From Green Hydrogen to Green Ammonia: The Surging Trend of Offshore Wind Power!

2023-05-26 14:19

In the quest for decarbonization in the energy and industrial sectors, utilizing renewable electricity to produce green hydrogen or green ammonia has emerged as a viable pathway. However, onshore hydrogen and ammonia production facilities face numerous constraints such as land availability, site selection, regulatory approvals, and investment requirements. As a result, many countries have turned their attention to offshore wind power, which offers abundant wind resources and the advantage of large-scale electricity generation. However, it also poses the challenge of efficiently utilizing excess electricity during low-demand periods.

The coupling of electrolysis for hydrogen and ammonia production with offshore wind power presents a highly promising clean energy preparation technology, enabling zero-carbon emissions. Nonetheless, offshore platform construction presents its own set of challenges, including the complex marine environment, difficulty in platform installation, and the high costs associated with hydrogen and ammonia storage and transportation.

To address these challenges, some European countries have proposed the concept of floating production and storage vessels for hydrogen and ammonia. This concept draws inspiration from the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) systems used in the offshore oil industry and has already reached a mature stage of development.

Recently, the offshore floating green ammonia production facility, jointly developed by BW Offshore in Norway and SwitchH2 in the Netherlands, has received the "Approval in Principle" (AIP) from DNV (Det Norske Veritas), verifying the feasibility of its design and technology.

Named "NH3 FPSO," this vessel is specifically designed for ammonia production and will be implemented by retrofitting existing Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC) or constructing dedicated vessels. The facility will receive electricity from offshore wind farms, utilizing electrolysis of seawater to produce hydrogen and air separation units to generate nitrogen. These components will then be combined in an ammonia synthesis unit, with the resulting ammonia being condensed and stored on board in liquid form.

As per the design, the NH3 FPSO will adopt a permanent mooring system, operating within offshore wind farms or potentially relocating to other wind fields if necessary. The produced ammonia will be transported via pipelines to other ammonia carriers for further distribution. This innovative solution allows wind farm developers to avoid the significant costs associated with building separate ammonia production facilities, instead opting to lease FPSO vessels.

Conn Fagan, Vice President of Business Development for Floating Production at DNV, stated that the granted AIP covers all aspects of the vessel's conceptual design, including structural integrity, mooring, ammonia production, storage, and offloading.

Interestingly, this is not the first FPSO concept for green ammonia production. Last year, DNV approved a similar concept known as the P2XFloater, a floating production unit for green ammonia developed by H2Carrier, a Norwegian-based company. H2Carrier has signed an intention agreement with Anori, based in Greenland, to develop the first commercial offshore wind farm on the island as part of a project to produce and export green ammonia.

The anticipated wind farm will have an installed capacity of 1,500 megawatts, providing power to H2Carrier's floating production and storage vessel (P2XFloater). The companies plan to store green ammonia in tanks on board the vessel, transfer it to smaller transport ships, and deliver it to the international ammonia market.

Nicolai Fossar Fabritius, Chairman of Anori, expressed, "Currently, less than 1% of global ammonia consumption is derived from renewable energy sources. To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, we must make greater efforts to increase this proportion."

H2Carrier has announced that the P2XFloater is the world's first industrial-scale production platform capable of producing hydrogen and ammonia. This innovative solution combines mature FPSO technology with optimized renewable energy, electrolyzers, and the Haber-Bosch process control system for ammonia production. H2Carrier plans to build, own/lease, and operate a fleet of P2XFloater vessels for global PtX projects.

The floating hydrogen and ammonia production and liquefaction platform offer a distributed, small-scale, and low-risk source of clean fuel supply. This solution holds great appeal for various applications.

Norwegian companies leading in this field is no coincidence. Norway has a highly developed maritime and offshore technology industry, is one of the world's oil giants, and is committed to an ambitious national decarbonization strategy.

However, for the "offshore wind + FPSO" model to be economically viable, several scenarios need to be considered. Firstly, if the location is far from the national grid, establishing onshore facilities could present logistical or land-based challenges. Secondly, being far from the coastline requires extensive cable infrastructure, which incurs high costs and power losses. Thirdly, if the production of green hydrogen or ammonia is aimed at export, the advantage of not needing expensive and long-distance cable or pipeline connections becomes more significant. Lastly, if the produced green hydrogen or ammonia can be used as marine fuel, it becomes even more economically valuable as it can be directly supplied at sea.

As early as September last year, H2Carrier signed a memorandum of understanding with the Norwegian renewable energy giant Statkraft, with plans to utilize floating ammonia production vessels (P2XFloater) in specific offshore wind farms. They also mentioned that the P2XFloater could contribute to enhancing the electrical flexibility of offshore wind installations, reducing their dependence on the power grid and export cable infrastructure.