Ports As Hydrogen Valleys- Developing Hydrogen Regional Economies

Written on the 24th January, 2022

In this article, Jon Jordan, Secretary of the North Sea Hydrogen Ports and Maritime Community (NS HyMaP) emphasises the advantages that North Sea ports have to develop as Hydrogen Valleys.  The views presented are those of the author.


Hydrogen will be an essential part of the energy transition of the North Sea Region so that the Region is carbon neutral by 2050.   Electrification and batteries can achieve a great deal in the move towards climate neutrality but there are hard to abate sectors such as heavy-duty transport and shipping where hydrogen will be the most appropriate solution.

The development of hydrogen as an energy vector has accelerated greatly in the past few years with the use of hydrogen in mobility (buses, cars, vans and trains), heavy industry such as chemicals, steel, cement and ceramics and in heating and lighting.  Hydrogen is now being used in inland waterways and the lessons learned there need to be applied to short sea shipping.

In addition, green hydrogen from electrolysis is being produced in greater quantities. The size of electrolysers is growing rapidly.  The largest electrolyser currently operational is around 10 MW but the first 100MW electrolysers are planned for 2024.   Electrolyser technology is most advanced in the EU and the development of Hydrogen Valleys allows the North Sea Region to exploit this position.  The growth of electrolyser will increase the amount of green hydrogen available and should lead to price reductions

What is a Hydrogen Valley and why are North Sea Ports Well Placed to Become Hydrogen Valleys?

A Hydrogen Valley is essential for energy transition. A Hydrogen Valley or regional hydrogen economy is formed when a region can produce large quantities of green hydrogen and there is a wide variety of end users to use the hydrogen.

The Hydrogen Transition Summit at COP 26 included presentations on Hydrogen Valleys which received strong support from the European Commission and the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Joint Undertaking (now the Clean Hydrogen Partnership JU)  Hydrogen Valleys will need much greater levels of investment than demonstration projects and  their creation will include multi-million Euro investment in each Valley.   Large elements of public funding will be needed in the early development of the Valleys but eventually private investment would fund them.

Many North Sea ports are in a position to scale up hydrogen production and develop end-use applications.  This will take time and long-term investment plans are needed.

Many North Sea ports are ideally placed to produce large quantities of hydrogen due to:

  • Their proximity to renewable energy sources such as offshore wind.
  • The ability to both import and export hydrogen.
  • Many are major industrial hubs which need to decarbonise their heavy industries.
  • Port regions have the potential to consume large amounts of hydrogen.
  • The European Commission (DG Grow) is developing a pipeline of projects and at a    meeting of the Green Hydrogen Alliance on 30 November, it was noted that a large   number of hydrogen production projects were planned in and around ports.


Development of Hydrogen Valleys – Current State of Play.

The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and Mission Innovation have established a Platform to look at the development of Hydrogen Valleys at www.h2v.eu.  It outlines the work of 36 Hydrogen Valleys world-wide.  Nine Hydrogen Valleys are located in the North Sea Region[1] and includes the HEAVENN project in the Northern Netherlands which is the first to be funded by the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Joint Undertaking (FCH JU.)

The Hydrogen Valleys Platform describes HEAVENN as “a large-scale demonstration project bringing together the core elements of production, distribution, storage and local end-use of hydrogen into a fully integrated and functioning Hydrogen Valley.”   HEAVENN has a very large public private partnership which is a transnational one to promote policy learning from the project.   It has a budget of around €88 million and intends to produce 7.7 T per day of hydrogen.   However, the port and maritime sector does not feature strongly in the Programme.

On the Platform, four of the Valleys featured in the North Sea Region are centred around ports or have an important port element.  These are the Delta Initiative (Vlisingen; Dutch-Belgium Border); European Hydrogen Hub Proposition (Rotterdam); Port of Amsterdam Region; HyWays for the Future (Bremen, Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven.)

The Table below summarises the progress each Valley is making and is taken from the Hydrogen Valley Platform.   It should be noted that some of these projects have ambitious targets but are still in the early stages of development.

Hydrogen Valley Stage of Development
Delta Initiative Production of 140 T per day to supply hydrogen as an industrial feedstock and pipeline infrastructure.  Public/private partnership
European Hydrogen Hub Proposition This is potentially an extremely large project of €1,000 million investment producing 3180 T/day and being used in industrial feedstocks, transport, heating and the gas grid. Partnership described as ‘triple helix.’
Port of Amsterdam The Port of Amsterdam is developing a Hydrogen Valley concept with port stakeholders and the regional and local authorities.  A concrete project plan has been agreed by the main stakeholders.
HyWays for the Future Hydrogen model region in North West Germany that focuses on transport and industrial sectors.  Public partner is the Federal Ministry of Transport.  Hydrogen produced is 3 T/day and investment is recorded at €90 million.  A high level Plan at Government level exists and there is a Work Package for the ports and maritime sector


In addition, a Green Hydrogen Hub has been formed in Hamburg with port playing a key role as a 100 MW electrolyser will be built in the former coal fired power station in the centre of the port.   The site was acquired on 1 January 2021 and it is hoped that a Final Investment Decision will be made in 2022. The electrolyser will be operational from 2025.  The hydrogen will be used in the industrial network in the port, in district heating and in gas pipelines and in the mobility sector.  An application was made in May 2021 under the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) programme.

NS HyMaP is developing a project for the North Sea INTERREG Programme that will examine the partnerships and governance structures required to develop Port Hydrogen Valleys and will include the structures needed to ‘kick start’ hydrogen maritime transportation particularly short sea shipping.   The partnership will then be well placed to take advantage of funding opportunities offered by EU funding programmes such as the Horizon Europe and EU Innovation Fund.  If you are interested in hearing more about the project proposal, please contact Jon Jordan at [email protected] .

Jon Jordan

NSHyMaP Secretariat

January 2022


[1] 4 in the Netherlands; 3 in Germany; 1 in Denmark; 1 in France.

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