Offshore hydrogen production facility completes testing

| Information and Communication Technology

The Sealhyfe offshore hydrogen production unit equipped with a Plug electrolyser

Test aims to confirm the capability of producing green hydrogen using offshore production pods

The “Sealhyfe” offshore hydrogen production pilot platform has been returned to its dock having completed its first round of testing as engineers analyse the data acquired during the tests.

Equipped with a Plug 1 MW electrolyser, the aim of the Sealhyfe test was to demonstrate that producing hydrogen offshore from renewable energy sources is already a reality and that it would be able to withstand the rigours of the harsh and isolated environment of large-scale offshore power generation sites.

A range of measurement and data acquisition (DAQ) instruments were installed on board the Sealhyfe facility to ensure that precise management and control of all the production unit’s parameters could be achieved during the test period between September 2022 and November 2023, first at the quayside and then on the open sea.

System responsiveness and versatility

As offshore hydrogen production is particularly relevant for providing services to the electricity grid, Lhyfe repeatedly tested the system’s versatility and responsiveness in a wide range of configurations. The experiment also confirmed the system’s ability to manage the variability of wind power in specific offshore conditions. The electrolysis system was operated as part of the planned research tests, including at maximum production capacity. The performance achieved was as high as on land, confirming the reliability of the installation.

Robustness in extreme conditions

Throughout the trial, the production system equipment designed by Lhyfe was tested in extreme conditions for platform movement management, environmental stress and other factors that would make operations at sea more demanding than a land based electrolysis plant. In particular, Sealhyfe was confronted with five significant storms, including Ciaran, which swept along the Atlantic coast in October 2023, with waves of over 10 metres high and winds of over 150 kph.

The data collected from the onboard DAQ and measurement equipment was subjected to a complete analysis of the production system and its responses to environmental factors and equipment performance once it was back on land. This analysis confirmed that all equipment had returned unharmed with its production capacity intact.

In addition, the test output provides the company with the means of producing a database of operating data that can be used to optimise and make production processes more reliable, and to test the technologies employed with a view to scaling them up to sites with ten times and then 100 times greater capacity.

Equipment and system optimisation

Throughout the experiment, on-board and remotely-controlled measuring instruments were used to identify ways of optimising the efficiency and reliability of Lhyfe’s production units, including safety systems, electrical architecture, automation, fluid and stock management amongst other parameters, for its other projects.

Remote control – The quayside benchmark testing phase helped to de-risk the project. The vast majority of impacts specific to offshore hydrogen production were identified and reduced. The site was then operated exclusively remotely from Lhyfe’s control centre, using supervision and control tools specifically developed by the company.

The experiment made it possible to validate the software and algorithms for producing green and renewable hydrogen, and to reduce the number of operations required in the marine environment. In total, Lhyfe carried out fewer than ten maintenance operations and the system was operated for 70% of the operating time.

Regulatory developments – As part of the testing that was carried out, which was the first such test of electrolysis equipment in this environment, Lhyfe also worked with the French authorities to define the operating rules for a green hydrogen production unit operating within an urban, industrial and port environment, and also capable of operating in the open sea.

Overall, the Sealhyfe project enabled Lhyfe to develop its expertise in handling the constraints associated with offshore industrial deployment, thanks in particular to its experience integrating an isolated, offshore plant on a floating barge at sea and understanding the national regulatory constraints associated with such operations.

HOPE and the ramp-up onshore

The results of the testing that was performed are already being incorporated into the “HOPE” project, which represents the second stage in Lhyfe’s offshore ambitions. This project, which Lhyfe presented with a consortium of nine partners, was selected by the European Commission for a €20 million grant as part of the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, along with an additional €13 million grant from the Belgian government. With HOPE, Lhyfe and its partners are changing scale and aiming to commercialise green hydrogen produced offshore.

From as early as 2026, this unprecedentedly large-scale project (which has a capacity of 10 MW) will be able to produce up to 4 tonnes per day of green hydrogen at sea, which will be exported ashore by pipeline, and then compressed and delivered to customers.

The Sealhyfe project will also ensure that the production processes at Lhyfe’s land-based sites are reliable and optimised from the outset, so that they can be ramped up quickly and progressively. Lhyfe’s ambition is to have a production capacity of up to 22 tonnes of green hydrogen per day by the end of 2024 and up to 80 tonnes per day by 2026.

According to Matthieu Guesné, Founder and CEO of Lhyfe, the positive results of the Sealhyfe trial and the lessons that the company has learned from it represent a major new step for Lhyfe.

“We can now draw on our experience of three onshore sites and one offshore site to design our next green hydrogen production sites. This bolsters our expertise and the confidence of our partners, and supports the entire industry, because Sealhyfe has made offshore hydrogen production a reality,” he says.

Hydrogen production from wind farms

The use of wind farms enables the production of truly green hydrogen that has no emissions associated with its production or use. With wind generation plants sometimes idle during low electricity consumption periods, they can continue to be used productively for producing Hydrogen “in the background” without additional costs.

Nonetheless, hydrogen consumers for the automotive and other industries will require a constant flow of the fuel from electrolysers connected to wind generation plants and not only when the grid isn’t consuming the energy. Electrolyser and wind farm capacity is therefore a crucial step in creating a reliable hydrogen supply chain.

Jonathan Newell
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