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AkzoNobel and Gasunie to investigate feasibility of 20 MW power-to-gas project

AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, a business division of the Netherlands-headed global paints, coatings and speciality chemicals major Akzo Nobel N.V. and Gasunie New Energy, a subsidiary of the Dutch gas distribution company NV Nederlandse Gasunie have joined forces to investigate the possible large-scale conversion of renewable electricity into green hydrogen via the electrolysis of water.

Intended for AkzoNobel’s Delfzijl site in the Netherlands, the installation would use a 20 MW water electrolysis unit, the largest in Europe, to convert sustainably produced electricity into 3 000 tonnes of green hydrogen annually – enough to fuel 300 hydrogen buses. A final decision on the project is expected in 2019.

Gasunie New Energy focuses on scaling up innovative, sustainable energy technologies solutions that have been proven on a small scale. The planned 20 MW facility is an important step towards scaling up the electrolysis technology. The eventual aim is to be able to build installations that convert and store sustainable energy in the form of hydrogen on an even larger scale, from 100 MW.

Achieving the Netherlands’ CO2 reduction targets and the corresponding transition in the energy system will be a huge challenge. This requires not only a vision but also immediate action and concrete collaboration, said Ulco Vermeulen, member of Gasunie’s Executive Board.

The largest planned electrolysis unit in the Netherlands thus far has a capacity of 1 MW and is being developed by Gasunie New Energy and EnergyStock, also a subsidiary of NV Nederlandse Gasunie in an EU co-funded power-to-gas (PtG) project at the gas storage site near Zuidwending in the province of Groningen.

We see ‘power to gas’ not only as a promising technology but also as one that will be necessary to achieve a fully sustainable energy mix by 2050. Hydrogen also plays a crucial role in achieving the emission reduction target set by the Dutch government for 2030, that is, a reduction of CO2 emissions by 49 percent compared to 1990. To make sure we have enough hydrogen in 2030, we will need to take steps now to validate the technology at different scales, said Vermeulen.

AkzoNobel and Gasunie complement each other in the required expertise for this project, which includes gas transport and storage, electrolysis and handling of hydrogen. Both companies want to play an active role in the transition to a CO2-neutral economy, and the project is in line with their respective initiatives in renewable energy – including hydrogen.

Industry is important for the economy but is also responsible for a large percentage of CO2 emissions. Only with a far-reaching change of its industrial activities can the Netherlands achieve the international climate targets. During this transition, new value chains and revenue models can emerge across sectors through collaboration between companies, said Marcel Galjee, Energy Director at AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals

Both companies agree that the northern part of the Netherlands is perfectly positioned to develop a green hydrogen economy, due to the large-scale production and import of green electricity, the existing chemical industry, the current gas transmission infrastructure, the knowledge infrastructure and the support within the Northern Innovation Board.

The vast majority of the more than 800 000 tonnes of hydrogen used by Dutch industry each year is produced using natural gas. Replacing this by sustainably produced hydrogen will reduce CO2 emissions by seven million tonnes. However, the real potential is in large-scale production as the basis for green chemistry, said Galjee.

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