Hoogeveen hydrogen district is a blueprint for more

The green hydrogen economy is rapidly taking shape in the North. The most striking example of this is perhaps the residential area due to be built in Hoogeveen, which is heated by hydrogen. A wonderful example of cooperation and forward-thinking.

Illustration: Atelier DUTCH

Eighty homes in a new residential area in Hoogeveen will have a central heating boiler that works on hydrogen. A seemingly dry fact, yet there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Cooperation between business, government and science, for example, as well as courage, willpower and vision. The ‘hydrogen district’, as the project is colloquially referred to, is supported by many parties but more or less began on the back of a beer mat.

“We were on a boat, in terrible weather. In the cabin, we decided to go for the district on hydrogen.” says Willem Hazenberg of Stork, one of the initiators of the project. There were 16 organisations on that boat with knowledge and ideas about hydrogen. “Why? Because we have to look to the future, because we want to lead the way. We’ve come up with all sorts of ideas, and the residential area is something we liked immediately.”

Illustration: Atelier DUTCH

Physical differences

The project has already come a long way. One of the challenges is to make a burner in a central heating boiler that does not burn on natural gas, but on hydrogen. Joàn Teerling and his colleagues have been working on it for some time. The company that employs him, Bekaert Heating, is an active participant in the project in Hoogeveen. “We’ve been working on sustainability, on new energy for a long time now. So, it makes sense that this project appeals to us.”

Together with partners, Bekaert is working on the technical heart of the new central heating boiler. “The duration tests are coming up. We’ll be doing this at EnTranCe, the Centre of Expertise Energy of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, where hydrogen is available. Developing a hydrogen burner is not easy. Hydrogen behaves in a substantially different way to natural gas, there are fundamental physical differences that we have to tackle. To do this, we also make use of the knowledge of the Hanze University and the University of Groningen.”

Just do and learn

A hydrogen-powered residential area like this presents more challenges besides the technical one. What about the legal aspects, the sociological aspects? And about marketing, regulation, communication and interaction with energy companies? “The best way to find out,” says Hazenberg, “is to just do it. By gaining experience you get further. We want prove in Hoogeveen that things can be done, to find out all that’s possible.”

The knowledge gathered in this way can function as a blueprint for more projects with hydrogen. With the aim of making better use of the experience and knowledge of hydrogen projects, Jan-jaap Aué, lecturer in Hydrogen Applications at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, founded the Green Hydrogen Booster together with partners.


Getting a green hydrogen economy going

“In doing so, we want to help companies get started with products, services and revenue models in the green hydrogen economy. It is a centre, as it were, where knowledge questions from SMEs are answered and where ideas are met with a listening ear.”

Thirteen parties across education, industry, government and SMEs have already joined. “There’s good news regarding this. The Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland will provide funding so that together with the investments from the Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen and from partners we can really get the green hydrogen economy going in the Northern Netherlands.”

Illustration: Atelier DUTCH