Hesitant politicians put the brakes on the expected upswing
Activities in the Norwegian hydrogen industry have doubled in the last two years. Great progress has also been made in cooperation with Germany to be able to export hydrogen on a large scale from 2030. However, in order to move from project planning to investment decisions, risk relief in the form of contracts for difference is required.
In October 2021, the minority government led by the Labour Party and the Center Party announced in its government platform that it will contribute to building up a coherent hydrogen value chain where production, distribution and use is developed in parallel. It also announced that it will set a target for yearly production of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen by 2030 and to consider setting up a state-owned hydrogen company.
Hydrogen is a vital part of the government’s roadmap for an industrial revival on the Norwegian mainland. Norwegian petroleum and energy minister Terje Aasland has on several occasions stated that the government plans to have enough domestically produced hydrogen to cover own demands by 2030. However, the government is yet to reveal how much demand it expects or how it plans to achieve this.
Although industry is awaiting a clear path and ambition from the politicians, much has already been set in motion. The 2020 Norwegian Hydrogen Strategy emphasizes that Norwegian industry is well positioned to take a leading role in the hydrogen economy, concentrating efforts on areas of particular potential for industry growth and value creation, such as clean hydrogen production and offtake in the maritime sector and heavy industries.
The strategy was complemented by a Hydrogen Roadmap in 2021, which provides an ambition to establish five hydrogen hubs for maritime transport, one or two large industrial projects with production facilities for hydrogen and five to ten pilot projects for the development of cost-effective hydrogen solutions and technologies by 2025. The Norwegian state agency Enova in December 2021 granted support to three large industrial projects – led by Yara International, Tizir Titanium & Iron and Horisont Energi – and in June 2022 followed up with further support to five hydrogen hubs along the Norwegian coast, as well as 7 hydrogen and ammonia vessels. Further, the government has provided funding for two research centers of expertise on hydrogen and ammonia.
From 50 to 126 projects in two years
We at Norwegian Hydrogen Forum recently conducted a screening of the Norwegian Hydrogen Landscape, and what we found was that the number of projects and activities had more than doubled since our last screening – from approximately 50 projects in 2021 to 126 in April 2023. We found 51 plans to produce hydrogen or hydrogen derivatives, totalling a projected production capacity of almost 9.5 GW by 2030. Although 47 of these projects are renewable hydrogen projects, almost 60 percent of the projected production capacity is expected to be low-carbon in 2030 (see image). Whereas most of the renewable hydrogen projects are planned for domestic consumption, three of the four low-carbon hydrogen projects are export-oriented.
With a capture rate of around 95 percent, using Norway’s vast natural gas resources and storing the captured CO2 under the seabed to produce hydrogen with extremely low emissions is seen as the smartest way forward by politicians and industry alike. In this way, the hydrogen market can be rapidly boosted, the necessary infrastructure built, and the way paved for the huge volumes of renewable hydrogen. Large quantities of green hydrogen can be produced from the late 2030s, when offshore wind power production on the Norwegian continental shelf gains momentum.
With a capture rate of around 95 %, utilizing Norway’s vast natural gas resources and storing the captured CO2 below the seabed to produce hydrogen with extremely low emissions is generally seen by politicians and industry alike. In this way, the hydrogen market can ramp-up quickly, to build the necessary infrastructure and thereby to pave the way for the massive amounts of renewable hydrogen. Large quantities of green hydrogen can be produced from the late 2030s and onwards as offshore wind energy production picks up speed on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.
To enable this, the Norwegian government supports the establishment of a full-scale value chain for carbon capture, transport and storage in the North Sea. The Longship project is ongoing, in which 400.000 tonnes of CO2 from Heidelberg Cement’s plant at Brevik shall be stored permanently below the seabed by the Northern Lights Joint Venture. The Norwegian government has also conducted several licensing rounds for further CO2 storage sites, and the offshore industry currently has plans to develop up to 50 million tonnes of yearly CO2 storage capacity by 2030.
Among the projects are several hydrogen technology manufacturing facilities, of which the most well-known is Nel Hydrogen’s recent opening of the world’s largest automated factory at Herøya. Both Hystar and HydrogenPro also have bold ambitions for electrolyzer manufacturing, and Norway is particularly well-positioned to contribute to a large share of the 100 GW electrolyzer manufacturing capacity needed in the EU to reach its 10 million tons of renewable energy production target.
Further, there are currently several plans to scale fuel cell manufacturing in Norway. For example, TECO 2030 is building up Europe’s first giga production facility of hydrogen PEM fuel cell stacks and modules in Narvik and targets 1,6 GW output capacity in 2030. On May 15th, they produced their first stack. These and other companies could sharply increase and multiply their manufacturing capacities in Norway.
Local companies shoulder development of H2 economy
The actors involved in building up the Norwegian hydrogen industry come partly from the country’s strong historic research and industrial community on hydrogen and hydrogen technology. Norway produced its first ammonia from hydropower and water at Hydro’s Rjukan site already in 1929. But also from the strong renewable industry, the maritime industry, and the offshore oil and gas industry. In addition to significant competence in the fields of electrolyzers, fuel cells, storage tanks and hydrogen refuelling stations, Norway is at the forefront when it comes to developing new solutions in areas such as carbon capture, compressors, bunkering solutions for maritime application, hydrogen and ammonia ships and innovative concepts for offshore hydrogen production. The country’s substantial sub-suppliers in the oil and gas industry can further utilize its competence to develop renewable and low-carbon equipment and appliances for the hydrogen economy.
Although there is political agreement that the CO2-price shall increase from 952 NOK in 2023 to 2.000 NOK by 2030, there is still a challenge that fossil fuels are cheaper than hydrogen-based fuels. To go from project planning to final investment decision, there is a need for a public-private partnership in which risk relief is given until hydrogen reaches price parity with fossil fuels. The favoured measure among Norwegian Hydrogen Forum’s members is a Contracts-for-Difference (CfD) scheme.
We have suggested to the government that a first auction should take place as soon as possible in 2024 to ensure predictability for the many companies that are now at a stage where they must take final investment decision or look for other projects. In last year’s approval of the state budget, the Norwegian Storting (parliament) requested the government to develop a plan for a CfD scheme in 2023. Petroleum and Energy Minister Terje Aasland has confirmed that the government will deliver this plan accordingly.
Great leap for German-Norwegian partnership
Whereas uncertainties remain when it comes to developing the domestic value chain for hydrogen, several giant steps have been taken to establish a value chain for large-scale hydrogen exports from Norway to Germany. In January 2022, Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre issued a new era of bilateral energy and industry collaboration when he visited German chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin to set up a renewed energy and industrial partnership between the two countries. Since then, ministers from both countries have travelled back and forth in an impressive tempo, not least due to the Russian full-blown invasion of Ukraine a month after Støre’s visit.
Since Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck visited Oslo in March last year, a feasibility study on large-scale exports by pipeline has been ongoing, and the result of that study is expected soon. If a decision is taken to go forth with the plans to build a pipeline, Norway could by the beginning of the 2030s export two to four million tonnes of hydrogen directly to Germany (see fig. 1). The pipeline will be built with dimensions that are 30 % larger than current low-carbon production plans and will have the capacity to include renewable hydrogen both from the Norwegian mainland and from offshore wind farms along the way.
The close political collaboration has been followed by a string of industrial collaboration projects. Firstly, we have a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the German Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (DWV), with which we regularly meet in different settings, for example at stage at this year’s Hannover Messe to discuss the importance of the German-Norwegian partnership .
Secondly, we have a strategic cooperation agreement with Center Hydrogen.Bavaria (H2.B), which we visited with a delegation during a political roundtable meeting in January. Hopefully, this collaboration will contribute both to set up hydrogen exports even to the alps and to scale up the number of heavy-duty trucks with hydrogen as fuel on Norwegian roads soon. The five northern German states (HY-5) also have a formalized collaboration with the Norwegian support agency Innovation Norway.
Equinor and RWE agreed beginning of this year, to cooperate on building hydrogen-ready gas power plants, to jointly develop offshore wind farms that will enable production of renewable hydrogen, and to build low-carbon hydrogen production facilities in Norway with the intent to export by pipeline from Norway to Germany. VNG collaborates with Equinor on the H2GE Rostock project, but also has ongoing collaboration with Aker Horizons and Yara. The German utility EnBW is active in the Norwegian market within development of offshore wind and has advanced negotiations with Skipavika Green Ammonia. On the electrolyzer side, Nel Hydrogen will deliver components for two hydrogen facilities under development by HH2E. Norwegian hydrogen producers also have very good collaboration with German electrolyzer producers, such as Fest and H-Tec. It is probably not a surprise that when the world’s first ferry powered by liquid hydrogen, MF Hydra, came into operation earlier this year, it was Linde that delivered both the hydrogen and the bunkering solution.
These are just a few examples that show the vast opportunities for hydrogen in Norway. Collaboration with Germany will be paramount in realizing this potential, and I am certain that when we yet again screen the Norwegian hydrogen landscape in 2030, we will be seeing an industry in Norway that gives a vital contribution to European emission reductions and energy security.
Author: Ingebjørg Telnes Wilhelmsen, General Secretary, Norwegian Hydrogen Forum
Norwegian Hydrogen Forum (NHF) was founded in 1996 and is the national association for the hydrogen and ammonia industry in Norway. NHF works actively to disseminate key information on hydrogen and ammonia research and technology commercialisation, market trends and international policy making. Its core task is to promote its members’ interests towards public authorities and decision makers.