NRW as a national hydrogen hub
Hydrogen is to be leveraged on a large scale to make Germany greenhouse gas neutral. A Jülich study shows that North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) plays a decisive role in the future national hydrogen supply.
Germany wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by the middle of the century. To succeed in this, the energy system of NRW, the most populous state in Germany, must also be transformed in all areas – this applies to the energy conversion sector itself as well as to the end consumers in industry, transport and buildings. The NRW state government has defined the path to this goal in its Hydrogen Roadmap NRW. The results of an accompanying scientific study by Jülich energy system researchers led by Prof. Detlef Stolten have been incorporated into the roadmap. Making use of an entire family of computer models, they have calculated this comprehensive conversion step by step – on the understanding that it should cost as little as possible.
“NRW already has an excellent energy infrastructure that can be reassigned to hydrogen.”
Prof. Detlef Stolten
The results of the calculations show that Germany will need around five times as much hydrogen in 2050 as it does today, namely 9 to 13 million tonnes. NRW will account for one third of the demand. The industry there will use the hydrogen to produce steel, cement and basic chemical materials without using carbon-based energy sources and resources. The hydrogen will also serve as fuel for fuel cell trucks and cars. According to the study, industry and transport will each account for around half of the demand for hydrogen in NRW in 2050.
The calculations indicate that, in 2050, the federal state itself will only be able to produce about ten per cent of what it needs. The reason is that NRW does not have enough suitable sites for wind power and photovoltaic plants to generate the renewable electricity needed to produce hydrogen.
It is therefore important to connect – via pipelines – NRW to the North Sea coast in particular. This is because many domestic hydrogen production plants are settling there and hydrogen imports from sunny regions such as Africa (see page) will arrive at the North Sea ports. The Netherlands, too, is becoming an important supplier, which is why the study recommends that pipelines also be built or reassigned between NRW and the Netherlands.
NRW has a central role to play in the development of a hydrogen infrastructure in Germany. “This infrastructure will connect Northern Germany and the Netherlands with Southwestern Germany and turn NRW into a kind of national hydrogen hub,” says Detlef Stolten. NRW could benefit from the fact that its existing natural gas networks and gas storage facilities are already excellently developed and that these can be reassigned to hydrogen.
The Rhineland region as a model region
Forschungszentrum Jülich is establishing a Helmholtz cluster for hydrogen economy, known as HC-H2 for short, in the Rhineland region. Its aim is to develop new technologies for green hydrogen, thus contributing to the creation of a pioneering hydrogen economy with 130,000 new jobs in NRW, as announced in the state’s Hydrogen Roadmap. The federal government is funding the HC-H2 lighthouse project with €860 million from funds for the structural transformation of coal regions over an estimated 17-year period. NRW is also contributing state funds.
The cluster covers all aspects of a future hydrogen economy: the production, use and logistics of green – i.e. CO2-free – hydrogen. It concentrates on technologies that draw on existing transport and storage infrastructures such as pipelines and tank farms, or on those that are quick and cheap to install.
Demonstration facilities are to be built across the Rhineland region. Among other locations, research will be based in a new Jülich institute for sustainable hydrogen economy. “By closely linking research and demonstration projects, we hope to accelerate the transfer of knowledge from research to practice,” says Prof. Wolfgang Marquardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors. He is convinced that HC-H2 will strengthen the Rhineland region as an attractive location for innovative energy companies, industrial settlements and start-ups.
Photos: metrue, Forschungszentrum Jülich/Sascha Kreklau, Illustration: SeitenPlan