1. What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen is an odorless and colorless gas. You have gray, blue and green hydrogen. Of all the hydrogen currently in use, 99 percent is grey. Using gray hydrogen, you can split natural gas with steam into hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2). The carbon dioxide that is released goes into the air and warms the Earth, and we don’t want that anymore.
With blue hydrogen, the process is exactly the same as with grey, but you capture the greenhouse gases and store them underground, reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Using green hydrogen you split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. If you use solar and wind energy for this process, it is called green hydrogen and you have no carbon dioxide emissions. That’s why the government wants to use this version of hydrogen to achieve set climate goals.
2. What do we use hydrogen for?
Hydrogen is suitable for three applications:
- As a raw material in, among others, the chemical industry, steel industry and refining.
- As fuel, for example, to propel heavy freight traffic.
- As storage for solar and wind generated energy that is not needed immediately.
According to Rene Peters, an energy expert at TNO, the Netherlands now uses 1.5 megatons of gray hydrogen, which produces 15 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions. By 2030, we want to emit 55 percent less carbon dioxide than in 1990.
Industry in the Netherlands now uses approximately 40 percent of total energy and accounts for 25 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions (180 megatonnes). The government must work aggressively to reduce the use of fossil fuels and switch to green hydrogen to produce far fewer greenhouse gases. The Netherlands must be climate neutral by 2050.
Green hydrogen is currently still in its infancy, because its manufacturing process is still very expensive. Peters says less than 1 megaton of green hydrogen is produced worldwide annually. This is less than 1% of total hydrogen production.
By generating more solar and wind energy and increasing volume, green hydrogen production becomes less expensive. Shell will open a green one in 2025 Hydrogen plant at Maasvlakte II in Rotterdam. The plant will cost €1 billion and should produce 60,000 kilograms of green hydrogen per day, equivalent to 21,900 tons (0.02 megatons) per year.
3. Why is a national (green) hydrogen grid necessary?
The plan is to connect five large Dutch industrial clusters to Germany and Belgium via existing natural gas pipelines (see map). From 2030, hydrogen must be supplied over 1,200 kilometers via existing gas pipelines. The Netherlands has an energy-intensive industry that needs a lot of green hydrogen, and green hydrogen is important for the energy transition in order to emit less carbon dioxide.
The Netherlands wants to become a hydrogen hub in Europe, and for this it needs the right infrastructure. We already have an extensive network of gas pipelines that we can use to produce hydrogen. 85 percent of the existing gas network can be used to produce hydrogen, and we need to build a new 15 percent to connect companies like the Yara Fertilizer Plant in Sluskill, Chemelot in Limburg, or Tata Steel in Igemeden to this hydrogen network.
There are three large wind farms off the Dutch coast that generate enough sustainable energy to produce green hydrogen. We want to store the generated energy sustainably in hydrogen. We also have ports to import half the amount of hydrogen needed from countries such as Spain and South Africa.
4. Why is industry only associated with green hydrogen?
Green hydrogen is interesting mainly as a raw material for industry and not as a fuel. To heat your home, it’s best to generate electricity via solar panels and use it for your heat pump or run your electric car on battery power. If you convert green hydrogen into fuel, you lose a lot of energy during the conversion and that’s not cheap or efficient.
5. What is the cost of green hydrogen and what are its benefits to the environment?
The total cost is unknown, because we don’t know exactly what companies will invest, but the government has allocated more than $9 billion to stimulate and support green hydrogen. Building this national hydrogen network will cost €1.5 billion. The government will contribute 750 million euros and Gasoni will pay the rest. Green hydrogen in industry will save 6.7 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually from 2030, according to Gasoni.
According to TNO’s Renee Peters, you could save 40 percent on CO2 emissions if you replaced all gray hydrogen with green. If you also replace fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas) with green hydrogen, you can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an additional 10 to 20 percent.
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