Wind-Powered Offshore Electrolysis: Diving into the Possibilities and Uncertainties of Hydrogen Production in the North Sea
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The energy sector is one of the main contributors to global carbon emissions. To be able to keep the increase in global temperatures to a minimum, decarbonization of the sector is of paramount importance. In the Netherlands, there is a large potential for large offshore wind parks, which can produce high amounts of electrical energy. However, wind energy faces two challenges in comparison to carbon-rich fuels. Firstly, the storage of electricity is expensive and has a high depreciation rate. Secondly, there are sectors which require high-temperature heating for which electricity is not suitable. For these two challenges hydrogen provides an alternative pathway. For a couple of years, an existing new field opened up combining these two factors in the North Sea, namely offshore hydrogen production. This research aimed to understand the most influential parameters which influence the choice for performing the production of hydrogen onshore or offshore. In four case studies, the expected major contributors to the system costs were examined. First, a direct comparison was made between on- and offshore electrolysis. Secondly, the influence of the distance of the wind parks to the shore was examined. Thirdly, the influence of different allowed electrolysis capacities installed onshore was tested. Finally, the contribution of repurposing existing infrastructure was investigated. For the base case comparison of on- and offshore electrolysis the LCOH was determined to be 4.60 €/kg and 5.46 €/kg respectively. An analysis of the costs of each component, designated the costs concerned with installing an electrolyser offshore to be the main contributor to the increase in LCOH. The distance at which offshore electrolysis was an economically viable option was determined to be 475 km. Moreover, the variation of onshore capacity and the decrease in network costs were proven to have no significant effect on the design and operation of the energy system. Lastly, the number of turbines installed, the combined electrolyser size and the size of the hydrogen cavern remained constant throughout this research. The results in this research have yet to be subjected to an extensive sensitivity analysis to investigate the robustness of the results presented.