In the Crosswind; Offshore Wind and Hydrogen

The Crosswind project announced by Shell and partners Rotterdam port and Eneco is significant from both a domestic Dutch economic point of view and as a significant statement of global intent.

Dutch stakeholders were surprised last year when Japanese companies carried away one of the prizes of a leasing round, the Crosswind project, announced on the 29th of July, has gone to domestic entities Eneco and of course, Royal Dutch Shell from whom we can expect many more of these mega projects going forward with the large scale combination of offshore wind, and hydrogen – with which Shell has a long history. Indeed, when I was with the company the internal business entity was known as ‘Shell Renewables and Hydrogen’; it is now known as ‘Shell New Energies’ and will likely emerge as a leader in the coming hydrogen economic world.

There is a battery element and a somewhat surprising solar element for Crosswind, that I suspect will be quite small in relation to the rest of the project – but will enable generation when the wind resource is low. Crosswind through its hybrid nature ties in extremely well with the various green deals and strategies so prevalent now. Billed as ‘subsidy free’ the project does however benefit from some support for the green hydrogen element.

The project itself is smart as the offtake, the Port of Rotterdam is also a part of the consortium. Shell likes vertical integration and the project doesn’t need to worry about income from offtake as viability is established at the outset. The project will be built out in stages which allows earlier elements to prove themselves effective before wholescale build out.

Shell is familiar with the offshore environment and one of the pioneers of offshore wind; I recall the scoping of the Princess Amalia windfarm as far back as 2005. The site is operational and has been running for many years with Shell managing to incorporate company colours above the transition piece of the turbine with a smart red stripe to help it stand out from offshore wind competitors. Crosswind constitutes something of an extension of that site but with 69 much bigger wind turbines from Siemens Gamesa, each with a capacity of 11MW and a rotor diameter of 200 metres.

The new windfarm will provide an opportunity to produce renewable based ‘green hydrogen’, that is produced by splitting water through electrolysis and is particularly of interest to the wind industry as this process needs a lot of electricity. Offshore wind, with grid constraints avoided by producing hydrogen rather than electricity is well placed to provide the power required and will enable Shell to take a lead on the nascent hydrogen economy. (see offshore-wind-and-hydrogen) It is also good news for Shell’s partners including those producing the necessary equipment such as ITM power and their electrolyser technologies.

I am aware of significant excitement within Shell about the direction of travel and this landmark  project; it has been a tough time for the company during  the pandemic but the ‘New Energies’ division  seems to have escaped relatively unscathed and this is a real statement of intent. We will see whether Shell’s trailblazer project can be replicated globally and is one I’ll be tracking closely. Well done Shell for getting Crosswind moving and I look forward to sharing progress with you.

If you are interested why not join a community of like-minded individuals at the offshore wind and hydrogen group https://bit.ly/3a9PDTT where I look forward to keeping you informed.

Charley Rattan