Offshore hydrogen production, electrification of production platforms and underground storage of carbon dioxide in the North Sea seabed all contribute to making the energy system more sustainable. This concludes of TNO in its report North Sea Energy.
An important part of the foundation for the future energy system in and around the North Sea will be laid in the coming decade. For some concepts, such as platform electrification and CCS, a positive business case is already possible in the short term. But this is only possible if the government sets clear and sustainable market conditions. For other investigated concepts, such as power-to-x, offshore hydrogen production on platforms and energy islands, a positive business case seems to present itself after 2030.
Research by RUG professor Catrinus Jepma has already shown that offshore production platforms can play a role in the landing of offshore wind energy. By first converting the electricity into hydrogen, existing gas infrastructure can be reused for hydrogen transport. Neptune is already experimenting with offshore hydrogen. In 2021 the one megawatt electrolyser is expected to start up. However, before this form of green hydrogen can be introduced on a large scale, the necessary adjustments will also have to be made on land.
If a more mature hydrogen market emerges after 2030, even energy islands can be built. These form an energy hub in the North Sea for both electricity and hydrogen. In addition to energy transport, the islands could also facilitate energy storage.
However, most offshore energy will still reach the coast as electricity, the researchers expect. Price differences in offshore and onshore installations in particular make the business case for offshore hydrogen production more difficult.
Researchers see a greater opportunity for the near future in the electrification of production platforms. The platforms have so far used natural gas for processing and compressing natural gas. When the platforms use offshore wind energy, this saves tons of CO2 and nitrogen emissions. The researchers also expect an extended role for the platforms if they are used to stop carbon dioxide underground (CCS). This in turn prevents this form of emission limitation from causing emissions.
Management at national and international level is necessary to integrate the North Sea’s energy functions. For example, there are important market and regulatory barriers that need to be overcome.
International cooperation is also of great importance in rolling out new energy infrastructure and identifying and maintaining existing infrastructure with a strategic function in the future energy system. The recently concluded Dutch North Sea Agreement provides a logical starting point for the necessary coordination and cooperation in the North Sea.