In 2020, Neste announced its decision to stop refining oil in Naantali. This put the wheels in motion at consulting and engineering company Elomatic, which is now planning a new use for the plant site.
The original plan drawn up by Green North Energy, a project development company established by Elomatic, was for a EUR 15 million hydrogen investment.
The Naantali hydrogen plant, now undergoing an environmental impact assessment (EIA), has had its production capacity and value increased twice already. According to Jussi Ylinen, Green North Energy’s CEO, the company currently has designs for 280 megawatts of electrolyser power and an investment of approximately EUR 600 million.
“After the trial runs are completed, we aim to begin production in 2027 at 50 per cent capacity. This will be increased once Fingrid has completed the planned transmission line reinforcements in the Raisio region,” Ylinen comments.
For the industrial and marine fuel markets
Green North Energy’s hydrogen plant in Naantali is a scalable plant concept that can be replicated to produce green hydrogen and ammonia using renewable electricity.
Green ammonia will replace fossil-based ammonia, a critical chemical in industry and agriculture, which is essential for the security of supply. Green ammonia will also become an emission-free alternative to marine fuel.
Naantali is an excellent base for a hydrogen plant because the product can be transported from the Port of Naantali by sea. The availability of electricity is another crucial factor for production.
“It has been said that our hydrogen plant is similar in scale to the city of Tampere. This gives you a pretty good idea of how much electricity we will need in the future. Finland’s strong main grid and Fingrid’s measures to provide the electricity transmission capacity are important business enablers for us,” says Ylinen.
The hydrogen boom will increase the need for electricity transmission
Green North Energy is a part of the Finnish hydrogen journey, familiar to Jussi Närhi, Specialist in Strategic Grid Planning at Fingrid. The growing demand for clean hydrogen in Finland and in global markets is increasing the need for electricity. This is reflected in the number of new connection enquiries received by Fingrid.
Many hydrogen projects have advanced to the environmental impact assessment stage this year.
“Renewable electricity production development is looking quite good. Now, we are awaiting more decisions on industrial consumption investments so that everything can proceed at the same pace. It is promising to see that many hydrogen projects have advanced to the environmental impact assessment stage this year,” Närhi says.
Fingrid will continue to develop the main grid systematically over the next decade by investing approximately EUR 4 billion in total. Despite these major investments, Närhi says that if the hydrogen economy grows in line with the most optimistic forecasts, the main grid will eventually be pushed to its limits. One way to support the growth of hydrogen economy is to build a hydrogen infrastructure.
“Wind power production is increasingly centralised in Northern and Central Finland, while many hydrogen plants are planned for Southern Finland. This means that green electricity must be transmitted long distances from north to south. One option is to produce hydrogen by electrolysis close to wind power plants and transmit the hydrogen gas to industries using a hydrogen pipeline,” Närhi says.
Finland involved in three hydrogen pipeline projects
Hydrogen transmission infrastructure would revolutionise energy transmission capacity, especially along the north–south axis, as a large hydrogen pipeline could have a transmission capacity of up to 13 gigawatts.
Hydrogen transmission infrastructure would enable hydrogen to be stored in the hydrogen pipeline, which in turn could offer flexibility in the electricity and energy markets.
Sara Kärki, Senior Vice President, responsible for hydrogen development at Gasgrid Finland, the state-owned gas transmission system operator company, points out that a hydrogen network would make investments in the hydrogen economy more attractive in a way that would benefit the entire hydrogen value chain.
“Hydrogen infrastructure can connect producers and consumers, enable hydrogen production and consumption to be located flexibly in various places,” Kärki says.
She says hydrogen infrastructure would make operators less dependent on individual producers or consumers, thereby reducing operating risks.
“A national and cross-border hydrogen transmission infrastructure would open the door to competition and market development. This would benefit the Finnish hydrogen market and allow hydrogen producers to gain new customers outside Finland.”
Gasgrid is involved in three separate projects aiming to foster the emergence of a hydrogen transmission grid and an open hydrogen market in the Baltic Sea region. A hydrogen network connecting Finland, Sweden, the Baltic States and Central Europe would mean the creation of a new hydrogen transmission infrastructure and hydrogen market in the Baltic Sea region by 2030.