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Consortium to plot green hydrogen roadmap for German industrial heartland

03 September 2021 IHS Markit Chemical Expert

A consortium of blue-chip German companies including Evonik and Thyssenkrupp announced plans to study the cross-sectoral coordinated development of green hydrogen infrastructure and production in the Rhine-Ruhr region.

Evonik, Thyssenkrupp, E.ON, RWE, and Vonovia teamed up with the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, the RWI-Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, and the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Foundation with the aim of accelerating the region's green transformation.

Green hydrogen is produced using electrolysis of water using renewable energy, delivering zero emissions.

The consortium said it aims to connect holistic solutions from industry, the energy sector, mobility, and housing for carbon-free hydrogen in Germany. The project will lay the groundwork for the necessary planning for infrastructure and production, it said.

Requirements include determining cross-sectoral hydrogen demand, measuring the expansion of renewable energies or alternative hydrogen imports needed, and identifying necessary transport infrastructure.

"The data collected will be used to create a roadmap that can be used to optimally align coordinated infrastructure investments with private sector investment cycles," the consortium said in a statement. "Such a roadmap is a prerequisite for creating planning security for all parties involved and for making the region an attractive investment location," it said.

The plan will include the launch of pilot projects to provide at least 50% of the hydrogen required with low GHG emissions by 2030.

"Green hydrogen will continue to be in short supply for years to come. We must therefore set priorities and use it where we can achieve the greatest climate protection effect," said Evonik Chairman Christian Kullmann.

"So far, everyone is just optimizing their own area of activity. With cross-sectoral cooperation, we will create synergies and reduce the overall demand for green electricity and green energy sources. An efficient allocation of resources can only be achieved by working together," he added.

The linking of different sectors and industries "makes it possible to think and shape all facets of the energy transformation along the entire hydrogen value chain," said Martina Merz, chairwoman at Thyssenkrupp.

Refiners

Already in the region, Shell's Rhineland complex will become the first refinery in Germany to operate an electrolyzer plant in July, ushering in a new era for the country's dozen refineries in green hydrogen.

The plant, a 10-MW advanced polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzer, began operating 2 July at the 140,000-b/d Wesseling refinery, part of the 325,000-b/d integrated Rheinland facility, according to a Shell spokesperson.

Shell is planning a tenfold increase in electrolyzer capacity and a complementary sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plant at the site, both pending future funding from the EU and Germany.

A third of German refiners are making a move towards green hydrogen production.

A 50-MW electrolyzer is in the very early stages of planning and funding approval at BP's Lingen refinery.

Future electrolyzer projects associated with German refineries include the giant 700-MW Westküste 100 green hydrogen project—powered by an Orsted offshore wind farm—which is expected to supply gas grids and produce SAF by 2030. Shell's Heide refinery is one of 10 partners in the project consortium. In the initial phase, a 30-MW anion exchange membrane (AEM) electrolyzer will become operational, potentially by 2025, at the Heide site.

Other German refineries, such as BP's Gelsenkirchen refinery, are planning to focus heavily on decarbonizing their hydrogen while the rest of the region's industrial outfits consider hydrogen as part of the planned coal generation phaseout.

RWE's Lingen electrolyzer—with a planned capacity of up to 100 MW—will supply BP's nearby refinery, among other industries, with green hydrogen from 2024.

Funding support

There is federal funding for such projects too.

BP and Shell, utilities Vattenfall and RWE, and chemical companies BASF, Linde, and Dow are all likely to benefit from promised German state funding for 62 hydrogen projects.

Their projects are due a share of over €8 billion ($9.73 billion) in German state and federal funds announced jointly by Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Federal Ministry of Transport on 28 May.

An additional €20 billion ($24 billion) in backing for projects is set to come from private investors and other sources so that funding levels reach an expected €33 billion ($40 billion).

Germany's funding for the projects is contingent on the outcome of an application for EU State Aid law exemptions under the EU's Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) program. The EU put out a call for proposals to regional companies to join a hydrogen IPCEI in December 2020.

--Original reporting by Mark Thomas, Chemical Week.

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