Important new effort in Germany to produce hydrogen from renewables

The potential for the greater use of hydrogen is great and gets little enough attention. It is encouraging to read about a new network of companies and research institutions in Germany that are working together to produce what they call green hydrogen. Robin Whitlock explains on the renewablenergymagazine website.

 

Panorama – German network aims to produce green hydrogen from renewables

HYPOS is a network of companies and research institutions based in Halle (Saale) in the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. The network is working on a project sponsored by the German Federal Government and the state of Saxony-Anhalt aimed at using renewable energy to produce green hydrogen, thereby becoming less dependent on petrol and other fossil fuels. The network includes Siemens and Linde AG among its 114 members and will be presenting the project at Intersolar Europe in Munich.

Saxony-Anhalt offers ideal conditions for projects such as this as it is one of Germany’s trailblazing regions with regard to developing renewable energy projects, especially wind, biomass and solar. 50 percent of the energy generated by these technologies is sold outside the state as excess power. However, a sustainable, value-adding alternative would be to use the surplus power to produce green hydrogen and store or process. The hydrogen would be produced by means of central electrolytic plants supplied with power by wind farms, solar parks or biogas plants. It could then be used as an energy storage unit or transported via existing pipelines to reach a large number of consumers, for example from the chemical industry.

“Hydrogen could be used as a basic chemical” said Professor Wehrsphohn. “Plastics, fuels and pre-products for the cosmetics industry can be produced from it. Actually the whole range for which petroleum-based systems are used today. That is the major advantage of our system: the regional value creation. We have the power here, we convert it into hydrogen, and then we can supply our chemical chain directly and no longer need to purchase petroleum and natural gas from remote regions. And we are sustainable, as the power is acquired from renewable sources.”

Currently, the problem of excess power generation from wind farms is being addressed by shutting down the wind farms, when it could be exported instead. Saxony-Anhalt produces a lot of renewable energy with potential customers for the green hydrogen from the chemical industry. A pipeline runs along the A9 highway from Leipzig to Berlin, which is Germany’s second longest pipeline used to supply hydrogen at 150 kilometres long. Saxony-Anhalt also has many salt caverns, huge hollow spaces in the salt 300 metres under the earth’s surface with a capacity of millions of cubic metres. These are currently being used to store natural gas.

HYPOS was founded as an association in 2013, initially with seven members; it now has 114 members, including Siemens, Linde AG, gas supply system operator VNG and electrolytic device manufacturer Kumatec. The network is funded with up to 45 million euros by the German Federal Government as part of the Twenty20 – Partnership for Innovation programme, with the industry contributing 25 million euros. It is hoping to produce green hydrogen economically and safely by 2020. It could then be used as a fuel for hydrogen fuel-cell cars or used for heating. The project is also researching electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with the oxygen being used for purposes such as the biological cleaning of wastewater purification plants.

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