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Hydrogen will be a key contributer to the energy transition. Here’s what Equinor is doing.

As an effective and environmentally-friendly energy carrier, hydrogen will make a key contribution to sustainable development of energy. Many people consider it to be the ultimate fuel of the future. Equinor is participating in several significant hydrogen projects.

With developments in hydrogen technology, the potential for business and emissions reductions is promising. Continuing our decades of energy innovation, we are participating in several projects to show how hydrogen can provide scalable and profitable growth opportunities in the future.

In particular, we are exploring the potential of converting natural gas to hydrogen with capture and storage of CO2, so-called blue hydrogen. This represents an opportunity to develop low carbon solutions for power, heating and transportation.

In the journey to zero-carbon energy, many people believe that hydrogen should be considered the world’s destination fuel. The carbon capture and storage part of this journey is the essential transitional step to facilitating a longer term, sustainable, global hydrogen economy.

Decarbonising the energy system

As a potential way to help customers in the power, heating and transportation sectors reduce their emissions, Equinor is looking into early stage opportunities for converting natural gas to clean hydrogen, while capturing and storing the CO2.

It is still early days, but we see this as an exciting opportunity for natural gas in the future.

Producing hydrogen from natural gas with carbon capture and storage, so-called blue hydrogen, could also be the key to keeping Norwegian gas valuable in a low carbon future. Below, we describe several projects in which we are participating to evaluate this approach.

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H21 North of England

“H21 North of England” is a joint report that sets out how 3.7 million homes and 40,000 businesses in the north of England could be converted from natural gas to hydrogen and made emission-free by 2034.

Equinor has contributed to the report, prepared jointly with Northern Gas Networks and Cadent in 2018, which shows how hydrogen could play a central role in the decarbonisation of the heating sector.

We have been a major gas supplier to the UK for many decades and we are a global leader in CCS. The H21 North of England report recommendations therefore fit well with our strategy of being a broad energy company dedicated to sustainable solutions for the low carbon future.

Clean hydrogen can be produced from natural gas using existing technology, at a self-powered production facility with carbon capture technology. The resulting CO2 which is captured as a by-product of the process can be stored safely in saline aquifers far below the seabed, such as those off the north east coast of England.

Magnum power plant, the Netherlands

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Photo © Sander Van Der Werf

In an innovative joint hydrogen project with Vattenfall and Gasunie, Equinor is participating in converting Vattenfall’s Magnum gas-fired power plant in the Netherlands to run on hydrogen, potentially reducing Dutch CO2 emissions by up to 4 million tonnes per year.

When opened, the project will replace carbon emissions with water vapour, by switching natural gas for hydrogen. The project aims to convert one of the three units at the power plant to hydrogen by 2023. Nuon Magnum will be the world’s first such facility to generate 100% carbon-free power using hydrogen as fuel, upon completion.

As part of the joint venture, Equinor’s role in the project will be to supply the hydrogen needed to operate the plant’s turbines, and to store the resulting carbon dioxide in underground facilities off the Norwegian coast, where we have been storing captured carbon dioxide from the Sleipner field for over 20 years.

The Magnum gas power plant currently has three combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) with a capacity of 440 MW each. One CCGT emits approximately 1.3 million tons of CO2 per year.

H-vision blue hydrogen project, Rotterdam

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Photo © Equinor, Hans Peter Heikens

Equinor has been partner in the first phase of the H-vision project, a large-scale production and utilisation of blue hydrogen that will allow local industry in Rotterdam to substantially reduce its CO2 emissions well before 2030.

The focus of this programme is on the production of hydrogen using natural gas and refinery fuel gas. The CO2 that is released during production will be captured and stored in depleted gas fields under the North Sea. The  hydrogen obtained can then be used as a low-carbon energy carrier in industrial processes to generate high temperatures or to produce electricity.

As a result, H-vision enables Rotterdam based petrochemical industry and power producers to reduce its emissions in a relative short time-frame whilst the project paves the way for the arrival of green hydrogen, which generates zero CO2 in its production. H-vision has the potential to help developing Rotterdam as a hydrogen hub for import, production, market and export. 

Net Zero UK partnership: the world’s first negative emissions power station

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Photo: Zero Carbon Humber UK

Zero Carbon Humber plans to capture carbon dioxide at scale from industry around the estuary via pipelines that transport the emissions to permanent storage in naturally occurring aquifers under the southern North Sea.

The capture technology is already under development at Drax Power Station’s pioneering bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) pilot, which could be scaled up to create the world’s first carbon negative power station in the 2020s. Similarly, Equinor has been operating CCS projects since the 1990s.

Drax Group, Equinor and National Grid Ventures have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore how a large-scale carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) network and a hydrogen production facility could be constructed in the Humber region.

Together we set out to:

  • Explore the opportunity to scale up the innovative bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) pilot project at the Drax Power Station in order to create the world’s first carbon negative power station in the 2020s
  • Explore the potential development of a large-scale hydrogen demonstrator within the Drax site by as early as the mid-2020s – in line with the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that hydrogen should be produced at scale in at least one industrial cluster by 2030
  • Explore the strategic opportunities in developing a cutting-edge hydrogen economy in the Humber region as well as Yorkshire and the North of England.

A large-scale hydrogen demonstrator
Equinor has been playing a key role in looking at how a hydrogen economy could be developed in H21 North of England project. Zero Carbon Humber envisages a hydrogen demonstrator project within the Drax site being up and running as early as the mid-2020s.

The production of hydrogen at a large scale is a key component in decarbonising the region as it offers a low or zero carbon fuel that can be applied to power, transport, heating and even serve as energy storage.