As research into non-rare metal catalysts continues, companies in northwest Europe are working on an offshore green hydrogen demonstration project, the first European data center to run on green hydrogen, and on hydrogen-based solutions for container transport. Meanwhile, European institutions are prepping for stronger hydrogen collaboration with Africa.

German energy company RWE and London-based peer Neptune Energy have signed a development agreement related to an offshore green hydrogen demo project due in the Dutch North Sea before 2030. “H2opZee … aims at building 300 to 500MW [of] electrolyzer capacity far out in the Dutch North Sea in order to produce green hydrogen by using offshore wind,” the companies stated today. “The hydrogen will then be transported to land through an existing pipeline. The pipeline has a capacity of 10-12GW so it is already suitable for the further roll-out of green hydrogen production to [a] gigawatt scale in the North Sea.” The partners said they intend to start a feasibility study in the second quarter. The companies will also proceed with “an accessible knowledge platform.” The details of a second stage of the project have yet to be finalized, with the partners adding: “For that phase, a tender methodology has yet to be defined.”

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS), in Japan, have published a paper on a “new sustainable and practical method” for producing electrolyzers using cobalt and manganese. The team, led by Ryuhei Nakamura, wrote that the new catalyst does not require platinum and iridium and focuses on a combination of active cobalt oxides and stable manganese oxides to avoid physical decomposition. “The team overcame these issues by trial and error and discovered an active and stable catalyst by inserting manganese into the spinel lattice of Co3O4, producing the mixed cobalt manganese oxide Co2MnO4,” read a study published in Nature Catalysis. According to the researchers, Co2MnO4’s activation levels were close to those of state-of-the-art iridium oxides. “Additionally, the new catalyst lasted over two months at a current density of 200mA/cm2, which could make it effective for practical use. Compared with other non-rare metal catalysts, which typically last only days or weeks at much lower current densities, the new electrocatalyst could be a game changer.” The team will now work on ways to extend the lifetime of the catalyst and increase its activity levels. 

Dutch data center company NorthC has said its Groningen facility will install a 500kW hydrogen cell module that runs on green hydrogen, becoming the first data center in Europe to do so. “The hydrogen cells in Groningen are expected to be operational by the middle of June,” the company wrote on its website, highlighting a partnership with Dutch polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell company Nedstack. The project will help NorthC investigate whether the hydrogen tech can replace emergency diesel generators at its other data centers, to achieve climate-neutral operations by 2030 as agreed by the European data center sector. NorthC is also considering running its existing generators on hydrogen. As demand for data center services increases, companies are studying other circular economy solutions such as using their residual heat to warm nearby buildings. 

The European Union and several of its member states are voicing interest in stronger hydrogen collaboration with Africa. The seventh EU-Africa Business Forum, organized by Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, yesterday underlined African potential in the hydrogen sector, potentially opening the door to new announcements at the European Union-African Union Summit planned in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. “Greek shipping is the largest cross-trader and thus, a vital component of global commerce,” said Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias. “Greek shipping is willing and ready to become a clean and competitive low-carbon fleet.” The minister said hydrogen and green shipping are key “green energy transition opportunities for [the] African-EU partnership.” 

Norwegian start-up Aker Clean Hydrogen and Swiss maritime logistics business Kuehne+Nagel are collaborating on green container transport. The companies envision the expansion of Kuehne+Nagel’s hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol business. “The first vessels with engines that can run on these fuel alternatives are in production and expected to hit the waters in 2024,” the partners wrote on Friday. “In the early days of such first generation fossil-free engines, the sourcing of these fuels will present a challenge. Through this partnership, both companies want to help scale fossil-free shipping early on. While Aker Clean Hydrogen will secure access to green fuels, Kuehne+Nagel handles the booking of contracts for environmentally friendly containers in cooperation with their carrier partners.” The companies also reported advanced discussions with container ship owners.