Green hydrogen is one of the main pillars in the climate-neutral energy system of the future – especially where energy demand cannot be met high or for cost, weight and space reasons by the use of classic batteries. In order to ensure the use of this energy source at any time in the required quantity at any place, investments and the rapid construction of infrastructure for the transport and storage of hydrogen are now prerequisites.
Who are the key players and companies facing this challenge? Where are new hydrogen and fuel cell technologies emerging? At the H2EXPO & CONFERENCE in Hamburg, which will take place from the 27th to the 30th September as part of the leading global trade fair for the wind industry WindEnergy Hamburg, everything revolves around innovative solutions and application-ready developments for a successful energy transition. Bernd Aufderheide, Chairman of the Management Board Hamburg Messe und Congress, explains: “There is no way around Green Hydrogen to achieve a climate-neutral future. The H2EXPO & CONFERENCE focuses on networking and the exchange of knowledge between leading technology providers, research institutes, industrial consumers and politics. In our four-day conference program accompanying the trade fair, we also show how the conversion from the use of fossil fuels to the use of green hydrogen can succeed.”
Accelerated start-up of the H2 economy
A year ago, it was said that the expansion of the energy sector “green hydrogen” should take place gradually by continuously and in parallel control of supply and demand. However, the sharp rise in the price of gas means that the green hydrogen obtained from wind and solar energy is already cheaper in parts of Europe and Africa as well as the Middle East than the so-called gray hydrogen produced with the fossil fuel natural gas. In April, Handelsblatt reported on an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), according to which one kilogram of gray hydrogen currently costs 6.71 US dollars in these regions – compared to $4.84 to 6.68 per kilogram of green hydrogen.
Electrolysis capacities are being massively expanded
As part of the Green Deal, the European Union expects electrolysis capacities to be expanded from the current 1,000 MW to 40,000 MW by 2030. A billion-dollar market is developing in which key players such as Uniper and Kawasaki are involved as well as young companies, such as Lhyfe.
Electrolysis processes are used for the production of green hydrogen, which can be fed, for example, with large amounts of wind power and decompose water into its components hydrogen and oxygen. As the smallest element of the periodic table, molecular hydrogen H2 is a colorless and odorless gas. It is highly reactive and does not release climate-relevant emissions during its power generation. Due to its fleetingness, special conditions must be taken into account for its transport and storage.
From generation to storage
Because the hydrogen density is very low under atmospheric pressure at about 90 g/m3, the gas must be compressed or liquefied to prepare it for storage and transport. There are various processes for this: At -253 °C, it is possible to store the hydrogen in liquid form in isolated cryotanks. The element can be stored gaseously under high pressure in special pressure tanks or in underground caverns. In addition, there are other storage options in the field of absorption processes by enriching hydrogen with carrier media. The carbon or metal hydrate store can be in solid form. Suitable liquid carrier media are grouped under the term LOHC (Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier).
Transport and delivery – central or decentralized
The physical state, or the carrier medium of the stored hydrogen, specifies the way the energy storage devices are transported. Specially manufactured trucks and wagons are suitable for above-ground transport by land, gas tankers can transport large quantities of liquid hydrogen from producing countries across the oceans to coastal regions of the importing countries – such as from Namibia to Rotterdam. Static pipelines, in turn, are used to transport gaseous hydrogen to the end users connected to the gas network. The construction of such gas networks incurs high investment costs – but existing gas pipelines can also be converted in such a way that volatile hydrogen cannot escape. This conversion is cheaper and uses the excellent gas infrastructure that exists in many places, which is no longer needed for the transport of fossil fuels in the future.
Regional projects are picking up speed
On 04. In February 2022, the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) and the H2 specialist Air Products signed a letter of intent to expand a hydrogen value chain in the port of Hamburg. The goal: The port of Hamburg should become climate neutral.
The hydrogen project HH-WIN (Hamburger Wasserstoff-Industrie-Netz) also underlines the ambitious claim of the Hamburg metropolitan region in terms of climate neutrality: By 2030, the construction of a supply-proof infrastructure for the hydrogen needs of Hamburg industry is to be built here in a nationwide and European network. Embedded in the industry network of the EEHH (Renewable Energies Hamburg Cluster Agency), the Gasnetze Hamburg are the project promoter of this groundbreaking project.
Another northwestern European hydrogen megaproject is NortH2. The key players of this project are Eneco Equinor, Gasunie, RWE, Shell and the port of Groningen Seaports. Together, the project partners want to build a system of offshore wind farms, electrolyzers for the production of green hydrogen, H2 gas storage tanks and H2 gas pipelines. With a desired electrolysis output of 4 GW by 2030 and more than 10 GW by 2040, this is intended to create a powerful center for green hydrogen in the north of the Netherlands, which is becoming a driving force for the hydrogen economy and the associated industrial clusters in northwestern Europe.
Strategic hydrogen partnerships are emerging worldwide
It’s about energy security at all levels of society. At the same time, the massively increased gas prices in recent weeks have a serious impact, especially for the industrialized nations. In order to eliminate dependence on the import of fossil fuels as quickly as possible, the rapid expansion of renewable energies is necessary. Consortia such as WindStrom Erneuerbare Energien GmbH, which plan, build and operate wind farms in Germany as well as in other European countries, are significantly involved in this. In addition to the extensive expansion of the electricity grids, the construction of a hydrogen infrastructure also requires a functioning collaboration at the economic and political level. This is how internationally interwoven trade networks are created: On the one hand, technology transfer takes place to the states that can produce renewable energy in abundance. These, in turn, export the green hydrogen required by the industrialized nations as an energy supplier for energy supply, industrial production and mobility. Within the framework of the German hydrogen strategy, strategic hydrogen alliances are linked with Australia, South and West Africa. For example, the potential atlas hydrogen from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research shows that up to 165,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of hydrogen could be produced annually in West Africa alone.
One of the analyses contained here is as follows: In West Africa alone, a maximum of up to 165,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of hydrogen could be produced annually. For comparison: Germany consumes around 520 TWh of electricity annually, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) together only 53 TWh.
The resulting opportunities for decarbonizing the global economic cycles are significant. Andreas Arnheim, project manager of WindEnergy Hamburg, said: “Energy supply and use is in upheaval and new demands and business development opportunities are emerging almost daily along the entire hydrogen value chain. We are very much looking forward to networking highly innovative companies, industry experts and consumers during the H2EXPO & CONFERENCE and setting the course for the future together.”