Norway Hydrogen Projects
Hydrogen projects in Norway experienced commercial breakthroughs in 2020. U.S. companies are encouraged to consider this market.
Hydrogen is central to Europe’s de-carbonization strategy and its use in the European energy sector. Funding for hydrogen projects is key in EU’s €2.39 billion Covid-19 recovery budget and will help reach climate targets and eventually CO2 neutrality in Europe by 2050.
Funding for hydrogen projects in the EU has largely been lobbied by the utility companies, operating the natural gas value chain. The big utility companies hope to keep their pipeline infrastructure relevant for as long as possible. A low-hanging fruit would be mixing up to 20% hydrogen in the natural gas, which existing infrastructure and appliances can handle. By catering to a discussion on more centralized energy distribution, Norway’s hydrogen ventures offering local solutions may see opportunities in the home market.
In Norway, the hydrogen agenda addresses most of the value chain, judging by the political agenda and the variety of companies and projects. Lack of natural gas pipelines and very few gas appliances in households is an obvious explanation for the Norwegian approach. But other factors fuel the diversity of developments. On the upstream side, the energy in hydrogen needs to be harvested somewhere, and Norway has no shortage of excess energy. Both natural gas (used to produce blue hydrogen) and renewable hydro power (to produce green hydrogen) are relevant sources of energy. Wind energy, onshore and offshore, also holds promise.
One other notable characteristic separates Norway from continental Europe. Much of the heavy industry is already carbon neutral through hydro power, with only a few exceptions. This argues for a stronger emphasis on the remaining opportunities, mainly the transportation sector.
For blue hydrogen to be successful, two important events need to happen: First, there must be a demand, and EU must decide if blue hydrogen is green enough. Energy sources based on carbon capture and storage (CCS) would ideally be included in the taxonomy, or be supported in another way. Also, the CCS value chain needs to be scaled up and commercialized. And for that, the ambitious Norwegian Longship project needs to succeed, which again depends on participation outside of Norway, according to PM Erna Solberg: “For Longship to be a successful climate project for the future, other countries also have to start using this technology. This is one of the reasons why our funding is conditional on others contributing financially as well.”
Upstream and production is only one side of the coin. Hydrogen ventures and well-funded research projects target mid-stream and downstream opportunities as well. The Norwegian Hydrogen Cluster breaks up its members in the following market areas: 1) Production, storage and distribution, 2) Industrial Applications, 3) Transport and Maritime, 4) Stationary Applications, and 5) Hydrogen in the Energy System.
The transportation sector is particularly interesting in Norway, and especially in the maritime segment. Norway is already the leader in battery electric propulsion in short sea traffic, with 70 ferries in operation by 2021, and all 200 ferries expected to be zero emission by 2025. A couple of new hydrogen ferries are soon to be christened. Battery electric and fuel cell propulsion have many similarities, and the next step is zero emission deep sea voyages. The Shipowner’s Association aims to host a climate neutral fleet by 2050 (Norway has the 5th largest merchant fleet by value). Much innovation, R&D and funding are already going into developing these systems. Technologies are sourced from many places.
On the land transportation side, many carriers have placed orders for hydrogen trucks, and Norwegian companies have a stake in many parts of this eco system such as tanks, logistics and fueling systems.
While the Government of Norway invests to help its own oil and gas dependent industry with the green shift, it is important to note that Norway also relies on input from other countries and markets. Norway is a small and open country and a free trade promoter. Successful ventures, such as offshore oil and gas exploration and production industry, relied heavily on foreign company involvement. Norway will never seek to be self-sufficient.
U.S. companies looking for partnerships should consider contacting research institutions, but also seek out end users, technology or systems providers or the Norwegian Hydrogen Cluster. The U.S. Commercial Service in Oslo would be happy to help with introductions. Contact us at Office.Oslo@trade.gov.