Hydrogen on trend

Hydrogen on trend

At the moment, hydrogen is – at least in the energy sector – on everyone’s lips. This is also evidenced by research into the latest trends. US corporation Google offers an online service that provides information about the popularity of terms entered into its Google search engine and how it changes over time. The results are given in relation to the total volume of searches and are available week by week from 2004.

The tool provides a striking illustration of the level of interest in a topic – both now and in the past. The performance of the same keyword in different languages can also provide insight into how much attention a subject is receiving in different parts of the world. For example, the tool shows that the German word for “hydrogen” (Wasserstoff) has been Googled much more often since the end of 2018 than in the 15 years prior to that. Peaks occurred in 2020 and 2021. Since then, the popularity of this search term has remained, on the whole, relatively high.

In German searches, “hydrogen” is looked up far more frequently than the equivalent words for “electric mobility,” “fuel cell,” “wind power” or “digitization.” Though “photovoltaic” is more popular still if you don’t include the spikes in 2020 and 2021. In English-language searches, “hydrogen” is used for many more search inquiries (see fig.) than, for instance, “fuel cell,” “digitization,” “photovoltaic” or even “PV.” While “hydrogen” has remained, on balance, consistently popular for almost 20 years, searches for “fuel cell” were more common at the start of the century.


Norway doubles number of H2 projects

Norway doubles number of H2 projects

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,[1] 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.

Private-public collaboration

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.


Quicker scaling

Quicker scaling

Interview with Tassilo Gast from Emerson

If hydrogen is expected to change the world, then the associated industries need to massively expand their capacities in the next few years. That will only happen if you build on existing knowledge. This is vital when it comes to scaling and automation, explains Tassilo Gast from automation specialist Emerson in his interview with H2-international.

H2-international: The hydrogen industry needs to grow extremely rapidly in the years ahead. What do companies, for example electrolyzer manufacturers, need to be especially aware of?

Gast: The electrolyzer projects that have been announced in the news are between 100 megawatts and 1 gigawatt in size. The electrolyzers installed up until now mostly have electrical capacities of 2 or 5 megawatts. That represents considerable growth and therefore a huge challenge for manufacturers.

Electrolyzers usually have a modular construction. For the most part, this principle still stands when they are scaled up, if only because of the physical and electrochemical limits on the size of the stacks. These days, stacks with around 2.5 megawatts of electrical capacity are commonplace. Even if a stack in the future were to be 10 megawatts, you would need 10 of them for a 100-megawatt electrolyzer, and hundreds of them for a gigawatt project. If I simply line up 10 modules side by side using the “scale up by numbering up” principle, then I have 10 times the number of interfaces, 10 times the number of cable ducts and so on. Wiring, balancing and controlling all that is highly complex. Consequently you have to rethink the system architecture.

If we take a large electrolyzer plant as an example – what would a successful scale-up with adapted system architecture look like?

The key thing is for someone to look at the overall system early on. In the case of Emerson, we have a dedicated business unit for systems. In theory, the manufacturers could also do it themselves, but they often just don’t have the capacity in the growth phase to take this step or return to this step and look at the overall picture.

Depending on the scaling factor, initially it can all be about taking small steps, for instance the merging of balancing groups. However, from a certain size, no later than several hundred megawatts, you have to build in a completely different way. At that point you can no longer install the modules in individual shipping containers, as you do for smaller plants – if only because the total cost of the containers would be too expensive. Instead, you build a plant with the stacks on a plot of land along with the accompanying plant units, for example for water treatment, as in greenfield projects. The electrolyzer would be planned in a similar way to a traditional chemical plant, on open ground – or under cover – with separate processing and plant sections. When we’re part of a process like that, it’s very important to work together closely. Together you have to take a long, hard look at the process so that you really manage to leverage the efficiency potential and cut down the time to market.

In addition to the redundancy of components and the spatial arrangement, are there other problems when scaling up that can be avoided with appropriate planning?

Yes, there are, for example in relation to safety. Hydrogen is, of course, an explosive gas. And the amount of gas increases as the plant size grows and this also increases the potential risk for surrounding areas. Equipment and fittings have to meet safety and disconnection guidelines; in the event of a fault, it must be possible to shut down safely. There is special software from AspenTech, which Emerson has owned since 2022, that helps to scale up a plant virtually, and indicates foreseeable bottlenecks and safety issues.

What role can a digital twin play in this kind of virtual scale-up?

The expression “digital twin” is used in lots of different ways. In its simplest form, it means a virtual map of the plant. The next step is to populate the digital map with data from the process in operation. This allows you to verify if the simulation tallies with reality. Emerson’s digital twins are able to verify data from the simulation with responses from field instruments and control elements from the field and thus preempt the behavior of the process. That’s immensely helpful, for example in the case of electrolyzer manufacturers or EPCs, when it’s all about assessing in advance the scaling effects of plants that are in the process of becoming larger. Finally, it enables better operational management – with higher efficiency, lower costs and longer component life.

Have you already delivered this kind of scale-up for an electrolyzer manufacturer so you can tell us about your experiences?

We have a lot of initial projects in the hydrogen sector around the globe. For instance, we’ve fitted out the world’s largest PEM electrolyzer plant with a control system, valves and instruments. It’s at Air Liquide in Bécancour, Canada. Emerson has also taken care of the integration into the on-site chemical process.

Here, we are able to draw on our know-how from other sectors. Regardless of which electrolyzer technology is being used – PEM, alkaline, AEM – scaled-up electrolyzers all need a lot of water, for example. The water has to be demineralized and conveyed to the electrolyzer and arrive there at the correct temperature and at the correct pressure. We take care of measuring all these factors, finding the right valves and fittings and controlling the process – from the electrolyzer, to gas separation and dehydration through gas analysis at the end to check the quality level of the hydrogen.

Stack production is essentially already highly automated. Bipolar plates are screwed automatically, for example. In some cases, Emerson components are used, for instance to place components in a certain position using compressed air.

Which companies in the hydrogen sector would also be interested in working with Emerson on automation or other improvements?

We’re active throughout the entire hydrogen value chain: in hydrogen production, in transportation and distribution as well as in our work with end users. An end user of hydrogen can be a large chemicals group, a steel group or a refinery, but equally a company from the papermaking, life sciences or cement industries. For example we have installed a system consisting of a large number of hydrogen refueling stations for an independent operator from South Korea. The operator now sees exactly how much hydrogen is needed at what time and at which refueling stations; it knows how many refueling operations take place, whether there are problems somewhere and what logistical measures it has to take to adjust its delivery logistics to meet requirements. These sorts of overarching control systems and system architectures for recording data and signals also play a role in large sector-coupling projects in which all steps can be monitored and aligned with each other – from the production of green power using wind or photovoltaics to hydrogen production by means of electrolysis through distribution via pipelines and refueling stations or to fuel cells.

In another instance, we have supplied a complete blending station for injecting hydrogen into the natural gas grid. Here, we worked together with a partner from the plant engineering industry. For a manufacturer of hydrogen plants and EPCs, that’s a big advantage. The manufacturer has a central point of contact for all aspects of automation that supplies everything from a single source. That’s not only much quicker but also brings the manufacturer a clear CAPEX benefit.

Is everything going quickly enough to cope with the ramp-up of the hydrogen industry?

For a successful ramp-up, all parts of the industry need to scale together. Silo thinking which is focused on individual plants or manufacturers is not helpful. When many electrolyzer manufacturers scale up, they simply do what they already know but increase the size and numbers. However, if you don’t adapt the system architecture, the CAPEX costs rise, and inefficiencies occur that just don’t need to exist. If you look into the general concept of automation at an early stage, aside from the development of new membranes or other research work, there is vast potential to reduce costs. To leverage this, you have to test out all manner of ideas and concepts early on and it needs an automation partner with a complete portfolio. Everyone has to be open with their partners as far as possible in order to identify potential together.

Can good automation in Germany and Europe enable us to stay competitive in hydrogen technology?

In Europe we have an incredible spectrum of companies and organizations from the hydrogen industry, especially in Germany. The technologies of these companies have a very high technology readiness level – plants are exported around the world. There are a lot of companies with a great deal of know-how. Even if staffing costs are higher here, that hardly has a bearing compared with other aspects. The problem has far more to do with regulation and policy. In the US, for example, there is the Inflation Reduction Act which provides a huge amount of support to companies if they create value in the US. It’s aimed particularly at companies in the environmental and sustainability sectors, such as manufacturers of hydrogen plants or subareas of the hydrogen value chain. It’s pointing the way for European industry, which means Europe must urgently readjust.

Another issue is that the approvals for projects and plants in Europe take far too long and are too diverse. A consistent regulatory framework would simplify a lot of things. It’s not just approvals that are time-consuming; other political commitments, such as funding and guidelines or targets, take an extremely long time in Europe. A case in point is the RED III Directive. The EU has now announced higher overall targets and updated the speed of the approvals procedure. Despite this, the procedures still take too long. If the hydrogen industry is expected to stay and scale up further in Europe and in Germany, then many things here have to become a lot faster.

Our interviewee:

Tassilo Gast is Emerging Market Business Development Manager for the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) at Emerson. The company, which employs around 70,000 members of staff worldwide, specializes in automation solutions. Its offering includes hardware such as valves and measuring equipment, software for simulation and operational management as well as services including consultancy and design. In May 2022, Emerson acquired a majority stake in the company AspenTech, a specialist in process simulation software. Emerson works with customers in a wide variety of sectors, from breweries to refineries. The company also has many customers in the hydrogen industry. Its headquarters are in Saint Louis in the US state of Missouri.

Author: Eva Augsten

Germany gets steering committee for H2 standards

Germany gets steering committee for H2 standards

Norm writing is a very dry but also very important topic – especially when a completely new economic industry is to be established. For this reason, various institutions from academics, politics, commerce and community started a steering committee for hydrogen standards in the beginning of August 2023.

As stated in a press release, this 26-member committee was put together for “strategic support in working on a roadmap for setting standards for hydrogen technologies (Normungsroadmap Wasserstofftechnologien).” The aim is to “accelerate the expansion of hydrogen technologies in Germany through a coordinated approach to technical rulemaking” and launch a hydrogen roadmap (Wasserstoffroadmap) to aid the expansion of the hydrogen economy and infrastructure.

Chosen to lead this steering committee was Dr. Kirsten Westphal, executive board member of the Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft (national association for energy and water economy, BDEW). Westphal explained, “The roadmap will help to identify needs and to directly initiate concrete implementation projects in the field of technical regulation of hydrogen technologies.”

The committee is receiving institutional support from the DIN (Deutsche Institut für Normung), DVGW (Deutscher Verein des Gas- und Wasserfaches), NWB (Verein für die Normung und Weiterentwicklung des Bahnwesens), VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie), VDI (Verein Deutscher Ingenieure), VDMA (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau) and DKE (Deutsche Kommission Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik). Financial support has come since January 2023 from the German ministry for economy and climate protection (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz, BMWK).

The official kick-off event for this collaborative project running until November 2025 took place online in March 2023 with 1,300 participants. The planned H2-Roadmap is now to be developed by a total of 39 working groups in an “open and transparent process” in which “all interested parties can participate.” A first draft should be available in the summer of 2024.


DWV independent again

DWV independent again

Since August 2023, the German hydrogen and fuel cell association (Deutscher Wasserstoff- und Brennstoffzellen-Verband e.V., DWV) has been represented by Werner Diwald alone again. Thorsten Kasten, the representative dispatched by the German association for gas and water standards (Deutscher Verein des Gas- und Wasserfaches e.V., DVGW), left the DWV board and with that also his seat as co-chairman of the board. According to the report from the DWV, the restructuring and professionalization measures of the past two years are hence concluded.

The DVGW and DWV had at times approached each other in the past years in order to more closely cooperate (see H2-international Jan. 2019), which coalesced among other things in a “successful establishment of the field office” as well as a “highly effective team” in Berlin, according to the DWV. The two associations will continue to work together, it was said. But the collaboration will certainly not be as close without Kasten’s role.