Oil and gas

Heating Dutch homes with hydrogen

Heating Dutch homes with hydrogen
Electrolyser units in these blue containers are producing high purity green hydrogen gas for heating homes in a nearby apartment block in Rotterdam, Netherlands (Photo: DNV GL)

Contact us:

Johan Knijp

Johan Knijp

Area Manager, Netherlands

  • A project led by gas and power networks operator Stedin aims to show that homes can be heated safely and efficiently with clean hydrogen

  • The project is a valuable testing ground for makers of equipment for producing and using hydrogen in the built environment

  • DNV GL manages the project and provides expert support for hydrogen technology

Homes in the Netherlands are being heated with 100% hydrogen, replacing natural gas in an existing pipeline for the first time in the country. The five-year project (2018–2023) involving apartments in a residential block in Rotterdam is demonstrating that zero-carbon hydrogen could help to decarbonize heating. This is one of the biggest challenges in countries where natural gas delivered in established pipeline networks dominates residential heating. 

The trial in the Rozenburg area of Rotterdam is the second phase of the Power2Gas programme being led by Stedin, a Dutch gas and power grid operator. It aims to prove the viability of this approach across the entire gas value chain from hydrogen production to end use. 

The first phase (2013–2018) produced synthetic natural gas (SNG), methane, made by reacting hydrogen with carbon dioxide, for the apartment block. The same, short pipeline network used then is now delivering hydrogen from a nearby small-scale electrolysis facility powered by electricity. Hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water is termed ‘green’ if the electricity is from renewable power sources. 

“So far [December 2019], a substantial quantity of green hydrogen has been produced on site at Rozenburg and utilized for heating using 100% hydrogen boilers. Things are still looking good, and the interesting period will come over the winter when demand is highest,” said Albert van der Molen, expert asset management, Stedin.

Contact us:

Johan Knijp

Johan Knijp

Area Manager, Netherlands

Our studies show that for an optimal solution for society, hydrogen should not be disregarded as one of the pieces of the energy-transition jigsaw puzzle
Albert van der Molen,
  • expert asset management
  • Stedin

100% hydrogen has potential for residential heating in many Dutch homes, van der Molen added: “Our [Stedin] studies show that for an optimal solution for society, hydrogen should not be disregarded as a piece of the energy-transition jigsaw puzzle, together with city heating and electrical heatpumps.” 

The Rozenburg project illustrates the flexibility and scalability of electrolysis to deliver green hydrogen to local users. Enapter, a German designer and maker of electrolysers, has supplied eight anion exchange membrane electrolyser units producing high purity green hydrogen gas for the project (Figure 1). Units can be stacked to form larger electrolyser systems. Onboard sensors allow remote monitoring and control to optimize the equipment’s efficiency and its effectiveness in meeting demand patterns. 

The produced hydrogen is safely transported to central boilers heating 25 apartments. A gas-fired boiler in the block provides backup if demand is higher than the electrolysers can meet.

Figure 1: Rozenburg electrolyser
Figure 1: Enapter electrolyser units can produce a total of four normal cubic metres of hydrogen gas per hour for heating apartments in the Rozenburg project. Photo: Stedin
Projects like Power2Gas Rozenburg are invaluable for equipment manufacturers to see and prove how their innovative products perform in real situations and comply with standards
Johan Knijp,
  • area manager, Netherlands
  • DNV GL – Oil & Gas

“With hydrogen for heating of this kind still in its infancy worldwide, projects like Power2Gas Rozenburg are invaluable for equipment manufacturers to see and prove how their innovative products perform in real situations and comply with standards,” said Johan Knijp, area manager, Netherlands, DNV GL – Oil & Gas. Other equipment makers are partnering with Stedin and DNV GL in the Rotterdam project. They include burner manufacturer Bekaert Heating, and heating and hot-water systems maker Remeha. 

DNV GL is managing the project for Stedin, having previously scoped and engineered it, provided on-site guidance during the building phase of the infrastructure, and inspected safety. The technical advisor’s specialist laboratories in Groningen, Netherlands, have performed tests and gas quality measurements for the Rotterdam project. The Groningen premises also hosted the commissioning of electrolysers and methanation equipment for Power2Gas. 

“DNV GL has been a highly valued technical partner in the Rozenburg project since 2013,” said van der Molen. “It has the right knowledge when it comes to hydrogen, and shows the pragmatism required for demonstrating new things for which several rules and standards are not yet available. The people from DNV GL also offer me flexibility as a customer, which has proved valuable.” 

Netherlands becoming a leader in hydrogen for energy 

Stedin’s next project after the Rozenburg demonstration will be in the village of Stad aan 't Haringvliet, South Holland, with 550 existing homes using 100% hydrogen in 2025 utilizing the existing natural gas grid. 

Other initiatives are underway in the Netherlands to promote a hydrogen economy, as the national government progresses towards a national Climate Agreement. Under current proposals (2019), this agreement would include funding for innovation in hydrogen and other sustainable fuels.1 

For example, the public-private HEAVENN consortium is beginning a six-year, EUR90 million project to develop a fully functioning green hydrogen value chain in the Northern Netherlands region.2 The plans include large-scale production of green hydrogen as feedstock for industry; storage, transport and distribution of hydrogen, and its use for energy in industry, buildings and transport; retrofitting existing natural gas pipelines for transporting hydrogen; and, laying hydrogen pipes at industrial and business parks. The Government of the Netherlands is meanwhile providing financial backing for a DNV GL-led global joint industry project (JIP) to enable the use of hydrogen to decarbonize energy-intensive, high temperature industrial processes (see article below). 

Nevertheless, it will probably take many years for Dutch gas network operators to be able to supply large numbers of customers with hydrogen for heating and cooking, said van der Molen: “First of all, regulations need changing. For example: Dutch gas distribution system operators (DSOs) are not currently allowed to distribute 100% hydrogen using the existing natural gas grid. Second, the supply of green hydrogen will initially be limited, resulting in relatively high costs.” 

Starting [hydrogen projects] is important to learn, to get used to hydrogen, and so on

This should not be a reason to hesitate, he recommended: “If nobody starts now, the situation in 2030 will be similar to what it is today. Starting is important to learn, to get used to hydrogen, and so on. That is where I see the challenges, not so much in technology.” 

Others agree. The Hydrogen Coalition in the Netherlands is calling for green hydrogen production capacity to be ramped up from 1 megawatt (MW) now to 500 MW in five years as a stepping stone to 3.4 GW by 2030.3 The broad coalition includes 27 organizations: network operators including Stedin, Gasunie and Tennet; industry; energy companies; governments; nature and environmental organizations; and, scientific institutions.

One question is where the hydrogen will come from to eventually start supplying it at scale to residential and industrial customers. In theory, the options (Figure 2), depending on location of supply and demand, could be blue hydrogen from steam methane reforming with carbon capture and storage, or green hydrogen, or a mix.

Commented van der Molen: “Most customers and most policy makers in the Netherlands show a strong preference for green hydrogen. I think the final picture should be green; but, when needed, for example when security of supply is at risk, the ‘colour’ means a lot less to me. I can imagine that during the starting phase, blue hydrogen will be used as well, just because of affordability.” 

Download DNV GL research papers on hydrogen for decarbonizing heat and hydrogen as an energy carrier  


References

  1. ‘Climate deal makes halving carbon emissions feasible and affordable’, Government of the Netherlands, press release at government.nl, 28 June 2019 
  2. ‘Wind Meets Gas 2019 – Northern Netherlands to be first European hydrogen region’, Publ. in The Green Hydrogen Economy, Noordelijke Innovation Board, 19 October 2019 
  3. ‘Tijd dringt voor groene waterstof [Time is running out for green hydrogen]’ Waterstof Coalitie [Hydrogen Coalition], November 2019, available online in Dutch 
Figure 2: Hydrogen production pathways
Figure 2: Hydrogen production pathways

Companies collaborate to decarbonize direct heating processes  

A global multi-client joint industry project (JIP) is underway to pave the way for using hydrogen to decarbonize the energy-intensive, high temperature ceramics, steel, and glass industries, which usually use furnaces or kilns, and operate at 500 degrees Celsius or more (Figure 1). DNV GL initiated and is leading the ‘Hydrogen as fuel for direct heating processes’ JIP, which kicked-off in October 2019 and is currently (December 2019) still open for new participants to join. 

The goal is to develop and demonstrate a burner system that can flexibly utilize 100% hydrogen, 100% natural gas, and all mixtures of the two gases. The same system can be used throughout the transition. It can be supplied initially with varying natural gas/hydrogen mixtures, and ultimately with pure hydrogen when the supply of hydrogen has risen to the challenge. The major economic advantage of such a system is that it offers robust fuel flexibility with only a limited investment. 

“A substantial part of the carbon dioxide emissions from these industries is caused by burning fossil fuels for heating processes. No technology is currently available to enable large-scale energy savings and decarbonization for this group of industrial processes. Hydrogen could be the fastest and cheapest route to achieving this,” explained Johan Knijp, area manager, Netherlands, DNV GL – Oil & Gas. 

The JIP is funded by 25 international partners and the Government of the Netherlands. Expertise and laboratory facilities at DNV GL’s Groningen site in the Netherlands, and expertise from its Loughborough, UK, operations will be involved in the work.  

For more details of the joint industry project, contact Johan Knijp.

Glassmaking
Figure 1: Hydrogen could be the fastest, cheapest route to large-scale energy savings and decarbonization of industrial processes such as making glass light bulbs (Photo: Shutterstock)

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DNV GL prides itself on providing accurate information but makes no claims or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of contents in this publication, and disclaims liability for any errors or omissions. The authors’ views here do not necessarily reflect DNV GL’s views.