Renewable hydrogen

Renewable hydrogen, also known as green hydrogen, will play a vital role in decarbonising industry and transport, enabling the UK to reach its net zero ambitions.

Our vision is to create a world that runs entirely on green energy and, thanks to technologies like offshore wind, we have made great progress in decarbonising our electricity system. But some activities that require large amounts of energy, such as heavy industry, shipping and aviation cannot be decarbonised by renewable electricity alone. In order to be fully green, we must find solutions wider than our electricity network. 

Here, you will discover the importance and benefits of green hydrogen, explore how it is produced and learn how green hydrogen production will help decarbonise industry and transport as we accelerate towards the zero-carbon economy.

 

 

Why is renewable hydrogen important?

 

The UK’s success in decarbonising the power sector is set to place offshore wind generation at the centre of the UK’s energy system, with the UK government setting ambitious targets for 2030 to support the delivery of net zero. As a result, electrification will take centre stage to deliver carbon reduction across all sectors, at least cost to the consumer.

For the hard to decarbonise sectors, such as industry, aviation, shipping, heavy goods vehicles, and heating, where direct electrification is difficult, renewable hydrogen will play an essential role in displacing carbon emissions to support net zero ambitions.

Renewable hydrogen will also provide a vital function to support wider system integration, delivering the flexibility required to meet the needs of a transitioning energy system.

Developing a renewable hydrogen industry in the UK is in its infancy. Ørsted believes that, in the same way the cost of generating wind power has dropped by more than 60% since 2012, renewable hydrogen will similarly rapidly reduce in cost. With continuing support for its development, it can become low-cost, widely-available, and a key part of the green energy system.

What is renewable hydrogen? 

 

The traditional method for creating hydrogen splits natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, releasing large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which contributes to climate change.

Renewable hydrogen is created by using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen through a process known as electrolysis. The hydrogen is collected and used, primarily in industry, while oxygen is released as the by-product or captured for use by others. As we use electricity created from renewables, the process is carbon-neutral.

How can renewable hydrogen production decarbonise industry? 

 

Many important industries use hydrogen in their production processes. This includes plants that produce steel, chemicals, glass, and many other products. Currently these industries use hydrogen made the traditional way from fossil fuels, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, if they replaced hydrogen from fossil fuels with renewable hydrogen, they would greatly reduce their impact on the planet.

In the UK, Ørsted is one of the lead partners in a renewable hydrogen project called Gigastack. The project, based in the Humber, will produce renewable hydrogen using electricity from our Hornsea Two Offshore Wind Farm, to be used by the Phillips66 refinery. Supporting industries and businesses to decarbonise, is key to supporting jobs in the region. One of the exciting aspects of the Gigastack project is the collaboration between a renewable energy company, and a refinery to find a way to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions whilst maintaining heavy industry, using electrolysers manufactured in the UK at ITM’s facility in Sheffield.

Illustration showing how the Gigastack project produces green hydrogen

 

Take a virtual tour of what the Gigastack facility could look like in the video below.

Decarbonising transport

 

Transport is responsible for about a third of UK’s carbon emissions. Whilst it is possible to power smaller vehicles such as cars and vans using electric batteries, larger vehicles such as trucks and trains are much harder to decarbonise using batteries due to the size and weight of the batteries required to power something so large. Instead, it is possible to decarbonise them using a technology called a ‘hydrogen fuel cell’ that uses hydrogen as its power source. Powering these vehicles with renewable hydrogen makes them truly zero-carbon.

Renewable hydrogen can also be used to decarbonise shipping and aviation. Renewable hydrogen can be combined with carbon dioxide from industrial processes that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere or from direct air capture to create synthetic fuels or ‘e-fuels’ which are used instead of fossil fuels.

 

Enabling renewable hydrogen in the UK

 

At Ørsted, our vision is a world running entirely on green energy. Since commissioning the world’s first offshore wind farm in 1991, we have been leaders in the quest to make this vast resource cost competitive. Now, building on renewable energy production from offshore wind, onshore wind and solar, we see a path to establish and scale up renewable hydrogen production. This will provide wider sector decarbonisation and also support electricity system integration as the proportion of electricity from renewable sources grows.

We are at the start of the journey towards a hydrogen industry. Path-finder projects, such as Gigastack, will be vital in the coming years to help us learn and find efficiencies as the market develops. Ørsted is working with industry partners and with the UK and Scottish governments to solve the challenges of developing a green hydrogen industry in the UK.

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