After benefitting from its proximity to sources of iron ore and coal (and a port from which the finished steel they were combined to produce could be shipped) to become the second biggest contributor to Sweden’s GDP after the capital, the Luleå area, in the northerly Norrbotten county, is again looking to capitalise on its proximity — this time to sources of wind and hydroelectric power that can be converted to hydrogen. The next step is to begin exporting some of what it produces.
Energy-wise, hydrogen packs a punch. And, when it is not produced using fossil fuels, it is not a source of carbon pollution. That, according to its boosters, makes it an important piece of the puzzle in helping some big carbon polluters, such as cargo ships and steel makers, cut down their emissions.
This last is something Luleå is on the cusp of doing; in recent years, a number of steel plants that are powered by hydrogen have cropped up. But with copious amounts of energy at its disposal (there are some 15 hydroelectric plants, as well as Europe’s largest on-shore wind farm, in Norrbotten, amounting to 20% of Sweden’s power output) it is capable of making sure there is plenty of hydrogen to go around, locally and abroad.
Luleå has already thrown its support behind efforts to establish a hydrogen-production facility powered by wind turbines that would supply the gas to industrial producers in the region or to be used in fuel for ships or exported. Last week, it took a step further, when it announced that Uniper, the Swedish firm that is leading the project, is in the process of finding a suitable site for a 13 hectare production facility.
The facility would form the nexus of the BotnialänkenH2, what Luleå and Uniper are calling a hydrogen hub that would involve the participation of the city’s port, a local energy firm, shippers and equipment makers, and would supply local firms with hydrogen power, or convert it to fuel for ships or package it up for export.
Uniper is already doing the legwork, leaving just the final decision about where to build the plant as the last big hurdle. If the project can get funding from IPCEI, a scheme that funds projects that support the EU’s industrial policy, the plant, it expects, will be in operation by 2027.
Kevin McGwin, PolarJournal
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