• Andrew Byrne

Plan to develop green hydrogen from Scottish offshore wind lands prize




Ever-increasing awareness of the issues highlighted by the climate crisis is leading to innovative solutions. The latest example of such innovation comes from the news that plans to create green hydrogen from offshore wind look likely to come to fruition within the next couple of years.


Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a London-based sustainability consultancy, has won the Energy and Environment category of The Engineer Magazine’s 2020 Collaborate to Innovate Awards for just such an idea. ERM’s Dolphyn (Deepwater Offshore Local Production of HYdrogeN) project has examined the possibility of producing green hydrogen from electrolysers directly coupled to floating wind turbines far out at sea.


ERM were awarded a government grant of £3.1m in February 2020 for further development of the project which has now claimed The Engineer award. ERM say that the project is still at the early stages of realising its full potential of the project but, buoyed by the grant and the award, they are currently reviewing options for the next phase of development.


It is expected to be located in the North Sea to avail of the offshore wind resources available in the location. ERM are working towards getting a proof-of-concept unit running around 15km off the Aberdeenshire coast by 2024 to be followed by a 10MW full-scale pre-commercial unit by 2024/25. ERM’s hope after that is for an array of 10MW floating turbines generating 4GW of wind power.


There are a number of other projects exploring the use of offshore wind to generate hydrogen but Dolphyn is unique in its coupling of electrolysers and wind turbines with seawater – desalinised on site – to produce the green hydrogen. Having investigated the option of bringing the power on-shore from a centralised platform, ERM realised that it was more effective and economical to perform the process at sea.


Using floating platforms means that shipping routes can be evaded and the mobility provided by using floating wind turbines boosts the commercial potential of the project. One of ERM’s partners in the Dolphyn project is Tractebel Engie, German engineering consultants, who are also exploring other plans to develop offshore hydrogen production plants.


The likely location of ERM’s plant will be welcomed by the Scottish government who harbour ambitious plans to utilise the offshore wind facilities to develop green hydrogen. A report published in December elaborated on how the devolved government hope to develop green hydrogen as “a clean fuel for Scottish industry an households and a highly valuable commodity to supply rapidly growing UK and European markets”.


Globally, green hydrogen was described in a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance report as one of the sources of energy transition that could help the world to decarbonise to a sustainable level.