Clean hydrogen from natural gas can speed up the energy transition

Published on 29 June 2017

Consultancy firm Berenschot and the TNO institute will study what the possibilities are for extracting hydrogen from natural gas, with CO2 capture. This would enable an infrastructure for hydrogen to be quickly established. Hydrogen from temporary renewable energy source surpluses, such as solar and wind, could also make use of this network in due course. The CO2-free hydrogen can, among other things, be used in industry or for clean electricity generation during times of less solar and wind energy.

Hydrogen is an important new CO2-free energy carrier for a sustainable energy system. It is currently mainly seen as a promise for the long term, assuming that renewable hydrogen has to be recovered from wind and solar power through electrolysis, and the share in the energy mix from that is not yet large enough. The arrival of a hydrogen economy can, however, be accelerated, because it is also possible to make hydrogen from natural gas. The CO2 released from this process can be permanently stored in old North Sea gas fields, without emitting greenhouse gases. This was raised in previous studies by Berenschot as a good option for obtaining CO2-free hydrogen and accelerating the energy transition.

Topsector Energie, as part of their System Integration programme, has recently supported Berenschot and TNO in further researching the feasibility of this process. This involves the conversion whereby hydrogen is extracted from natural gas (methane) and the COby-product is immediately captured and stored in a gas field. The COcapture actually already occurs at the source, so that only the climate-neutral hydrogen in the energy system is brought into circulation. As a result, hydrogen is almost immediately available as a CO2-free energy carrier. When it is burned, only water is released, and no greenhouse gas whatsoever.

Moreover, it is possible to temporarily store this hydrogen. This would create a large-scale buffer stock of flexible and emission-free energy that would always be available on demand; for example, for industry and for flexible electricity generation to cover periods of less wind and solar energy.

With the extraction of CO2-free hydrogen from natural gas, we also foresee the accelerated roll-out of an infrastructure for hydrogen (both transport and storage). Hydrogen from surpluses of renewable energy (solar and wind) could make use of this infrastructure at a later stage. It could involve new infrastructure, or the conversion of existing gas infrastructure to hydrogen.

The study will be co-financed and supported by the gas sector. This is all within the context of the active development of new efficient solutions for a sustainable energy supply without CO2 emissions.

Berenschot and TNO are carrying out an integrated feasibility study into the possibilities, with consideration being given to the entire chain and putting as many synergies together as possible. It is the intention to have the results available later this year, including suggestions for follow-up projects.

Bert den Ouden

Bert den Ouden

Managing director