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Vestas Pioneering Use of Hydrogen to Reduce Emissions in Offshore Wind Operations

July 4, 2022 by Dan McCue
(Windcat Workboats)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Wind energy giant Vestas is partnering with one of its long-time suppliers, Windcat Workboats, on a pilot program to explore how the world’s first hydrogen-power crew transfer vessel can help reduce carbon emissions from its offshore service operations.

Vestas’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2030 without the use of offsets. A carbon offset, of course, being the reduction or removal of emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere.

Toward that end it is looking for innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including in the transport of maintenance and other workers to the offshore wind farms that deploy its turbines.

The vessel, named Hydrocat 48, is capable of being powered by hydrogen in combination with marine gas oil. Since hydrogen fuel contains no carbon, it has the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions while maintaining the same power output. 

Vestas said that when the pilot program begins July 15, Hydrocat 48 will be powered mostly by gray hydrogen due to a lack of available green hydrogen in the amounts needed.

For those who don’t know, hydrogen used as a carrier of energy is denoted by colors, and colors denote how the hydrogen was made.

So-called gray hydrogen is derived from natural gas using an energy-intensive process that emits a lot of carbon dioxide — meaning it’s not ideal for use if one is striving to lower their emissions.

Blue hydrogen is made basically the same way as gray hydrogen, but with the carbon emissions captured during the production.

Finally, there’s green hydrogen, which is produced by passing electricity produced by solar or wind power through water. 

That’s considered the cleanest alternative of all.

Vestas said the pilot program aims to “mature a pathway” for green hydrogen in its offshore operations that can be leveraged once green hydrogen has reached the “required level of maturity” and cost-effectiveness.

The program, which runs through the end of the year, will involve transporting workers to and from the Norther Wind Farm, an offshore wind facility in the Belgian North Sea located about 14.3 miles from the Belgian port of Ostend. 

According to Vestas, the new crew transport vehicle holds the potential to generate CO2 savings of 158 tons, an estimated saving of 37% fewer carbon emissions in comparison to a traditional vessel.

The company expects to see these numbers validated during the pilot program.

“By using dual fuel combustion engines, we can make hydrogen technology operational in the industry and kick-start further development of the technology, regulation, supply chain, etc. Collaborations like these are what is needed to be able to scale this technology further and we thank Vestas for taking this first step,“ said Willem van der Wel, managing director of Windcat Workboats.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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