The multinational started the 18-month wind powered pilot yesterday (September, 22) , as part its drive towards large-scale carbon reduction, and to prove that it is now possible to produce the clean energy source offshore. All being well, it will start industrial deployment from 2024.

The launch comes after Lhyfe began its first UK operation in North East England to identify opportunities to deploy production facilities to support the country’s net zero ambitions.

Producing hydrogen using offshore wind turbines could allow all coastal countries to develop green solutions for regions, industry, transport and fuel distribution. However, until now, no one has ever produced renewable green hydrogen at sea.
In 2021, Lhyfe, inaugurated the world’s first plant supplying renewable green hydrogen produced using wind power to customers in western France. The company has “voluntarily set the bar high” by installing its production unit on a floating platform, connected to a floating wind turbine.

Sealhyfe will have to meet several major and unprecedented challenges, including:

Performing all stages of hydrogen production at sea, i.e. converting the electrical voltage from the floating wind turbine, pumping, desalinating and purifying seawater, and breaking the water molecules via electrolysis to obtain renewable green hydrogen;
Managing the effects on the system of the platform’s motion such as list, accelerations and swinging movements;
Enduring environmental stress: Sealhyfe will have to survive the premature ageing of its parts (corrosion, impacts, temperature variations);
Operating in an isolated environment: the platform must operate fully automatically, without the physical intervention of an operator, except for scheduled maintenance periods which have been optimally integrated from the design phase.

Lhyfe relied on the facilities of the offshore testing site, SEM-REV, operated by Centrale Nantes. The production unit was installed on the WAVEGEM wave energy platform developed by Geps Techno. At the end of the quayside test phase, the Sealhyfe platform will integrate the SEM-REV offshore testing area.

The device will then be supplied with electricity by the pioneering floating wind turbine installed within the offshore test site in 2018.

The electrolyser was supplied and optimised for these exceptional operating conditions by Plug Power, one of the market leaders that is strongly engaged in the offshore route. Together, Plug and Lhyfe have developed the first electrolyser capable of operating on a floating platform.

The project also benefited from the expertise of French offshore and marine renewable energy players; Chantiers De L’Atlantique, for enhancing the resilience of the system to environmental stress, ventilation systems and the electrical architecture of the system; GEPS Techno and Eiffage Energie Systemes for the system’s integration on a platform and the naval architecture, for the particularly stormy sea conditions of the site; the Port of Saint-Nazaire, facilitator of Sealhyfe’s assembly and testing; and Kraken Subsea Solutions, which participated in the design of the underwater electrical connection to the renewable marine energies produced on the SEM-REV platform.

The first six-month trial will assess initial reference measurements and test all systems, such as desalination and cooling systems, stack behaviour, remote control, energy management, and resistance to environmental conditions.  

Thereafter, Sealhyfe will spend a period of 12 months off the Atlantic coast. It will be installed less than a kilometre from the floating wind turbine, fixed to the ground by a system of anchors and connected to the site’s underwater hub using an umbilical designed and dedicated for this application (energy and data transfer).

At the end of this trial, Lhyfe will have a substantial volume of data, which should allow it to design mature offshore production systems, and to  deploy robust and proven technologies on a large scale, in keeping with the EU’s objective to produce 10m tonnes a year of renewable hydrogen by 2030. Sealhyfe has the capacity to produce up to 400 kg of renewable green hydrogen a day, equivalent to 1MW of power. 

By 2030-2035, offshore could represent an additional installed capacity of around 3 GW for Lhyfe. Sealhyfe has had support from the French energy and environment agency ADEME and the Pays de la Loire Region.

Matthieu Guesné, CEO and founder of Lhyfe, said, “By paving the way for the mass production of renewable hydrogen at sea, Sealhyfe is fully in line with the EU’s strategy to deploy an offshore hydrogen chain, and wishes to help build the energy sovereignty of countries.”

Colin Brown, UK and Ireland country manager of Lhyfe, said the new Sealhyfe platform, which will operate at quay then off the coast of Le Croisic, on the offshore testing site (SEM-REV) operated by French engineering school Centrale Nantes, was a major step towards unlocking the huge potential of offshore wind.

He said renewable green hydrogen production at scale is one of the key solutions to help the UK also reach its net zero targets. “Offshore electrolysis can help unlock the huge potential of offshore wind around the UK. Sealhfye is a major step forward in demonstrating its availability today and Lyhfe’s ambition to help the UK’s transition to a clean, low-carbon future.”

Earlier this month Lhyfe placed an order for ten 5MW European manufactured PEM (proton exchange membrane) electrolyser systems with Plug Power Inc., which provides turnkey hydrogen solutions for the global green hydrogen economy, for production of green hydrogen across multiple plants in Europe.