The world race for hydrogen in the sea will pass through Nantes

published on Friday, September 23, 2022 at 07:07

Offshore wind turbines produce electricity. They could also produce hydrogen, as the Lhyfe floating pilot plant, a young French sprout with global ambitions, wants to demonstrate as soon as possible and before anyone else.

The stakes are high, as hydrogen is currently the leading means of greening chemistry, industry and heavy transportation, as long as it is produced using low-carbon energy.

Lhyfe, created in 2017 and dedicated to this goal, presented this Thursday this pilot platform, intended for six months of testing in the port of Saint-Nazaire, before leaving 20 km from the French coast to connect for twelve months to a wind. turbine.

“This offshore production platform is a world first and aims to eventually consolidate renewable hydrogen production with offshore production,” explains the CEO of this Nantes-based company, Matthieu Guesné. “Today, many people talk about renewable hydrogen, but very few do. We want to lead the way.”

On the 300m2 lemon-yellow barge, a container houses an electrolyser, which uses electricity to break down the water molecule (H2O) to produce hydrogen (H2). The current comes from the wind turbine and the water is seawater desalinated on site using a “classic” membrane desalination system, on board a second container.

– “Go fast” –

But why offshore wind turbines instead of on land?

The hydrogen produced can be transported to land by a conventional gas pipeline, less expensive than the electrical connection when moving away from the coast, the promoters argue. And unlike electrical current, it is easily stored.

Offshore wind turbines are much more powerful than land based ones. “And the further we go from the coast, the more energy it produces,” adds Mr. Guesné.

The floating electrolyser can be connected to existing farms. Hydrogen demand may also justify dedicated parks, they say in Lhyfe, where Germany awaits a forthcoming tender.

In the meantime, the team will need to ensure that the electrolyser, produced by American Plug Power, is resistant to heeling, waves and corrosion and can still optimize equipment size or maintenance.

At its Vendée plant equipped with three onshore wind turbines, Lhyfe has already been able to prove that producing hydrogen with desalinated water and intermittent power works. For a year now, it has been supplying buses in La Roche-sur-Yon, Lidl forklift trucks, etc.

– “Change the world a little” –

At sea, Lhyfe is targeting its demonstrator with a production capacity of 400 kg/day, or 1 megawatt (MW), the equivalent of a hundred full cars. By 2030, it plans to produce 3 gigawatts (GW).

“These are the kind of pioneering projects that can change the world a little bit and the speed with which others get involved,” said Ole Hoefelmann, CEO of Plug Power.

He mentions another big 1GW project in Denmark. The Swedish energy company Vattenfall has announced that it is developing a wind turbine project in Scotland dedicated to hydrogen, but production is not expected before 2025.

At Lhyfe, “we want to go fast,” explains the technical director.

It took just 18 months to build this pilot named Sealyfe. This multi-million dollar project, which has had the help of the Region and Ademe, also has the support of an entire ecosystem that has been created in recent years around offshore wind power between Nantes and Saint-Nazaire: the port, the Chantiers de l’ Atlantique, or the Ecole Centrale de Nantes, which will host the demonstrator at its experimental base at sea.

In the face of global warming, “we are late,” says Bertrand Alessandrini, researcher and director of development at Centrale. “But we have a world first here, and we’re going as fast as we can.”

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