Danish technology developer Floating Power Plant (FPP) is moving ahead with a commercial-scale pilot of a 5MW offshore platform combining wind and wave power with green hydrogen at a location in the Canary Islands after the project qualified for a grant under from the EU Innovation Fund.

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The system can output electricity directly from a wind turbine, wave device or onboard battery, or make green hydrogen that can be stored and later run through a fuel cell to produce power when it is needed. This enables the platform to send dispatchable renewable electricity to shore (or an offshore oil platform), thus removing the problems associated with intermittent nature of wind energy.

A small-scale pilot scheme is already under development in conjunction with offshore engineering contractor TechnipFMC in the UK North Sea, where the platform will be used to help lower carbon emissions on an oil and gas complex for an as-yet unnamed operator.

The partners have so far been working on a half-scale prototype sending offshore wind and wave to the Danish grid, while the hydrogen components are undergoing onshore testing in Norway by TechnipFMC.

Pathway to proving

With the technology already proven in relevant environments, the next step is to prove it on a commercial scale. An unspecified amount of EU funding — still officially in the grant preparation phase and some months away from disbursement — will support this.

“This is a high risk investment, but it is also a huge opportunity. The grant we will be getting from the EU is more than just a pat on the back. It will help us in our de-risking, by providing capex,” FPP’s chief executive Anders Kohler told Hydrogen Insight's sister publication Recharge in an interview.

While FPP sees off-grid applications such as powering oil & gas as a commercially attractive starting point to prove the business case for a reliable dispatchable renewable energy solution, the choice of location in the Canaries also reflects wider thinking about a second targeted business case.

These are the so called “weak grid” locations — typically remote islands that are typically dependent on diesel and gas imports but have little space for renewables, Kohler notes.

The pilot project will be grid-connected at the islands’ PLOCAN test site.

It will deploy a 4.3MW wind turbine, supplemented by 0.8MW of wave power, and a full hydrogen system consisting of 1.2MW electrolysers and a 1MW fuel cell, according to Kohler.

In this case, wind and wave power would be sent directly to the grid, with hydrogen produced at times of excess power, with the fuel cell sending electricity from the stored H2 to the grid at times of peak demand.

A full-scale system planned by FPP will be able to store up to 300MWh worth of hydrogen on the platform.

“So when you have a 15MW wind turbine and 300MWh worth of hydrogen storage, you are pretty close to covering this with dispatchable green power offshore,” Kohler said

“The goal is to provide power at the same risk profile as a natural gas generator, preferably better.”

The scope for reducing offshore oil and gas emissions in markets such as Norway and Brazil is even greater than in the UK, Kohler reckons, but he stresses that oil and gas is not the only off-grid application targeted by FPP, with carbon capture and storage (CCS), offshore agriculture and offshore mining also targeted.

“[CCS projects] are going to need a tremendous amount of power to pump all that CO2 into the seabed. Is this really going to be done with gas or diesel?”

The company is aiming for first commercial application in both the off-grid and weak grid markets by 2027.

Longer term, the company is targeting larger scale applications and markets, ranging from deployment of multiple units for the bigger oil& gas rigs to producing green hydrogen on a much larger scale and piping it back to shore.

"The offtakers are not really ready for that market yet, but they will come,” Kohler said.

In the short term he describes off-grid segments as “monster markets”.

“If you look at the off-grid markets, we are already cost competitive with what they do today. We don't need public subsidies in the form of a CfD [contract for difference] or similar. We don't need to show a grid connection because it's just a connection to an asset. And consenting is most often easier, because the site's already pre consented,” he enthused.

A version of this article first appeared on Hydrogen Insight's sister website, Recharge.