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Finland: Business Finland has prepared a National Hydrogen Roadmap for Finland

  • Finland
  • Energy and infrastructure - Gas and coal

19-12-2020

While hydrogen has been around and used for a long time, it has recently gained new momentum as a consequence of the global need to reduce carbon emissions. Through the use of hydrogen, renewable energy may be used more efficiently and storing energy is possible. Hydrogen may also be used as feedstock for synthetic fuel and chemicals.

Finland aims for carbon neutrality by 2035 and carbon negativity by 2050, goals that are among the most ambitious in the world, and hydrogen is likely to play a key role in reaching these targets. As a small country, Finland aims to find the niche where it can play a major role as part of the global hydrogen market. VTT, a Finnish state-owned technology research center, has, on assignment by Business Finland (the Finnish government organization for innovation funding and trade, travel and investment promotion) prepared a roadmap to serve as a basis for developing the hydrogen policy and determining the role of hydrogen in the national energy and climate strategy.

According to the research, Finland has great potential for the development of hydrogen use and production. The strengths of Finland that have been identified are:

  • the good wind resources for both onshore and offshore energy production,
  • the strong transmission grid and the
  • already established use of hydrogen in industrial activities, not to mention
  • the reliable judicial framework Finland has both independently and as a part of European Union.

 However, some weaknesses were also noted:

  • the higher electricity prices compared to other neighboring Nordic countries, Sweden and Norway, due to the limitations in cross-border connectivity
  • inexperience in hydrogen use outside of industrial use
  • the lack of use of hydrogen in transportation
  • the geological disadvantages for the storage of hydrogen, since no salt caverns which could be used for storage exist in Finland.

The weaknesses found could however be overcome by the opportunities that the Finnish technology know-how offers.

In the roadmap, certain key industries have been identified where the use of hydrogen could be gradually increased. According to the researchers, development can occur in the fields of hydrogen production, storage, distribution and utilization.

The production of hydrogen as such is not a novelty in Finland. However, there are currently only a dozen hydrogen production plants in Finland, and the largest producers and at the same time consumers are the oil refineries of Neste Oyj. The plan is to grow the production of hydrogen by using low carbon electricity such as wind energy, and at the same time replace the fossil fuel-based hydrogen production. Another form of production seen as an opportunity for growth is the utilization of by-product heat from electrolysis, and the development of solid oxide electrolysis technology.

As an alternative for salt caverns, new solutions for storage of hydrogen can be developed in Finland such as lined rock caverns and pipeline storage solutions. Finland has an extensive natural gas pipeline that could in the future be transformed into hydrogen storage and could also be used as a means of distributing hydrogen. One of the assets Finland has in transportation of hydrogen is that the transport by tube trailers is fairly cost-effective compared to many other European countries.

The already existing use of hydrogen in industrial use (oil refineries and bio-fuel industry) can be seen as a benefit for the future use of low-carbon hydrogen in Finland. The fossil-based hydrogen could be replaced with a low-carbon hydrogen in accordance with the RED II Directive. As one of the major steel manufacturing companies in Finland has informed that it will shift its production to nearly free of carbon dioxide emissions, the need for low-carbon hydrogen will rise approximately 30% of today’s use and production. The roadmap identifies development of hydrogen utilization in steel production as one of the key industries for Finland.

The use of hydrogen in connection with heavy transportation in Finland has not yet taken place. The roadmap encourages industry to research whether this could change in the near future by carrying out case studies both with heavy transportation and marine vessels.

It is clear that hydrogen is a business of tomorrow in Finland as it is in the rest of Europe. Finland has always been a forerunner in technological development, and as it is currently experiencing a boom in renewable energy, especially wind energy, it is only natural that other technologies to support the use of the renewables are born.