Hydrogen can be stored in gas form, liquid form and as a solid substance in various spaces, such as tanks, underground spaces and pipes. The most efficient form differs per application.
Hydrogen applications are still fairly unknown. That is why it is understandable that some residents and those in the area are concerned about their safety. Hydrogen, like natural gas, is flammable. Fortunately, hydrogen does not simply ignite. That requires a concentration of 4% or higher. Plus, a flame or spark to ignite it. Because hydrogen naturally rises extremely quickly (H2 is the smallest and lightest element in the universe) a concentration of 4% in the outside air hardly ever occurs. Good ventilation is required in closed-off areas.
After the discovery of natural gas in the Netherlands, most households in the Netherlands were connected to natural gas. Due to climate change and the earthquakes in Groningen, among others, the Dutch government wants to change to more sustainable energy sources. The whole of the Netherlands will stop using natural gas by 2050. That is possible because technical developments offer good alternatives.
Goeree-Overflakkee produces an excess of sustainably generated electricity. Furthermore, the island is a landing point for large wind turbine parks in the direct vicinity and further afield. In short: a lot of green energy is available which is perfectly suited for the production of ‘green’ hydrogen, in which this energy is stored.
Our energy demand is so great that in the future, we will not be able to replace natural gas solely with electrification and heat. Additionally, more alternatives are required, such as energy carriers that also have other characteristics because that creates even more new possibilities. Hydrogen (H2) is an energy carrier that you can store and use for applications where electricity falls short. Hydrogen can also be transported over long distances at a relatively low cost.
To produce green hydrogen, an electrolyser splits water (H2O) into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2). The electrolyser is powered solely by renewable electricity, from wind energy for example. As such, no CO2 is released with the production of green hydrogen.
Besides green hydrogen, there is also grey and blue hydrogen. Grey hydrogen is made from natural gas. CO2 is released during that process. With blue hydrogen, the hydrogen source is still natural gas. Only, up to 90% of the CO2 emissions are captured and stored underground or used in greenhouse horticulture. Green hydrogen has the same characteristics as grey or blue hydrogen. However, green hydrogen is the most sustainable version.
The hydrogen covenant is the official agreement between over 30 Dutch and international partners who are committed to the development of hydrogen projects on Goeree-Overflakkee. At the end of 2017, this agreement kicked off H2GO. In 2019, the covenant participants presented a follow-up strategy to the local and provincial government.
Yes, green hydrogen is currently a lot more expensive than natural gas. That is because natural gas is exceptionally cheap in the Netherlands and the resources for hydrogen production are still expensive. The expectation is that the price of natural gas will increase in the coming years, for example due to levies and developments on the international market.
As yet, there isn’t an economy for green hydrogen. The cost price will only decrease once the scale of green hydrogen production increases and the demand increases. Europe is already developing plans for demand and supply. Some prognoses even assume that by mid-century, the prices of hydrogen and natural gas will not be that different.
Certainly, as long as we handle hydrogen with care. In fact, much like we have to be careful with how we handle natural gas right now, because both substances are flammable and can explode. A significant benefit of hydrogen is that when it is burnt, it does not release carbon monoxide.
Research has shown that the natural gas pipe network can be made suitable for hydrogen with a few adjustments. That means that an entire district or even a whole village can switch from natural gas to hydrogen. Before we make the switch, the natural gas pipe network must be thoroughly checked of course. Safety first.
As an energy carrier, green hydrogen can make a considerable contribution to making transport sustainable. A significant advantage is that when driving, no harmful substances are emitted, such as CO2 or nitrogen (NOx). Furthermore, the operating range is much greater than with electric cars on batteries. Finally, it is quiet and safe to drive on hydrogen. In crash tests, hydrogen cars score the highest.
In fact, driving on green hydrogen is simply another form of electric driving. A fuel cell converts hydrogen into the electricity required to power the vehicle. Only water vapour is released with the conversion in the fuel cell. Another significant advantage is that electric passenger cars, lorries or buses running on hydrogen do not require expensive and environmentally harmful batteries. Currently, the city buses on Goeree-Overflakkee run on hydrogen.
Firstly, it is not currently clear how much it will cost to stop using natural gas and to switch to sustainable energy sources. It goes without saying that this will require major financial investment. That is why the Dutch government is investigating how this step can be kept affordable for everyone in the Netherlands. An option is pre-financing the requisite investment. For example, with a national energy fund or a larger mortgage or building-based financing.