THP-E91: Ditch The Diesel…Hydrogen Fuel Cells Are The Answer For Large Scale Sustainable Backup Generators And Green Hydrogen Production In The Dutch North Sea May Just Have Europe Reconsidering Hydrocarbon Derived Hydrogen… Maybe.

February 17, 2022 • Paul Rodden • Season: 2022 • Episode: 91

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Welcome to The Hydrogen Podcast!

In episode 091, A new hydrogen backup system for a data center in Europe gets announced. And Neptune energy and RWE have a massive announcement about a project in the North Sea. All this on today’s hydrogen podcast.

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A new hydrogen backup system for a data center in Europe gets announced. And Neptune energy and RWE have a massive announcement about a project in the North Sea. All this on today’s hydrogen podcast.

So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where is capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters recognize the importance of hydrogen? I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen and this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden, and welcome to the hydrogen podcast.

In a press release from NorthC data centers, NorthC the largest regional data center company in the Netherlands is taking an important new step towards further sustainability improvements. The company’s facility in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands will become the first data center in Europe to install fuel cells that run on green hydrogen. This will result in considerable reductions in co2 emissions. NorthC is investigating whether this hydrogen technology can also be applied in the company’s other data centers, there is a strong debate about the sustainability of data centers, energy consumption is a key consideration. But at the same time, the demand for data center services is increasing. The growth required for this can only be achieved in a sustainable way. By looking at alternative forms of energy.

The European data center sector has agreed to achieve entirely Climate Neutral operations by 2030. Hydrogen cells are a promising technology to achieve this goal. Data centers usually have several emergency power generators that run on diesel to guarantee the availability of the digital services on which our society depends in the event of power failure. Although these diesel generators are rarely actually needed, they should be checked regularly on a monthly basis to ensure that they are working correctly. This process results in the consumption of diesel fuel and with a large number of emergency power generators at all data centers in their country that represents a considerable amount of diesel. The 500 kilowatt hydrogen cell module that will be installed in the new NorthC data center in Groningen will save 10s of 1000s of litres of diesel on an annual basis.

Burning this amount of diesel would produce more than 78,000 kilograms, or 78 tonnes of co2 that is equal to 24 cars driving the average number of kilometers for Dutch people, which is 32 kilometers a day for a year, or 20,000 Smartphones being charged every day for a year, only water is released when green hydrogen is burned, additional hydrogen modules can be added as needed. In a statement from Jarno Bloem, COO at NorthC Datacenters, the data center industry has a responsibility to ensure that we operate as sustainably as possible. For example, all our regional data centers run entirely on green power. We’re also actively engaged in additional sustainability initiatives, such as projects that use the residual heat from our data centers to heat homes and businesses in the area. An important next step is to switch from emergency power generators that run on diesel to sustainable alternatives. We believe that green hydrogen offers the best possibilities in this respect, and have therefore entered into a partnership with Nedstack one of the frontrunners in the field of large hydrogen cells. So what about the service life of these cells, the hydrogen cells that will be installed at the Groningen data center are more expensive than traditional generators that run on diesel.

However, the costs are expected to fall rapidly because of rapidly increasing fuel prices and the further development and growth of the hydrogen sector, particularly in the Groningen region. Additionally, the hydrogen cells have a very long service life of 20 years or more. For existing generators that run on diesel NorthC is investigating whether it’s possible and cost effective, to make them suitable for hydrogen. While this is less efficient than hydrogen fuel cells, which convert hydrogen directly into electrical energy, it would significantly reduce emissions by more than 80% and further contribute to sustainability. In conclusion, Bloem states with these hydrogen cells. Our data center in Groningen has a European first for emergency power supplies. We are now going to investigate if we can also apply this technology in our other data centers, initially mainly in new branches or expansions of existing branches. The ultimate goal, of course, is to use green hydrogen as a primary power supply.

But that is still something to address in the future. An important condition is to drop the cost of hydrogen. This requires subsidies and an increase in scale. But given the enormous advantages that this form of energy offers, I’m convinced that it’s just a matter of time. The hydrogen cells in Groningen are expected to be operational by the middle of June. Okay, so a very cool announcement by NorthC and one that I’ve been wanting to hear for some time. Now. A few months ago, I reported on something like this being done by Microsoft. And it makes complete sense the systems are clean, sustainable and easy to use. They also provide instant electrical backup in case of failure. Now there is one thing about this announcement that I do find really interesting. And that’s that they’re looking at converting the diesel generators to run on hydrogen.

Now, it’s not that difficult to retrofit traditional engines to be able to utilize hydrogen in a combustion setup. And I’m actually going to be very curious to see if any of these NorthC data centers decide to go that route next and another press release Neptune energy and RWE to accelerate green hydrogen production in Dutch North Sea. On February 15, Neptune energy and RWE announced the signing of a joint development agreement to develop the offshore green hydrogen project H2opZee ahead of 2030. H2opZee is a demonstration project which aims to build 300 to 500 megawatt electrolyzer capacity in the North Sea to produce green hydrogen using offshore wind. The hydrogen will then be transported to land through an existing pipeline.

The pipeline has a capacity of 10 to 12 gigawatts, so is already suitable for the rollout of green hydrogen production to gigawatt scale in the North Sea. The intention is to begin the feasibility study in the second quarter of 2022. The project is an initiative of TKI Wind op Zee, an initiative supported by the Dutch government bringing the people knowledge and financing together to support the offshore energy transition. The H2opZee project consists of two phases. In the first a feasibility study will be carried out and an accessible knowledge platform will be set up. The objective is to start the rollout of hydrogen at sea in the Netherlands. In the second phase, the project will be implemented. For this phase, a tender methodology has yet to be defined. Neptune energy’s managing director in the Netherlands, Lex de Groot said we see an important role for green hydrogen in future energy supply. And it can be produced here in the North Sea, the energy transition can be faster, cheaper and cleaner.

If we investigate existing gas infrastructure and new systems, he continues by saying this infrastructure is technically suitable, no new pipeline at sea is needed and no new landfall is required through the coastal area. With the PosHYdon pilot, we are one of the leaders in this field of offshore energy system integration and reuse. The lessons learned from this project will apply to H2opZee. He concludes by saying the faster we can scale up green hydrogen at sea. The faster industries such as chemicals and steel production can become more suitable. With H2opZee The Netherlands is becoming a world leader in this area. That is why we together with RWE are enthusiastic about H2opZee. And what it has to offer in the Netherlands. Sven Utermöhlen, CEO Offshore Wind at RWE Renewables said hydrogen is a game changer in the decarbonization of energy intensive sectors.

And H2opZee is the world first of this kind and scale. With Neptune energy at our side, we want to develop the H2opZee project to demonstrate how offshore wind can be an ideal partner for the production of green hydrogen at scale. And to explore the best way in terms of system integration. He concludes with as RWE, We have a 20 year track record in offshore wind and have the hydrogen expertise along the entire value chain under one roof. We are convinced that learnings from the H2opZee demonstration project will help in ramping up the hydrogen economy in the Netherlands as it presents an important step towards the rollout of green hydrogen production offshore at large scale. Okay, so as demonstration projects are announced, this is one of the larger ones that I’ve heard about. Now, one of the reasons that this project stood out to me is that I have recently discussed green hydrogen production with a certain political party in Northern Europe. And this is one specific avenue that they want to go down. And so if they’re listening, I would tell them pay very, very close attention to this H2opZee project.

Okay, so with that being said, what do I think will actually happen with this demonstration project? Well, there is a bit of a catch 22 In this situation, in that this area of Europe already has a lot of hydrocarbon derived hydrogen in the metaphorical pipeline. And as we all know, that’s going to be a cheaper source of hydrogen, at least in the short term. And so the two questions that come to mind right now for the Netherlands are one will they instead go for the hydrocarbon source hydrogen at first, then rely on renewable derived hydrogen later or will they scrap hydrocarbons altogether And just rely on this green hydrogen with large amounts of government subsidies. And before I sign off, I want to let everyone know that this week I was interviewed by Joe Batir on his energy transition solutions podcast. It was a great discussion and I urge everyone to take a listen. He has great insights and a wealth of knowledge on the energy transition space.

Alright, that’s it for me, everyone. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about today’s episode, come visit me at Or you can always leave me a message at I would really love to hear from you. And as always, take care. Stay safe.I’ll talk to you later.

Hey, this is Paul. I hope you liked this podcast. If you did and want to hear more, I’d appreciate it if you would either subscribe to this channel on YouTube, or connect with your favorite platform through my website at Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.