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OYSTER consortium receives funding to investigate offshore hydrogen production

In the UK, a consortium with ITM Power plc, Ørsted A/S, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, and Element Energy Ltd has been awarded EUR 5 million in funding from The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH2-JU) under the European Commission (EC) to demonstrate and investigate a combined wind turbine and electrolyser system designed for operation in marine environments.

In the Irish Sea just west of Liverpool, Ørsted operates the Burbo Bank and Burbo Bank Extension offshore wind farms with a total of 57 turbines and 348 MW installed capacity (photo courtesy Ørsted).

The OYSTER project will investigate the feasibility and potential of combining an offshore wind turbine directly with an electrolyser and transporting renewable hydrogen to shore and is seen as a key first step on the path to developing a commercial offshore hydrogen production industry and will demonstrate innovative solutions with significant potential in Europe and beyond.

The consortium will develop and test a megawatt-scale fully marinized electrolyser in a shoreside pilot trial. The project will be coordinated by zero-carbon energy consultancy Element Energy.

Offshore wind is now one of the lowest-cost forms of electricity generation in Europe and will have an important role in Europe’s decarbonisation plans. There is growing interest in transporting renewable energy in the form of hydrogen, particularly for sites far from shore. Realising such a vision will require further development and innovations of the type to be demonstrated in the OYSTER project, which Element Energy is pleased to coordinate, said Michael Dolman, Associate Director at Element Energy.

The project is planned to start in 2021 and run to the end of 2024. ITM Power is responsible for the development of the electrolyser system and the electrolyser trials, while Ørsted will lead the offshore deployment analysis, the feasibility study of future physical offshore electrolyser deployments, and support ITM Power in the design of the electrolyser system for marinisation and testing. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Element Energy are providing technical and project expertise.

Compact robust electrolysis systems needed

To realise the potential of offshore hydrogen production, there is a need for compact electrolysis systems that can withstand harsh offshore environments and have minimal maintenance requirements while still meeting cost and performance targets that will allow the production of low-cost hydrogen. The project will provide a major advance towards this aim.

To create a world that runs entirely on green energy, we need to electrify as much as we can. However, some sectors cannot decarbonise through electrification and that’s where renewable hydrogen could play a significant role. Offshore hydrogen production could be a future, supplemental way of getting large amounts of energy generated from offshore wind power to shore. As the largest offshore wind company in the world, we’re of course keen to better understand what it will take to produce renewable hydrogen offshore as a potential future supplement to the production of renewable electricity. Having pioneered the offshore wind industry, we know that thorough analysis and testing are required before deploying new technologies at sea, Anders Christian Nordstrøm, VP and Head of Ørsted’s hydrogen activities.

The electrolyser system will be designed to be compact, to allow it to be integrated with a single offshore wind turbine, and to follow the turbine’s production profile.

Furthermore, the electrolyser system will integrate desalination and water treatment processes, making it possible to use seawater as a feedstock for the electrolysis process.

ITM Power is delighted to be part of this exciting project, working alongside industry leaders to explore the potential to harness wind for offshore green hydrogen production, said Dr Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power, an integrated hydrogen energy solutions provider.

The OYSTER project partners share a vision of hydrogen being produced from offshore wind at a cost that is competitive with natural gas (with a “realistic” carbon tax), thus unlocking bulk markets for green hydrogen making a meaningful impact on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and facilitating the transition to a fully renewable energy system in Europe.

The OYSTER project is a very exciting addition to the FCH JU pallet of electrolysis projects that will allow the development of an offshore-spec electrolyser for green hydrogen to be generated in the harsh offshore environment. The aim is the optimal integration of electrolysers with off-shore wind turbines to store the energy generated in the form of hydrogen. We are absolutely delighted to support this innovative project which reduces the environmental impact in further industrial applications, said Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director, FCH JU.

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