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Liquid hydrogen ferry sailing in blue waters

Norway invests big to realise clean hydrogen future

Already a global leader, Norway is developing clean hydrogen into a mature component of the future energy system.

“Norway has more promising hydrogen projects than ever before. We are building a sustainable hydrogen industry step by step, brick by brick,” says Ivar-Jo Theien of Innovation Norway.

Hydrogen comes in a rainbow of eco-friendly colours – green, blue, pink and yellow. However, globally, hydrogen today is primarily grey, based on natural gas with a production process that emits large amounts of CO2. Most grey hydrogen is used in chemical and fertiliser production.

Once produced, hydrogen burns clean, emitting only water vapour and warm air. This makes it an ideal alternative to fossil feedstock for industries and to fossil fuels for heavy machinery, ocean vessels and heavy transport. Hydrogen is also an interesting option for long-term, large-scale energy storage, increasing flexibility in the energy systems of tomorrow.

Let’s not forget why we are developing clean hydrogen. We are doing it for the climate

Ivar-Jo Theien

Senior Business Developer, Innovation Norway

"Let’s not forget why we are developing clean hydrogen. We are doing it for the climate"” says Theien, who is Senior Business Developer in hydrogen, ammonia and CCUS.

Norway plans to deploy low-carbon and green hydrogen at a large scale across all hard-to-decarbonise sectors at home and to support the energy transition in Europe and globally. Both the Norwegian hydrogen strategy and the EU hydrogen strategy regard hydrogen as essential for achieving a net-zero emission society by 2050.

With so much at stake, the global energy industry has a challenge on its hands: how to produce hydrogen in a sustainable manner, at a competitive cost and in sufficient quantities to achieve global climate goals.

Hydrogen compressor against a blue background

Global first-mover in green hydrogen

With a global portfolio of renewable energy assets, Norway is a well-positioned first-mover in green hydrogen production. Green hydrogen is produced through a zero-emission process using water electrolysis with renewable energy. Norway is uniquely equipped to take green hydrogen to the next phase of maturity. It is also on the cutting-edge of low-carbon blue hydrogen.

“Norway is combining its proud offshore and maritime heritage with a 100-year history of hydrogen production in a 21st century race to mitigate climate change,” explains Theien.

Norway can already boast of several global hydrogen “firsts” in terms of use. A notable example is the MF Hydra – the world’s first ferry powered by PEM fuel cells operating on liquid hydrogen. These cells contain enough fuel for 12 days of sailing – an advantage over battery-electric vessels, which have a more limited range. About four metric tons of liquid hydrogen fuel is sourced from Linde’s plant in Germany and stored on deck in 80 m3 cylindrical tanks

New hydrogen ferries are now under construction for the three-hour trip between Bodø and Lofoten, Norway’s longest and most weather-exposed ferry route. They are slated to commence operation in 2025.

Other global leaders are Nel and HydrogenPro, two promising manufacturers of electrolysers for green hydrogen production, and Statkraft, Europe’s biggest supplier of renewable energy, which is heavily invested in green hydrogen.

Record number of hydrogen projects

Building on successes like this, several well-funded, high-profile, low-carbon and green hydrogen projects are now underway. These are part of the Norwegian government’s strategy to increase focus on hydrogen-related research and technology development.

“This is not a solo show. In order to succeed with hydrogen, we need partnership and collaboration among government, industry and research in an international setting,” says Theien.

Most recently, state-run Enova awarded EUR 61 million for five green hydrogen production plants, referred to as hubs, along the Norwegian coastline from north to south. The hubs will be an essential part of Norway’s clean hydrogen infrastructure and connect Norwegian players with the EU hydrogen valleys emerging in Europe.

In addition, EUR 41 million in funding was allocated for seven pioneering hydrogen and ammonia-powered vessels, to be among the world’s first to use hydrogen for propulsion. The hubs and vessels are closely linked, as the hubs will be able to supply fuel to the hydrogen-powered vessels funded by Enova. All five hubs will have the capacity to deliver hydrogen to 35 to 40 vessels.

The EU has awarded prestigious funding to Norwegian ammonia-related projects as well. Ammonia is a derivative of hydrogen with a high energy density and is therefore especially promising for decarbonising deep-sea vessels. This is best seen in the ShipFC project, which will install the world’s first high-power ammonia fuel cell on a vessel.


Blue hydrogen is clean too

Norway is also a pioneer in developing blue hydrogen and ammonia from natural gas using carbon capture and storage (CCS). Blue hydrogen is a low-carbon alternative, necessary for reducing greenhouse gas emission quickly enough to meet the 2050 climate goals.

“We see blue and green hydrogen as complementary solutions. Both are needed to slow the rise in global temperatures,” says Ronny Haufe, CEO of H2 Production. “At the end of the day, it will be market demand and price that determine which type of hydrogen wins out.”

In the blue arena, H2 Production is building the world’s first hydrogen plant based on natural gas with integrated carbon capture. The facility is located near the Port of Bergen, a thriving international shipping hub close to natural gas pipelines and other industries in need of clean hydrogen for fuel and by-products such as heat.

The technology, developed by ZEG Power, is unique in that the same facility is used to produce the hydrogen and capture the carbon emissions. For the first time, these processes are being integrated to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

“Blue hydrogen projects like ours will help to solve some of the industry’s biggest challenges. Clean hydrogen must become much cheaper in order to compete with fossil fuels. While carbon neutral, green hydrogen is quite expensive and not competitive in the overall market. Blue hydrogen can bridge the cost gap between high-priced green and cheaper grey hydrogen and fossil fuels,” explains Haufe.

He also notes the environmental benefits of locating hydrogen production facilities in industrial parks, near other energy-intensive industries.

“At the Energy Park outside Bergen, industries that generate CO2 will be able to deposit it locally at the lowest carbon footprint, while those in need of hydrogen or waste heat will have easy, low-cost access to it, eliminating the need for long-distance transport,” he continues.

Two workers in yellow jackets inspecting a hydrogen plant

“Blue hydrogen projects like ours will help to solve some of the industry’s biggest challenges.”

— Ronny Haufe, CEO, H2 Production

Export potential of low-carbon and green hydrogen

A robust hydrogen industry is growing in importance as Europeans diligently pursue their climate goals and push for greater autonomy over their own energy destiny. To realise this, climate-friendly hydrogen needs to grow exponentially – and quickly. The EU aims to produce 10 million metric tons and import 10 million metric tons of renewable hydrogen by 2030.

If all goes as planned, the Norwegian hydrogen industry will be able to help the EU to meet its import goals. “We have the potential to produce more low-carbon and green hydrogen than we can use ourselves. We are also working to build our long-distance infrastructure, so Norway is in a good position to supply the European continent with clean hydrogen,” concludes Theien.