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Hydrogen heads home to challenge oil and gas as local energy supply



Hydrogen is carving out its place in the world of renewable energy. Regional developments like hydrogen valleys and hydrogen islands are serving as blueprints for larger ecosystems to produce and consume this versatile fuel locally.


The Northern Netherlands region used to be prime gas country. One of the largest gas fields in the world was found underfoot in Groningen province. Gas extraction from the territory helped bankroll the Netherlands for decades. But times are changing.


'Gas production is winding down,' said Jochem Durenkamp, hydrogen project manager at New Energy Coalition. 'Which would mean the north would lose many jobs. Hydrogen turned out to be a perfect replacement.'


With gas extraction and related jobs coming to an end, these northern regions are seeking alternatives. Furthermore, shifts in the soil from drilling for gas are causing minor earthquakes, with 72 registered in 2021 alone. This has significant economic repercussions, particularly when it damages houses in the area. As much as €1.2 billion has been paid out in compensation for earthquake damage since 1991.


The Northern Netherlands region is setting out to become a so-called “Hydrogen Valley”. The HEAVENN project, coordinated by the New Energy Coalition, is at the helm. The region is tapping European support to develop the infrastructure necessary to adopt green hydrogen as a locally produced energy supply.


The European Union has an eventual target of 100 of these hydrogen valleys. Currently there are 23 in Europe at various stages of development, with the ambition to double this total by 2025. Dozens of projects have commenced all over Europe and in 20 countries worldwide, in a rapidly evolving clean energy investment trend worth billions. Follow the link for a map of hydrogen valleys.


The strategy is to provide a regional economic impetus while also fighting the main driver of climate change, the burning of fossil fuels. Eventually, when enough regions emerge, they will join up to create a wide-scale hydrogen-based economy founded on a clean, secure energy supply.


Green hydrogen:The Northern Netherlands is in an ideal position to take advantage of the hydrogen opportunity. Located close to the rapidly expanding offshore wind farms of the North Sea, it has a direct line of renewable energy to manufacture green hydrogen. On top of that, the previous gas exploitation in the region has created a body of knowledge and skills that easily transfers to the production, distribution, storage and consumption of hydrogen in the local economy.

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