One million to the Eastern Netherlands for the development of decentralised hydrogen systems

The HAN (University of Applied Sciences Arnhem and Nijmegen) and Saxion will be working together intensively on the Decentralised Hydrogen Sprong project. Saxion Professor Richard van Leeuwen explains what the university is already doing with hydrogen in anticipation of the project and how Saxion’s expertise links up with that of the HAN. 

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In short

  • Saxion and HAN (University of Applied Sciences Arnhem and Nijmegen) were granted a SPRONG (“Jump”) subsidy of one million euros. Together, they will research decentralised hydrogen systems over the next four years.
  • This cooperation is not only about research. It also offers educational opportunities.


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You will find the Deventer Gasworks a stone’s throw away from the IJssel River. It was built in 1910 and produced gas for the town. A function that became superfluous after the discovery of large natural gas fields. But the function is being restored now that the Netherlands wants to get rid of natural gas. Gas is currently being produced again, 112 years after the construction of the factory. And it is sustainable gas: partners within the GROHW project are building an electrolysis unit that can convert electricity into green hydrogen. 

The electrolyser in the Gasworks is one of the many hydrogen activities in which Saxion is involved. The university is studying decentralised hydrogen systems with an eye for the integration into the existing energy system. Saxion Professor Richard van Leeuwen: “How can we use hydrogen conversion in an energy system bursting at the seams? You have a large number of electricity users on the one hand and a large amount of sustainable energy being generated on the other.”

Unburdening the grid

“I see many initiatives that involve large-scale energy generation when I look at the area we work in, the Eastern Netherlands. This raises issues such as grid congestion”, says Van Leeuwen. “Electricity grids do not always have the capacity to distribute large quantities of solar and wind energy. The grid can be relieved by creating hydrogen during energy peaks.”

What happens to that hydrogen? “We are looking at the market for hydrogen in the business community; some companies are seriously considering switching to this energy carrier. These companies want to develop technologies for the generation or purchase of hydrogen. Think of VDL Energy Systems or companies that still use natural gas such as Neutenboom or Bolletje.”

From hydrogen to heat

Hydrogen can also be used to heat buildings. COOLL is a company that is working on a hydrogen heat pump. “This heat pump is not connected to the electricity grid and is, therefore, no burden there. But the hydrogen needs to be produced first from sustainable electricity. So you move the use of electricity to a period when there is enough available.”

It is not only hydrogen that can be cleverly used. H2 Hub Twente – an initiative in Almelo that functions as a hydrogen innovation centre – wants to use the oxygen released in the electrolysis process. It can be used to purify water for the neighbouring sewage treatment plant. “The oxygen feeds the aerobic purification, for the breakdown of waste products in the water.”

Local applications

“Companies are also interested in that purified water. They want to purify it in such a way that hydrogen can be made through electrolysis. And that is no easy feat; water must be extremely pure before it can be split. Any pollution will damage or contaminate the electrolyser.” This project shows that different locations have different possibilities for hydrogen systems. Decentralised hydrogen systems – and the surrounding business models – are shaped by their environment.

The research does not only have techno-economic aspects. “Saxion has a broad research group, with technical, business-economic and management researchers. They look at how the market should be organised and what you should offer to municipalities, for example. How can we fairly deal with this? We are also focussing on safety issues that will play a role. In Twente, we have the Safety Campus for that purpose.”

Collaboration with the HAN

The HAN University of Applied Sciences also focuses on local, multidisciplinary hydrogen issues. An example is the H2Lab in Connector Energy innovation, for which the Province of Gelderland provided a subsidy. “The Eastern Netherlands is fairly unique when it comes to decentralised hydrogen systems and the development of plans for it. We aim for a scale of half a MW to 5 MW.” This scale fits in with the local issues that the universities of applied sciences are tackling, for the time being, explains van Leeuwen.

The professor says the researchers’ backgrounds at the HAN and Saxion complement each other. HAN has a lot of knowledge about vehicle technology (through its Automotive Research department) and stationary hydrogen application (through its Control Theory department). “We have more expertise when it comes to chemistry and system integration. How can we optimise the chemical-technological processes?” Saxion has been researching biogas and biochemistry for some time now.

SPRONG subsidy

Last year, Regieorgaan SIA (Taskforce for Applied Research SIA) awarded both universities a one million euros subsidy for the coming four years. They now form one combined research group called Decentralised Hydrogen Sprong. They boost the development of hydrogen knowledge in the Eastern Netherlands, together with companies and governments. The partnership between the HAN and Saxion is not just about research; education also plays an important role. “We are constantly trying to update the knowledge in education for the next generation. I see great opportunities for this with the HAN.”

Date: 26 April 2022 |

Source of tekst: Saxion University of applied sciences |

Author: Maaike Thüss

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