrolyzer. Lhyfe notes that this is the first use of an evaporation-based seawater purification system to produce green hydrogen.
Plans for powering the electrolyzer have yet to be finalized, but the HOPE project has a contract in hand that guarantees electricity from renewable resources.
The HOPE project will also represent the first use of a flexible thermoplastic composite pipeline, more than 1 kilometer long, to transport hydrogen from the seagoing electrolyzer to land.
The pipeline has certified for that particular use, which is important because pipeline integrity is a key issue for green hydrogen and every other color of hydrogen. If the HOPE project operates as anticipated, it will help make the case for building new gas infrastructure with plastic composites, instead of relying on steel.
Europe Catches Green Hydrogen Fever
Hydrogen is more than a zero emission fuel. It is the linchpin of other key industries, from ammonia fertilizer, metallurgy, and refining to food processing and pharmaceuticals.
The EU’s former hydrogen planning body, the Clean Hydrogen Partnership was tasked with taking over its portfolio in November of 2021, with “clean” indicating the focus on sustainable sources., was launched in 2008, a good 10 years before the green hydrogen industry emerged. The
As an awardee of the Clean Hydrogen partnership, the HOPE consortium stakes its claim to flagship status with a ripple impact on all nine partners. In addition to Lhyfe and Plug that includes Portugal’s EDP New (a recently launched branch of EDP) along with Alfa-Laval of Denmark, Strohm of the Netherlands, ERM and CEA of France, POM-West-Vlaanderen of Belgium, and DWR eco of Germany.
Meanwhile, Here In The USA…
The US has been no slouch, either (see full CleanTechnica coverage here). The market for fuel cell cars has been a flop so far, but there are plenty of other fish in the sea. That includes the US Navy, which is eyeballing seawater as a source for both hydrogen and carbon, from which it could synthesize its own drop-in replacements for liquid fuels. Among a number of hydrogen projects, the Navy recently engaged the University of South Carolina to investigate the potential for synthesizing jet fuel from seawater.
Somewhat ironically, the oil-and-gas producing US state of Texas has already nailed the pole position in the efuels race. Texas has the advantage of a vast existing liquid hydrocarbon fuel infrastructure, along vast and growing quantities of wind and solar power to produce green hydrogen.
In the latest development, the firm HIF Global is moving forward with plans to construct a massive new efuels plant in Matagorda County, billed as the largest facility of its kind in the world.
“When operational, the HIF Matagorda eFuels Facility will produce carbon-neutral shipping fuel and gasoline that can be dropped-in to vehicles in use today without any modification to existing engines or the infrastructure on which they depend,” HIF explains.
HIF plans to deploy hydrogen from water electrolysis with renewable energy, along with recycled carbon dioxide.
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Photo: A first-of-its-kind floating electrolyzer will push green hydrogen from seawater with renewable energy (prototype photo courtesy of Lhyfe via globalnewswire.com).
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