HSE & Sustainability

Tracking the Energy Transition: The Wind, the Gas, and the Monster That Is Thyssenkrupp

Exxon sets its sights on zero, while Thyssenkrupp aims squarely at hydrogen. The wind blows the world over, and the struggle to grab carbon and put it back in the ground continues. Are you trying to stay up to date about developments aimed at energy-transition efforts in our industry? This roundup of news recaps some recent announcements.

Offshore wind turbines near Aberdeen, Scotland
An offshore wind farm sits off the coast of Aberdeen.
Source: Gannet77/Getty Images

The big news, of course, is ExxonMobil’s pledge to reach net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions from its operations by 2050. Exxon hasn’t gone as far as some of the other majors; BP, Occidental, Eni, and Shell all are targeting Scope 3 emissions, those released by consumers of their products. Exxon has only talked about Scope 1 and 2 emissions, but it does seem to have some plans, though they apparently are incomplete. “We are developing comprehensive roadmaps to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from our operated assets around the world,” said CEO Darren Woods in a statement.

While Scope 3 doesn’t appear to be on Exxon’s immediate radar, some fueling changes are coming. The company recently acquired a large stake in Biojet, a Norwegian biofuels company that is working on turning wood into fuel. The claim is that turning forests and wood waste into biofuels releases less greenhouse gas. Exxon took a 49.9% stake in the company and an agreement that lets it buy 3 million bbl per year.

Biojet says it hopes to build five plants and that it anticipates commercial production to begin in 2025.

Up, Up, and Away
While biofuels still seem to be creeping over the horizon, hydrogen is here now. NewHydrogen, a producer of so-called green hydrogen, that which is produced from renewable sources, says trends are pointing toward hydrogen becoming a key component of a sustainable energy future.

Despite market uncertainty in many sectors, the global push toward realizing a green hydrogen economy remains extremely strong entering 2022, NewHydrogen said. In Europe, the green hydrogen supply chain is growing rapidly, especially in Spain, France, and Germany. As noted at the recent conference of the Green Hydrogen Coalition, the German government is transitioning its energy resources to green hydrogen and away from coal and natural gas, with all dispatchable energy to be hydrogen-sourced.

In the United States, the recently passed federal infrastructure bill included

  • $8 billion to develop regional clean hydrogen hubs
  • $1 billion to decrease the cost of electrolytic hydrogen production
  • $500 million for a clean hydrogen manufacturing and recycling program to support domestic supply-chain development
  • A grant program to support electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel-cell EV infrastructure

In Southern California, the HyDeal LA initiative is creating a green hydrogen hub across the Los Angeles area. The hub is building out support for production, transport, and storage of green hydrogen, as well as fueling for the energy, transportation, industrial, maritime, and aviation industries.

Speaking of Transportation …
Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company; BNSF Railway; and Chevron U.S.A. have agreed to work on a locomotive powered by fuel cells. The memorandum of understanding they signed targets the demonstration of such a locomotive.

The goal of the demonstration is to confirm the feasibility and performance of hydrogen fuel as an alternative to traditional fuels for line-haul rail. Hydrogen has the potential to play a significant role as a lower-carbon alternative to diesel fuel for transportation, with hydrogen fuel cells becoming a means to reduce emissions.

The companies agreed to move toward the demonstration with three primary objectives. First, Progress Rail plans to design and build a prototype hydrogen-fuel-cell locomotive for line-haul or other types of rail service. Second, Chevron expects to develop the fueling concept and infrastructure to support this use of the locomotive. Lastly, the prototype locomotive is expected to be demonstrated on BNSF’s lines.

Time To Make the Hydrogen
Thyssenkrupp has been busy with hydrogen. Its electrolysis business is aiming to make $687 million by selling new shares in a possible initial public offering (IPO) this year, betting on the $130 billion hydrogen sector it supplies.

Thyssenkrupp plans to keep a majority share of the business—which is being rebranded as Thyssenkrupp Nucera—following any IPO and aims to maintain the current shareholding ratio with its Italian co-owner De Nora, said Volkmar Dinstuhl, who leads the conglomerate’s Multi Tracks division.

Nucera’s electrolysis technology uses power to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. It is the world’s top supplier of the chlor-alkali membrane technologies needed to produce hydrogen. It is also active in alkaline water electrolysis, a key requirement for the generation of green hydrogen.

“Demand is huge,” Denis Krude, the CEO of Thyssenkrupp Nucera, told Reuters. “We want to use that opportunity.”

On another front, Thyssenkrupp is going to install a 200-MW green hydrogen facility for Shell in the port of Rotterdam. Its Chlorine Engineers division has signed a supply contract with Shell for the large-scale Hydrogen Holland I project in the Netherlands. Under the contract, Thyssenkrupp will engineer, procure, and fabricate a 200-MW electrolysis plant based on its large-scale 20-MW alkaline water electrolysis module. First construction work for the electrolyzers likely will begin in spring 2022. Shell’s final investment decision to build the Holland Hydrogen I is expected this year, after which the intended start of production is planned for 2024.

But Thyssenkrupp isn’t done yet. Its Chlorine Engineers signed another contract to install a more-than-2-GW electrolysis plant for Air Products in Saudi Arabia’s Neom planned city. This promises to be one of the world’s largest green hydrogen projects. Under this contract, Thyssenkrupp will engineer, procure, and fabricate the plant in the same manner as its plant for Shell in Rotterdam. Upon commissioning, the project partners—Neom, ACWA Power, and Air Products—will operate the facility, which will produce hydrogen to be synthesized into carbon-free ammonia for global export by Air Products. Engineering and procurement activities have started, and production is scheduled to begin in 2026.

Here With the Wind
Offshore Scotland appears to be an ideal place for floating wind farms. The deep waters there are not suitable for installations with fixed foundations, but floating wind facilities work just fine. Recently, Crown Estate Scotland launched ScotWind, an offshore leasing round for those hoping to establish offshore wind-power facilities. The hope is to create floating wind farms on a scale yet unseen.

A slew of companies rushed to grab sites, but not everyone was successful. Out of the 74 firms that submitted applications, only 17 were selected. Shell and BP made the list, but Eni and Equinor were left in the cold. Equinor, of course, already has a wind interest offshore Scotland. It runs the 30-MW Hywind farm, which went online in 2017.

BP worked with EnBW to grab an 860-km2 lease. They’re planning a major project called Morven that could end up generating 2.9 GW. That’s enough to power about 3 million homes. According to the Scotland census, the country has just about 2.3 million households. BP has such high hopes that it said it’s going to put its global wind operations center in Aberdeen.

Shell and ScottishPower may double BP’s efforts. After ScotWind, the duo plans two joint ventures—MarramWind, which aims to produce around 3 MW, and CampionWind, which aims for about 2 GW. Those ventures have already begun initial development planning.

Scotland, of course, is not the only place with wind-power aspirations. The United States has plans, too. The Biden administration is pushing for wind, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is getting behind it. BOEM and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently signed an agreement to support the administration’s efforts together while protecting the environment.

The Biden administration has set its sights on creating 30 GW of power from America’s offshore wind, and BOEM and NOAA want to make sure it is done responsibly. “This agreement and the collaboration between BOEM and NOAA show that fighting climate change and responsible resource management go hand-in-hand,” said Amanda Lefton, BOEM’s director.

Furthering that effort, BOEM announced that, on 23 February, it will hold a wind energy lease auction for six areas in the New York Bight, the coastal area between Long Island and the New Jersey coast. The auction opens up six lease areas on 488,201 acres.

In addition, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in her State of the State address that the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will issue its next offshore wind solicitation after BOEM’s lease sale. The governor said that effort is aimed at generating at least 2,000 MW.

Also in New York, Equinor and BP finalized their purchase and sale agreements (PSAs) with NYSERDA for the Empire Wind 2 and Beacon Wind 1 offshore wind projects. Equinor and BP’s Empire Wind 1, Empire Wind 2, and Beacon Wind 1 are expected to produce enough electricity to power about 2 million homes in New York. The finalized PSAs put Equinor and BP “on the path to provide over 3.3 GW of offshore wind power for New York,” said Siri Espedal Kindem, the president of Equinor Wind US. “It also offers a large-scale, tangible demonstration of the incredible economic activity and carbon-reduction potential being driven by New York’s green energy transition.”

Korea’s got wind, too. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, Korea is targeting 9.2 GW of wind power by 2025 and 16 GW by 2030, 12 GW of which will come from offshore wind. To achieve this, the government has recently announced plans to build an 8.2-GW offshore wind facility.

Korea wants its wind farms certified, and it’s chosen DNV to do so. The Korean Energy Agency picked DNV to deliver certification services for the Korean wind energy market. This new DNV service creates a process for manufacturers to achieve certification for their wind turbines selected for Korean wind farm projects. The certification will be granted according to Korean standards and the international certification scheme IEC.

Catch That Carbon
McDermott International and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s premier national science organization, are working together to find technical and commercial opportunities for CSIRO’s carbon-capture technology.

McDermott’s has the experience of more than 200 carbon-capture and carbon-separation projects, and CSIRO recently delivered carbon-capture technology for Direct Air Capture and is developing post-combustion processes in collaboration with Santos, Australia’s largest domestic gas supplier.

“Carbon capture is fundamental to achieving a net-zero future while maintaining affordable, accessible energy and decarbonizing resources,” said Samik Mukherjee, McDermott’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We welcome the opportunity to work with CSIRO.”

A Parting Shot From Thyssenkrupp
Recently, Thyssenkrupp commissioned its 35th EnviNOx system, a technology that reduces emission of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. The process converts the laughing gas and other nitrogen oxides into nitrogen, oxygen, and water. At the latest installation for Arxada in Switzerland, annual emissions of nitrous oxide are expected to be reduced by at least 98%, saving up to 600,000 tons of CO2 equivalent per year.