Offshore generation of hydrogen at far from shore wind farms

To achieve a zero-carbon future, alternative methods of delivering energy, including their generation and distribution, must be seriously investigated for both Technical and commercial viability. Maritime Expert Panel member, Neil Glover, discusses the opportunities for far from shore wind farms, and the opportunities for hydrogen that may result.

Image credit: Nicholas Doherty/Unsplash
Image credit: Nicholas Doherty/Unsplash
  • Updated: 11 November, 2019
  • Author: Neil Glover, ICE Maritime Expert Panel member

As we aspire toward a zero-carbon future, wind farms have already been identified as an important component of our energy mix.

Far from shore wind farms are now becoming technologically possible, but face significant challenges. What's not often appreciated is that these would also enable the wider use of hydrogen. An understanding of key aspects of far from shore wind turbine design is necessary to appreciate the dual opportunities that could be realised.

Far from shore wind farms

In June 2015, the Carbon Trust report to the Scottish Parliament identified that the UK would require up to 55GW of wind energy by 2050 and that it would be necessary to move to deeper offshore waters to meet this goal.

However, moving further from shore doesn't happen without overcoming some significant engineering challenges.

Challenges ahead

The move to deeper water will require the development of a new design for turbine foundation. The move to far from shore locations also adds new challenges.

Electrical transmission from near-shore wind farms is normally done using high voltage alternating currents (HVAC). However, as transmission distances approach 100 miles, this option becomes less practical and High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) systems may be required. HVDC systems require considerably larger and more costly offshore and onshore transformer and converter substations.

Alternative option – hydrogen generation far from shore

This is where the opportunity for hydrogen comes in. The benefits of hydrogen gas are striking. It emits no carbon dioxide and, if used more widely, would have a major impact on the decarbonisation of our fuel supply.

Heating and transport in particular are major CO2 emitters, and would be ripe for decarbonisation if hydrogen could be used effectively to deliver the offshore wind energy to where it is needed.

Hydrogen is a clean energy vector, whether generated by Steam Methane Reforming and Carbon Capture (SMR+CC) or by one of the several methods of electrolysis. New transportation methods are needed if we are to tap into far-from-shore energy to meet our sustainable clean energy aspirations.

A far from shore wind farm, using floating wind turbines, has the potential to use decommissioned offshore platforms originally constructed for oil and gas production. The Brent platforms are an example that could be used as a hub for the facilities to produce hydrogen by electrolysis.

Download the ICE briefing paper

To explore this issue further, Neil Glover has authored an ICE briefing sheet which delves deeper into the opportunity and challenges ahead for hydrogen development and presents some exciting alternative solutions to generate and distribute far from shore.

Download briefing sheet

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