Belgium hopes to lead world with new hydrogen project

(EurActiv, 30 Jan 2020) Surplus wind power could soon light and heat Belgian homes thanks to a planned hydrogen plant on the North Sea coast, set to be the world’s first commercial-scale project of its type.

The project in the Port of Ostend will only use wind power that is not absorbed by Belgium’s electricity grid, fuelling a hydrogen-producing electrolyser exclusively with renewable energy, the project’s backers announced on Monday (27 January).

Hydrogen is produced via electrolysis – splitting water into its hydrogen and oxygen components – and can then be used to power vehicles, run industrial processes and generate electricity. When burned, it or used in a fuel cell, the only by-product is water vapour.

Using renewable energy means the gas can be classed as ‘green hydrogen’, as opposed to blue or grey which are normally produced using a fossil fuel as a basis. The vast majority of hydrogen produced globally is grey and without some form of carbon capture, according to the International Energy Agency.

In order to increase green hydrogen’s usage, the idea of linking electrolysers to wind farms has long been proposed and is known in the sector as power-to-gas coupling. But it has been held back by sheer cost.

But the three companies involved in the venture have leapt onto Belgium’s increased deployment of offshore wind, which is due to reach more than 2GW of capacity by the end of this year.

Although Belgium is still lagging behind when it comes to hitting its 2020 renewable energy target, there are contracts up for grabs that mean there is a potential 4GW to play with. That is enough to power half the country’s homes.

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EurActiv, 30 Jan 2020: Belgium hopes to lead world with new hydrogen project