Using offshore wind to produce green hydrogen could overcome Scotland’s grid constraints, while opening up an array of export opportunities, according to a report.
On 21 December, the Scottish government published an assessment of Scotland’s opportunity to produce green hydrogen from offshore wind. Carried out by Xodus Group, the assessment found that unlocking Scotland’s abundant offshore wind resource – the Scottish government is targeting 11GW of capacity for 2030 – can support decarbonisation of many facets of the energy system, including displacement of existing fossil-fuel based systems with green hydrogen alternatives, such as in heating, transport and industry.
Falling wind and electrolyser costs are set to enable green hydrogen production to be cost competitive in the key transport and heat sectors by 2032, with Xodus forecasting a long-term outlook of low carbon hydrogen falling to £2/kg, with an estimated reference cost of £2.3/kg in 2032 for hydrogen delivered to shore.
There is “growing interest” from industry and policymakers in exploring routes to market for the large-scale production of hydrogen from offshore wind, including for potential export. The assessment highlighted the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult’s recent report, which found up to 240GW of offshore wind could be deployed in the UK by 2050 for the purpose of producing green hydrogen for export to Europe.
Scotland does have an extensive port and pipeline infrastructure that can be repurposed for hydrogen export to make this happen, with the report assessing four key pipelines from the European continent to the British mainland. These were the UK-Belgium interconnector between Bacton in Norfolk and Zeebrugge, which has an import capacity of 25.5bn cubic metres (bcm) a year and is the only one to operate bidrectionally; the UK-Netherlands pipeline between Balgzand and Bacton, with a capacity of 14.2bcm a year; the Vesterled pipeline between St Fergus in Scotland and a number of Norwegian gas fields, with a capacity of 14.2bcm a year; and the Langeled pipeline from Nyhamna in Norway to Eastington in Yorkshire, with a capacity of 26.3bcm a year.
It concluded that Scotland can export through England and Norway to reach key northern European demand hubs, which include Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Exporting via Bacton would allow for synergy with export of blue and green hydrogen produced from the southern North Sea gas fields and offshore windfarms, with Scottish hydrogen transported to Bacton through the existing 34” SEAL pipeline, which could then be connected to St Fergus through repurposing of the 20” Fulmar to St. Fergus gas pipeline. Bacton could also play a part with hydrogen introduced into the Langeled pipeline to Eastington, with it redirected to Norfolk through relatively short new interconnections between gas pipelines running from southern gas fields to both terminals.
Elsewhere, the assessment noted Scotland has a supply chain overlap which strengthens its case to capitalise on green hydrogen from offshore wind, mostly notably in the oil and gas, offshore wind and subsea engineering sectors – though a steady pipeline of early projects will be needed to secure this supply chain capability. Gaps do remain, however, in the areas of design, manufacture and maintenance of hydrogen production, storage and transportation systems, with action needed – including apprenticeships – to build skills and develop capabilities within these areas.
Developing green hydrogen from offshore wind can also create high value jobs, the assessment found, with a significant proportion of these likely to be in remote, rural or coastal communities situated close to offshore wind resources. This is something that can serve as a pathway for workers to redeploy and develop skills learned from oil and gas, aligned with Just Transition principles.