Hydrogen - Scottish island "route to market" for offshore wind?

Offshore Wind Power Limited has announced it is studying the use of offshore wind to power the production of green hydrogen on an industrial scale on the island of Flotta in Orkney, Scotland.  

Green hydrogen, is produced by using zero-carbon electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The process is carbon-neutral, but green hydrogen production is expensive, and currently expected to remain so until at least 2030. Whilst producing electricity to create green hydrogen is inefficient is many ways, it has advantages.  Hydrogen is energy dense when appropriately stored and released and has the potential to replace fossil fuels in many cases. Further, if hydrogen energy is released appropriately it is pollution free releasing water as a bi-product. If the difficulties of manufacturing, storing,  transporting and dispensing hydrogen are overcome, and this can be achieved cost effectively, there is the potential supply to  heavy transport, shipping and potentially aviation.

The OWPL consortium, formed by Macquarie’s Green Investment Group, TotalEnergies and Scottish developer Renewable Infrastructure Development Group (RIDG),  has submitted a proposal to the Crown Estate Scotland’s offshore wind leasing round (ScotWind) to develop the N1 plan option area west of Orkney. If successful, its proposal, called the West of Orkney Windfarm, could deliver renewable power to a green hydrogen production facility at the Flotta Terminal. 

Plans to power the proposed Flotta Hydrogen Hub are being developed by OWPL in partnership with Flotta Terminal’s owner Repsol Sinopec, and Uniper. The proposal is also supported locally by EMEC Hydrogen.


“We believe that green hydrogen could provide a critical alternative route to market for some of Scotland’s largest offshore wind projects and play a significant role in creating wider economic benefits as the North Sea goes through its energy transition. We look forward to working with the Flotta partners to continue to develop this proposal,"
said Edward Northam, Head of Green Investment Group Europe.


Hydrogen has now been "colourised" - Green, Blue, Grey, Brown and Black, where the colours represent the processes used to produce the Hydrogen and to some extent the pollution caused by the process. Apart from Green, the rest all emit varying degrees of pollutants although Blue is claimed to be better. Blue hydrogen is produced using the same reforming process that is used to create grey, brown and black hydrogen, but the CO that would ordinarily be released is captured and stored (CCS).


“TotalEnergies believes in the potential of renewable offshore wind power to produce green hydrogen, supporting our companies to meet their ambition in terms of carbon neutrality. With our proposed West of Orkney windfarm, there is an opportunity to create one of the world’s first green hydrogen plants in Orkney. It is an exciting plan, and we look forward to working on it with our partners and Orkney stakeholders,”
commented Julien Pouget Senior Vice President Renewables, TotalEnergies.


“The production of green hydrogen is a hugely exciting opportunity for both offshore wind and the Scottish supply chain. Projects with substantial capacity factors, such as the West of Orkney Windfarm, could deliver highly competitive power to facilities like the Flotta Hydrogen Hub which could, in turn, supply demand for hydrogen both nationally and internationally.


“We’ve therefore committed to working exclusively with our partners to investigate this opportunity thoroughly and have already completed cable routing assessments and nearshore geophysical surveys to better understand the practical aspects of project delivery,"
said Mike Hay, RIDG Commerical Director.  


“Flotta is an ideal location for green hydrogen production – it is surrounded by the best wind resource in Europe, it lies close to major shipping routes within the vast natural harbour of Scapa Flow. The time is right to maximise the incredible natural assets and geography of the Flow and Orkney to ensure a long-term sustainable, climate-friendly future for our communities.


"We are very much open for business and ready to work with potential investors and operators to develop the significant strategic and international opportunities we know that our islands offer. The potential here is immense and we, as a Council, will do everything we can to support and enable this bright new opportunity,"
commented James Stockan, CEO, Uniper Hydrogen, Leader of Orkney Islands Council.


“Uniper is a pioneer in the field of hydrogen production and we’re already bringing our expertise and experience to an ever-expanding portfolio of projects across a number of markets, in Europe and in the UK. The Flotta Hydrogen Hub is an exciting concept, with the potential to deliver green hydrogen for the domestic and export markets. We now await the outcome of the ScotWind offshore wind leasing round, in anticipation that the proposal can be then realised,”
said Dr Axel Wietfeld,  CEO, Uniper Hydrogen.  

“We fully support our industry’s transition to clean, green energy and a secure future for skilled oil and gas workers in Scotland and across the UK.  We have a strategic roadmap, supported by our shareholders and aligned with each of their strategic ambitions, including energy transition.
 

“The Flotta Terminal has been in operation since 1976 and has made a significant contribution to Orkney’s economy and communities for more than 40 years.  This project would enable the terminal to be progressively transformed over time into a diversified energy hub where conventional oil and gas operations continue, co-existing alongside the development of a sustainable long-term green future for the facility.  The repurposing of Flotta will require local stakeholders support, retaining and upskilling the current workforce as well as the creation of long-term skilled jobs during both construction and hydrogen operations,”
stated José Luis Muñoz, Chief Executive Officer of Repsol Sinopec.  


“Orkney is well advanced in its ambition to be the global centre of excellence for research and demonstration of how the hydrogen economy of the future will work. We generated the world’s first tidal-powered green hydrogen in 2017 at EMEC’s tidal test site and have led various green hydrogen projects exploring generation, logistics and end use.


“For this project to go ahead, a number of vital elements will have to fall into place, including a market for green hydrogen. We are pleased to be collaborating with our offshore wind partners in pursuit of this goal and we are already in discussion with the Scottish and UK governments to explore the mechanisms required to make this vision happen,”
commented Neil Kermode, Managing Director of EMEC.