As part of an existing 40-year energy partnership between Norway and Germany, RWE has announced another promising joint project with Norwegian energy company Equinor for early 2023. Equinor ASA is Europe’s second-largest gas supplier with ambitious goals in the renewable energy sector, particularly in the offshore wind segment.
This latest project involves high investment in the production, transportation and combustion of green hydrogen. The plan is to source blue and green hydrogen from Equinor in Norway and transport it to Germany via a hydrogen pipeline, where RWE will burn the fuel in hydrogen-ready, gas-fired power plants as a means of producing electricity.
Construction of such a pipeline is currently being investigated by Gassco, Equinor and third parties. The intention is that, by the year 2038, up to 10 gigawatts of blue hydrogen will be produced in Norway and transported via a pipeline to Germany.
Click on the image to zoom
In terms of the technology and infrastructure involved, both the hydrogen pipeline and hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants are major projects designed to contribute to the European energy supply and ramp up the hydrogen economy in Germany and the EU. Equally, the partnership is intended to strengthen European security of supply within an ultimately de-carbonised electricity sector.
Investment of three gigawatts capacity by hydrogen-ready, gas-fired power plants
H₂-fired power plants by 2030
power plant capacity
via pipeline by 2038
How green and blue hydrogen is made
Blue hydrogen is produced by a process of steam reduction, whereby natural gas is split into hydrogen and CO2. The carbon dioxide by-product of blue hydrogen will be safely stored under the seabed of Norway with the aid of carbon capture and storage technology.
Green hydrogen is produced via water electrolysis – i.e. extraction of oxygen and hydrogen using electricity from renewable sources. RWE and Equinor also plan to work together on renewable projects to enable them to produce green hydrogen. The two companies are investigating the options for erecting hydrogen electrolysis plants with the aid of offshore wind turbines along the pipeline.
The aim of their joint AquaSector pilot project in the North Sea, for example, is to construct a 300-MW offshore wind farm linked to electrolysis plants which would enable them to produce green hydrogen out at sea. In addition, RWE and Equinor will continue to investigate joint investment in generic offshore wind projects in Norway and Germany. The same joint approach applies to the production of green hydrogen on land in Norway.
Hydrogen-ready, gas-fired power plants facilitate energy transition
RWE and Equinor are planning joint investment in flexible, hydrogen-ready, gas-fired power plants in Germany, with commissioning of the plants scheduled for 2030. Right from the start of standard operation, up to 50% of the three gigawatts of capacity could be produced by feeding in hydrogen, as part of an agreement RWE and Equinor have reached with the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. The aim of the two companies is to achieve 100-percent-hydrogen operation by the mid-2030s. Hydrogen-ready, gas-fired power plants can offset the intermittent feed of renewables and help balance out the inherent fluctuation in electricity demand. In the spirit of this strategic partnership and as part of the decarbonisation drive, Equinor will also take responsibility for supplying the power plants with natural gas and hydrogen. Initially Equinor will supply the gas needed to cover the needs of the joint power plants. Natural gas will then be replaced by blue hydrogen as a first step. Once the offshore hydrogen production plants are linked to the planned pipeline, green hydrogen will gradually replace the blue hydrogen exported to Germany. In this way, the green hydrogen produced by the joint projects of RWE and Equinor will supply the joint fleet of H2-ready, gas-fired power plants and complete the decarbonisation process.