Equinor, RWE Plan to Develop Low-Carbon Hydrogen Supply Chain

Norwegian fossil fuel major Equinor and German electricity generation company RWE are set to jointly develop a supply chain for low-carbon hydrogen, which they hope will help Germany to cut its reliance on coal power and reduce carbon emissions. The two companies plan to build power plants in Germany that will initially use natural gas and later hydrogen made in Norway. Equinor considers delivering the fuel via a hydrogen pipeline in cooperation with gas system operator Gassco and other partners. It is expected to start deliveries in 2030.

While the companies have not revealed their financial commitments, RWE said the partnership would cover investments worth several billions of euros.

“It is too early to go into detail. First of all, the infrastructure needs to be built and a suitable political framework needs to be established,” the company said.

Equinor CEO Opedal said the cost of the total supply chain could run into the “tens of billion euros”. The pipeline, if it went ahead, would cost €3 billion alone and would be the first of its kind worldwide, he added.

It could transport 4 million tonnes of hydrogen per year, Opedal said, equivalent to 135TW hours of energy, similar to total Norwegian hydropower production. “So it’s a massive amount of energy that can go through this pipeline,” he said.

“That also creates the infrastructure between Norway and Germany, where hydrogen from renewables can be added over time because this kind of infrastructure has a long lifetime.”

The project will initially produced “blue hydrogen”, hydrogen made from natural gas. This will be supported with a carbon capture and storage project, which Equinor and RWE said would bury more than 95% of the associated emissions.

Longer term, the companies aim to produce “green” hydrogen from renewable sources, such as offshore wind turbines, thus cutting emissions further.

The partnership is the latest in Germany’s efforts to replace Russian natural gas, supplies of which have been cut by Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine and sweeping Western sanctions.

Norway has since last year overtaken Russia as Europe’s biggest gas supplier, with state-controlled Equinor the top exporter.

During a visit to Norway by German Chancellor Scholz last August aimed at extracting more commitments, Norway’s Prime Minister Støre said the country’s deliveries were at a maximum.

“There is an urgent need for a rapid ramp-up of the hydrogen economy,” RWE Chief Markus Krebber said in a statement.

“Blue hydrogen in large quantities can make a start, with subsequent conversion into green hydrogen supply,” he said.

Germany is planning multiple hydrogen import projects, with several of the country’s new import terminals for LNG also readying to receive hydrogen at a later stage.

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