NOTE February 2022: Shell's final investment decision is now expected in summer 2022. (Edit.)
“Hydrogen Holland I gets hydrogen economy moving”
Shell is exploring the possibility to give a major boost to the hydrogen economy in the Netherlands in coming years. In fact, Shell hopes to make a final investment decision in the winter of 2021. With the possible construction of the Shell Hydrogen Holland I facility on the so-called “Tweede Maasvlakte” near Rotterdam, green hydrogen could be produced for industry and the transport sector, with electricity coming from offshore wind farm Hollandse Kust (noord). "No one in the world has done this before on this scale yet," says Lijs Groenendaal, general manager of the project.
"Hydrogen-related ideas and projects are under development all over the world. Hydrogen is incredibly 'hot' right now," says Groenendaal. "But the size and deadline make our project unique. If we can do this, we will be the first to set up such a large hydrogen plant. By the end of this year we hope to be able to make a final investment decision for the plant and we can really start."
What is it like to become the first project on the Tweede Maasvlakte?
"I find it fascinating to develop something new. To leave something behind that works well. We are going to learn a lot of things in Rotterdam: about how we're going to build the hydrogen plant, and how the plant will run on power supplied by a wind farm. The wind doesn't blow at the same strength each day, so how do we deal with such fluctuations? We bring all lessons learned into subsequent projects. It's really going to be a showcase project. Everyone can look along."
What exactly are you going to build?
"We still have to make the final choice for the design of the factory, so we don't know yet in detail. But at least it's going to look different from a plant as you might imagine one having all kinds of pipes and moving parts. It will be a low hall, covering an area the size of six football fields, with all kinds of electrolysis equipment. We could produce some 50 to 60 tons of green hydrogen a day in the plant. For that, we need green power. We could get this from the electricity network and preferably from our offshore wind farm Hollandse Kust (noord)."
What happens to the green hydrogen?
"We could transport the hydrogen through a pipeline of about 40 kilometers-long that will run from the Tweede Maasvlakte to the Pernis refinery. The Port of Rotterdam and Gasunie are currently investigating the feasibility of this project. This would allow us to run the refinery in part on hydrogen that is on low on CO2, or green hydrogen.
This could replace around 20,000 tonnes of grey hydrogen made from natural gas annually. It would allow the refinery to emit less CO2. The pipeline can be connected to a national hydrogen network and the green hydrogen could eventually be used in the mobility sector which is currently under development."
What other contribution does the project make to the region?
"I also see our contribution in the field of employment. It will generate jobs. CE Delft is researching how many jobs the hydrogen economy could generate. The construction of our factory alone could generate many jobs, from suppliers and mechanics to caterers who come to bring lunch."
"In addition, the project would stimulate sustainable mobility. Ultimately, we want to deliver hydrogen to the mobility sector as much as possible. The Netherlands and the Rotterdam region have great ambitions in the area of sustainable mobility. Hydrogen plays an important role in this. We could facilitate the construction of hydrogen filling points for the transport sector so that heavier vehicles can run on hydrogen. Groningen, for example, is working on a filling station for hydrogen buses. In addition, we encourage the transport sector to further develop in this area. Not only do CO2 emissions decrease through transport based on green or blue hydrogen, but the air quality also improves."
What does collaboration in this project mean?
"With our project, we could make a fine contribution to reducing CO2 emissions and stimulate cleaner transport. But, of course, that's not enough. We will have to work with everyone to meet the climate goals. The ambitions for hydrogen are high: to eventually realise 2 gigawatts of electrolysis capacity at the conversion park on the Tweede Maasvlakte. We are the first to seriously investigate whether we can build there. The hydrogen plant will have a capacity of around 200 MW. Of course, that is also 'just' a start, but we are the first to take on the challenge! If we can start, the infrastructure will be built in the area, and that can be used in the future by other hydrogen plants. Our cooperation with the Port of Rotterdam and Gasunie is very important. It is also important to develop and share knowledge together. In this way we learn how we can produce green hydrogen on a large scale."
What role do subsidies play in the development of Hydrogen Holland I?
"We applied for a subsidy as it’s costly to develop the technology in the factory. This helps us in part towards getting the business case completed. This is necessary, because it is important to develop such a factory relatively quickly, so that the knowledge can also become available quickly. A large hydrogen plant will trigger demand for green hydrogen. It also stimulates the construction of, for example, wind farms for the supply of green electricity. We can't wait any longer. We’re applying for big European subsidies, so we’re not competing with the sustainable startups of Rotterdam. We are not alone in the subsidy application processes, rather together with knowledge institutions. We want to learn from this development and make that knowledge available."
Then there's the schedule. When will the new hydrogen plant be up and running?
"We hope to make the final investment decision by the end of the year. Next year we would then see the first bulldozers readying the terrain. The foundations will also be laid. And in 2023 we could really start building. The exact timing depends, among other things, on what constructor we will work with. The plant could be operational in 2023/2024, and we could then start supplying green hydrogen."
Exciting! Do you get a lot of interest in the project?
"Yes, I get a lot of emails from people who want to work in the hydrogen industry. Also from regional suppliers and industry parties who want to contribute to the project. I also speak regularly at events about hydrogen. Even my hairdresser is interested and excited. When I was still working on fossil energy, it was different, haha."
About Lijs Groenendaal (Business Opportunity Manager Shell Hydrogen Holland I)
Lijs Groenendaal has been working at Shell since 2006, in various positions, but always centred around project development. She started at Shell Upstream, later switched to gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Now she is involved in hydrogen and leads the Shell Hydrogen Holland I project. She is responsible for the technical and commercial side of the project and ensures that the right cooperation partners work on the project.