By Anders Lorenzen
Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, is teaming up with five other Danish companies to establish one of the world’s largest green hydrogen projects. The objective is to develop emission-free fuels for ships, trucks, aircraft as well as other heavy industrial use.
The other companies involved in the ambitious project which are heavyweights in the Danish economy are Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), DSV Panalpina, DFDS, Copenhagen Airports and Orsted. The coalition group hopes that the first hydrogen facility, powered by offshore wind, will be up and running by 2023 and reach full capacity by 2030. It will play a major part in the Danish government’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. At full capacity, the plan is that the facility will deliver 250,000 tonnes of fuel each year.
Central to delivering the green hydrogen will be a new giant 2 gigawatt (GW) offshore wind farm project that has just been given the go-ahead by the Danish government. It will be built off the coast of the Danish Baltic island of Bornholm and, together with a related project, will earmark the island as an energy island. The hydrogen will be produced by utilizing the energy from the wind farm. Production would potentially be based on a total electrolyser capacity of 1.3 GW, which would likely make it one of the world’s largest facilities of its kind.
In addition, the project will also use captured CO2 from a biogas facility or cement factory. Combined, it should be possible to create a sustainable hydrogen fuel which can, for instance, be used in both aviation and heavy vehicles. The hydrogen can also be used to produce methanol for use in ships and aircraft by perhaps 2027.
Currently, hydrogen at scale is produced using natural gas.
Henrik Poulsen, CEO of the renewable energy giant Orsted, explained that while it makes sense to electrify cars it does not work for heavier forms of transport and industry. He said that in order to meet net-zero by 2050 there needs to be found scalable decarbonisation tools for both road transport and aviation.
Soren Skou, the CEO of Maersk which is the largest container shipping line in the world, explained that in order to meet their zero-carbon 2050 target they needed, from 2030, to order ships powered by renewable energy as the normal lifespan of vessels is 20-25 years. He also argued that batteries are not the solution because of their weight and the fact that ships often spend a long time between ports. He added that Maersk thought three fuels — alcohol, ammonia and bio-methane — were the most likely solutions.
It is planned that the facility is situated in greater Copenhagen fairly close to Copenhagen Airport so it can reach the aeroplanes faster.
Prof Brian Vad Mathiesen at the University of Aalborg in Northern Jutland in Denmark calls the plan exciting. To the Danish national broadcaster DR he said: “The project uses a known technology to create fuel for heavy transport. These fuels are really important. Now it has to be demonstrated that they can be properly combined together”, he said.