Port of Rotterdam turning green and blue

Port of Rotterdam turning green and blue

Europe’s largest port wants to become sustainable

“How quickly can we implement the energy transition?” This question has been posed for some time by the Port of Rotterdam, the largest European sea freight transshipment point. In the past – and still today – the huge industrial area was shaped by the oil and gas industry. Among other things, four large refineries are located there, which now need to be decarbonized. Boudewijn Siemons, CEO and COO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, stated, “If it can be done electrically, it should be – with hydrogen otherwise.”

To drive this transformation process forward, together with the gas supplier Gasunie, the port company is initially dedicating itself to infrastructure, because “infrastructure is an enabler,” as Gasunie CEO Willemien Terpstra states. One of the main projects is a new pipeline system – for hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The new construction of the Hydrogen Backbone (H2) as well as the Porthos pipe system (CO2) started in October 2023 with the groundbreaking ceremony by the Dutch king Willem-Alexander.

The port is receiving significant political support. “I see a government that is really working to remove obstacles,” says the port head. This also benefits Germany, where a large proportion of the energy supplied will be forwarded. Accordingly, the Netherlands also sees Germany as the main customer for hydrogen –particularly the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen.

The time of waiting is over, because large coal-fired power plants in the port will be shut down in 2030 (see Fig. 2). However, eliminating CO2 emissions from fossil fuels is only one path to reducing carbon dioxide emissions 55 percent by 2030. In addition to increasing efficiency, negative CO2 emissions will also be necessary, so the carbon dioxide produced must be stored using CCS (carbon capture & storage). “If we want to reduce CO2 emissions, there is no way around CCS,” according to Siemons.

Fig. 2: The coal-fired power plant located behind the substation will be shut down by 2030

The goal is CO2 neutrality by 2050. By then, the approximately 100 million tonnes of crude oil imported annually in Rotterdam are to be replaced by other media. For example, around 15 million tonnes of oil are to be substituted by 20 million tonnes of hydrogen, whereby about 90 percent of the hydrogen required will be imported.

As to the question of how long the planned “temporary use of blue hydrogen” could last, the answer came clear: “Decades.” Blue hydrogen or “low-carbon hydrogen,” as it and other non-green H2 compositions have been called for some time now, are to serve as the initial spark for building an H2 economy. It is already clear today that the associated lock-in effects will be considerable, as the billions invested are to be amortized over at least 15 years.

The capture of CO2 is only part of the task to be accomplished. Extracting small amounts of carbon dioxide from a gas stream is still relatively simple and efficient, but the larger the percentage is to be, the more complex it becomes. The port has initial experience in this area: For example, CO2 is already being captured there and used in greenhouses to improve plant growth. Ulrich Bünger from the energy consulting company LBST is nevertheless skeptical and stated in Rotterdam that CCS is still a long way from being where it is supposed to be. There is “hardly any experience,” according to the energy expert, while the impression is given that the technology is tried and tested.

Infrastructure is key
For the infrastructure and its operators, it doesn’t matter how the hydrogen was produced. Willemien Terpstra, CEO of gas transmission company Gasunie, said on the matter: “We are ready to transport any color.” Accordingly, Gasunie already made the final investment decision for the pipeline construction last year, although only five percent of the capacity has been sold so far, as the appointed CEO since March 2024 has explained. Of course, the government’s strong commitment was decisive here, which is contributing 50 percent of the costs. The aim is to jointly complete the pipe system by 2030, which will then be able to provide 10 GW of power.

Shell refinery in Port of Rotterdam

To H2-international’s inquiry of how the hydrogen would be transported to Rotterdam, CEO Boudewijn Siemons named all the options: ammonia, methanol, LH2 and LOHC – No variant is excluded from the outset. When asked whether the port company could handle large quantities of ammonia safely, Siemons initially hesitated briefly, but then replied confidently, “Yes, I think we can do that. I’m pretty sure of that.” At the same time, however, he conceded that “not every place in the port” is suitable.

As ammonia tanks have been present in the port for a long time, the corresponding expertise already exists. The plan is to triple the storage capacity for ammonia in the next few years compared to 2023. However, such a change in fuels and energy storage media is unlikely to significantly alter the appearance of the world’s eleventh largest port, the operators are certain. Even though the media will be different, many installations will look similar to before. It is already clear today that an infrastructure for LOHC and LH2 is also being developed. Corresponding partnerships with Chiyoda and Hydrogenious already exist.

200‑MW electrolyzer from Shell
The highlight in the harbor, however, is Holland Hydrogen 1 (see Fig. 1), a 200‑MW electrolyzer that is dimensioned in such a way that the green hydrogen produced with the help of wind turbines can then replace the amount of gray hydrogen so far required in the port. The electricity required is sourced from a 759‑MW offshore wind farm (Hollandse Kust Noord) north of Rotterdam, which is directly connected. In order to meet all EU regulations, H2 production (approx. 20,000 tonnes per year) will follow the respective wind supply, even if this means that the electrolyzers cannot run 24/7.

For this project, for which the final investment decision has already been made, Shell received this year’s Green Hydrogen Project Award during the World Hydrogen Summit. The area on which the in total ten 20‑MW electrolyzer modules from Thyssenkrupp Nucera is to be installed is what’s called “proclaimed land” that was wrested from the North Sea. Where the conversion park is being built used to be water. However, it is likely to take until the end of the decade before it goes into operation. In the future, also Holland Hydrogen 2 could follow – a second area with likewise 200 MW. By 2030, this could already be 2 GW.

The H2 pipes (black) and the CO2 pipes (white) are sometimes only 40 cm apart

The corresponding H2 pipeline, which is currently under construction, will then connect the H2 production facility with the various refineries and other customers. Sufficient wind for green hydrogen production is available in Rotterdam. In the port area alone 300 MW of wind power are installed. As this is more electricity than is needed, a large stationary accumulator has already been installed, to be able to temporarily store at least some of this green electricity.

The hydrogen tubes measure 1.2 m (48 inches) in diameter and are pressurized with 30 to 50 bar. The construction of the first 30 kilometers across the port is costing 100 million euros. The entire H2 Backbone network within the Netherlands (1,100 km) is expected to cost 1.5 to 2 billion euros. However, 85 percent of the future H2 pipeline system will consist of repurposed natural gas pipes.

Parallel in construction is the CO2 pipeline Porthos. This pipe system connects numerous locations in the port with the platform off the coast, via which the carbon dioxide is then to be fed into subsea gas fields.

The H2 pipes for the Hydrogen Backbone are ready and are currently being placed underground

Future Land informs about H2 activities
To be able to inform about all these activities, the port has set up “Future Land,” a contact point for tourists, school classes, the press and investors, where they can get answers to their questions about the future of the port. The information center is located right below the world’s largest wind turbine. The Haliade-X 13 is 260 m high (853 ft) and has an output of 14 megawatts. It is designed for offshore wind farms in the North Sea, but has been tested on land since 2021 and can supply six million households with electricity.

In view of the fact that a third of the energy required in Germany comes into the country via Rotterdam, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, stated: “If the Port of Rotterdam is doing well, the European economy is doing well.”

Author: Sven Geitmann

Partnership is the new leadership

Partnership is the new leadership

Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe

The atmosphere was good. Not ecstatic, as was sometimes the case last year, but certainly lively. Especially in Hall 13, where the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe event took place, where the aisles well filled and the babble of voices was much louder than in the other halls on the exhibition grounds. Nevertheless, the impression remains that also in the 30th year of this H2 fair, the market breakthrough is still a long time coming and will happen “in only five years,” as has been said for 20 years.

Hannover Messe still lays claim to being the world’s most important industrial trade fair – according to Dr. Jochen Köckler, the board chairman of Deutsche Messe AG, it is even the “mother of all trade fairs.” As in previous years, it also benefited from April 22 to 26, 2024 immensely from the current H2 boom. The great interest in hydrogen and fuel cell technology once again led to acceptable exhibitor and visitor numbers. New impetus as an indication of the direction in which the traditional trade fair business could develop there were however none.

It could be said that the H2 fair has once again rescued Deutsche Messe’s balance sheet.

Chancellor Scholz visits H2 businesses
Not without reason did German chancellor Olaf Scholz give Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe a visit. The focus of his opening tour lay in the energy halls, where he stopped at Salzgitter (“We’re proceeding together on the trip” see Fig. 2) as well as by GP Joule. Ove Petersen, cofounder and one of the managing directors of GP Joule, stressed how important the improvement of political framework conditions are to actually be able to establish electrolyzer capacities (see also p. 18).

Chancellor O. Scholz with the Norwegian Minister-President J. G. Støre, Salzgitter head G. Groebler, Minister-President of Niedersachsen S. Weil, Norwegian economy minister C. Myrseth, German family minister L. Paus and German research minister B. Stark-Watzinger

Revealing word choice
Interesting to observe was how the word choice of some areas changed. For example, in numerous lectures were again and again talk of “Low-Carbon-Wasserstoff” (low-carbon hydrogen). With this crafted word, the speakers smoothly circumvent the classification of hydrogen into the, by some, really unpopular color scale. “Low-Carbon” implies that during the H2 production, little carbon dioxide is emitted, but avoids a stigmatization by the attribute “gray,” “blue” or “turquoise,” since even the smallest blending with green hydrogen is enough to be able to designate it as low-carbon.

Green or blue
For Olaf Lies, the state of Niedersachen’s economy minister, blue hydrogen is “a huge matter for achieving the climate targets.” In view of the tiresome discussion about color, he pointed out in Hannover that nobody asks about the color of electricity. “This must also be the case with hydrogen,” according to the minister.

Another innovation in the language style seems to concern the working principle in the hydrogen economy: Ever more frequently heard are sentences (in English), like “Partnership is the new leadership” or “Cooperation is key.” More and more players are realizing that the transformation process currently underway in the energy sector cannot be mastered alone, but only together.

What’s remained the same, in contrast, is the time horizon until the market ramp-up. Here we are still at five years. While in recent years it was still said that H2 trucks would be built in series starting 2025, representatives of the vehicle industry made it very clear that significant unit sales could not be expected in Germany until 2029 the earliest. Different is the situation in Asia: Refire advertised, for example, that it could already build 5,000 fuel cell systems per year.

After all, Dr. Matthias Jurytko, CEO of Cellcentric committed himself both to H2 technology and to Germany as a business location by saying: “Many talk about factories – We’re building one.” He also clarified: “Hydrogen will be the driver for long-haul transport.” At the same time, however, he conceded: “An increase in unit sales will not come until 2029/30.”

Dr. Jurytko: “There will be no long-haul transport without hydrogen.”

At around the same time, gray hydrogen could be just as expensive as green hydrogen due to rising CO2 prices, anticipates Gilles Le Van from Air Liquide.

Lively exchange in the forums
In addition, in the Public Forum of Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe (see Fig. 3 and 4), exhibitors once again explained their new developments this year or discussed them with guests from industry and politics. For example, what framework conditions or incentives for sector coupling and flexibilization of energy consumption are still lacking, or where and how green hydrogen will be produced in sufficiently large quantities worldwide.

Also the question of how much hydrogen Germany will produce itself and how much will be imported from its European neighbors moderator Ulrich Walter discussed with various guests. Christian Maaß, head of the department for energy policy at the federal economy ministry (BMWK), cited estimates that Germany could produce just under half of its climate-neutral hydrogen requirements itself, with the remainder having to be imported.

When asked by the moderator why the electrolysis capacities would not be immediately increased to 20 GW by 2030, replied Maaß, “With higher targets I would be careful, as electrolyzers need a lot of electricity.” He therefore advocates aligning the production of green H2 with the expansion of renewable energy. Not least to avoid conflicting objectives, because the direct consumption of green electricity should have priority. In this respect, he assumes that large quantities of green hydrogen will probably be imported from overseas, in the form of ammonia, methane and SAF (sustainable aviation fuel). Overall, however, Germany will need around ten percent of the world’s H2 production, making it a global player.

A completely different view is held by Heinrich Gärtner, founder and CTO of the GP Joule Group. He was convinced “that we can produce much more green hydrogen domestically than we today think,” and explained: “We already have a large potential for renewable energies, and this is continuing to grow. This also increases the amount of surplus electricity that can be used to produce hydrogen using electrolysis.” This is not only sensible, but also necessary. This relieves the strain on the grids and enables local value creation. In his view, Germany only needs a tiny proportion of its land area to produce all the renewable energy it needs itself. “We have everything here: the technology and the infrastructure.”

Numerous political representatives were on hand to answer questions

Cooperation in the European Area
Werner Diwald, chairman of the German hydrogen association (DWV), said, “The EU member states should be our main importing countries, not least to strengthen mutual relations and support stability within the European Union.” He also expressed optimism that the hydrogen economy could be ramped up quickly once a market and corresponding business models were in place. Something similar has already been seen with renewable energies. It should not be forgotten: The whole world needs green hydrogen. Germany therefore has a lot of competition, as other countries are also pursuing their own H2 strategies, according to Diwald.

The politicians present proved that the envisaged transformation process has long been underway with some impressive figures: For example, Olaf Lies spoke about 30 large gas-fired power plants in Niedersachsen that are to be made H2-ready. And his colleague Mona Neubaur, economy minister of Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW), announced 200 hydrogen refueling stations by 2030. “We’re placing the infrastructure in the region with precision.” She asserted that NRW is to become the first CO2-neutral industrial region.

Hermes Startup Award: And the winner is …
As every year, the trade fair awards a prize to a particularly innovative company that is no more than five years old. For 2024, the Hermes Startup Award went to Archigas from Rüsselsheim, Germany. The company received the award for a moisture-resistant sensor for measuring hydrogen. The principle, which was developed together with the university Hochschule RheinMain, is based, according to the manufacturer, on an improved measurement of thermal conductivity on a microchip. The innovative technology is characterized by “miniaturization, robust design, short measuring times and a wide range of applications,” praised Prof. Holger Hanselka, president of the Fraunhofer research institutes and chair of the jury for the Hermes Startup Awards. Archigas is an “excellent example for innovation-driven businesses,” which have created the basis for the hydrogen economy to form.

Norway as a pioneer for green industrial transformation
The partner country Norway was represented with its own pavilion on the topics of energy, process industry, battery and charging solutions, and digitalization in Hall 12 and also on the orange carpet of the H2 trade fair – with the (English) slogan “Pioneering the Green Industrial Transition.” As an energy producer and pioneer in e-mobility, the Scandinavian country sees itself as a kind of catalyst for accelerating the green transition to a low-carbon society. For example, in the development of renewable energies and the use of digital solutions to trim the industry to net zero, as the H2 expert and former LBST employee Ulrich Bünger explained, who in “retirement” advises Norwegian Energy Partners (Norwep). The aim is to produce around four percent of Europe’s estimated ten million tonnes of hydrogen imports by 2030.

“Norway and Germany are important trading partners, and we have entered into a strategic industrial partnership for renewable energy and green industry,” said the Norwegian trade and industry minister Jan Christian Vestre in the opening of the fair. “We hope that the Norwegian presence at Hannover Messe will further strengthen this close cooperation between our two countries,” he said.

Honda showed its new FC system

The EEA (European Economic Area) Agreement means that Norway is fully integrated into the European single market, so trade and investment should flow seamlessly between Norway, Germany and the other countries of the European Union. During the trade fair, Germany also concluded an agreement with its Scandinavian partner on the storage of carbon dioxide (carbon capture and storage, CCS).

A major order was able to be announced by Norwegian manufacturer of hydrogen storage systems Hexagon Purus. Starting the second quarter of 2024, it will supply H2 tanks to the Berlin-based company Home Power Solutions (HPS), which claims to have developed the world’s first year-round electricity storage system for buildings. The Picea system will be primarily used in single-family homes in combination with PV modules. Surplus solar power, which is mainly generated in summer, will be converted into green hydrogen using an electrolyzer, which will be stored in high-pressure tanks from Hexagon. In winter, this is then used for reconversion to electricity. According to information from HPS, this allows buildings to be supplied with solar energy all year round. “Our high-pressure hydrogen tanks are flexible and scalable, making them suitable for a wide range of applications,” such as with HPS, said Matthias Kötter, managing director of the location in Weeze.

Creativity and inventiveness in Hall 13
A product innovation was presented for example by SFC Energy with the EFOY H2PowerPack X50, a pilot series for the most powerful fuel cell system to date with up to 200 kW in cluster operation. According to the FC specialist from Bavaria, this latest development offers the user a continuous electrical output power of 50 kW. However, up to four of these H2PowerPacks can be connected together to reach an output of 200 kW. The environmentally and climate-friendly alternative to diesel generators is equipped with standard 400 V AC connections, an integrated lithium battery and a 300‑bar hydrogen interface.

The operation is, according to information from the manufacturer, emissions-free; no CO2, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides or fine particles are emitted. Likely applications include the emergency power supply of hospitals or communication and IT systems, mobile power supply for construction sites and events or a continuous power supply for self-sufficient companies. “With the push into higher performance classes, SFC Energy is responding to correspondingly high market demand,” announced the company founded in 2000 and headquartered in Brunnthal near Munich. The series production and market introduction are planned for the beginning of 2025.

This year’s H2 Eco Award went to the energy park Bad Lauchstädt

Lhyfe expands
What the hydrogen ramp-up looks like from the perspective of the Lhyfe Group, which now operates in eleven European countries, was reported by Luc Graré, who heads the Central and Eastern Europe division: “We are right now scaling up our production.” He describes the philosophy of the hydrogen pioneer, which was founded in 2017, as follows: “We start small, learn, grow, learn again, grow further and then scale up.” After the company started with an electrolysis capacity of one megawatt in France, it is now 10 MW.

Currently, six production plants for green hydrogen are planned or in the construction phase: Three in France, three in Germany. “And it will be increasingly more,” he said. A 10‑MW plant is currently under construction in the Niedersachen port town of Brake (on the Unterweser). Up to 1,150 tonnes of green H2 are to be produced there annually, which will go to regional customers from the industrial and transport sectors. The company has secured the purchase of green electricity through long-term electricity contracts (PPAs) with operators of wind farms and photovoltaic systems.

Another 10‑MW plant has been under construction in Schwäbisch Gmünd in Baden-Württemberg since autumn 2023, and is scheduled to go into operation in the second half of this year – with a production of up to four tonnes of green hydrogen per day. Still under development is the plan to commission an 800‑MW plant in Lubmin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern by 2029, which is to be built on the site of the decommissioned nuclear power plant. According to information from Lhyfe, the hydrogen produced there in the future could be fed into the emerging hydrogen network.

Formic acid as H2 storage
Even outside Hall 13 was a lot about hydrogen. At some stands it looked like a chemistry lab, with bubbling water in glass vessels or a cloudy nutrient liquid in transparent bioreactors. With one, Festo, in Hall 7 showed its latest achievement in H2 storage: the so-called BionicHydrogenBattery (see Fig. 7). It contains bacteria from Lake Kivu in Central Africa that convert hydrogen into formic acid in a natural process. In this chemically bound form, hydrogen is comparatively easy to store and transport. It is also more climate-friendly, as there is no need for energy-intensive compression or cooling to ‑253 °C to liquefy hydrogen. The conditions under which the microorganisms do their work are moderate: They need a temperature of 65 °C and a pressure of 1.5 bar.

The cultivation reactor of the BionicHydrogenBattery from Festo

Normally, the bacteria called Thermoanaerobacter kivui live in sludge in the absence of oxygen (anaerobe). They have an enzyme with which they can convert hydrogen and carbon dioxide into formic acid (CH2O2). They can also reverse the process. The basic research in this area was carried out by the team around Volker Müller, Professor at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt and head of the department of molecular microbiology and bioenergetics, with which the bionic project team of Festo, according to its information, is working closely.

From an economic point of view, the exciting thing about this biological process is not only the speed of the reaction, but also the fact that the bacteria act as catalysts: “They are not used up,” stated the globally active company specialized in automation technology and founded in Esslingen 1925. “The process can be repeated at will with sufficient regeneration phases – just like a cycle,” they stated. As the reaction can take place in both directions, bacteria of this type are able to break down formic acid back into hydrogen and carbon dioxide at the target site. The CO2 can then be used in the beverage industry, for example.

Positive conclusion
At the closing press conference, Jochen Köckler came to, as expected, a positive tally: More than 130,000 visitors from over 150 countries met 4,000 exhibitors from 60 countries. Of these, 40 percent of the visitors came from abroad: most of them from China and the neighboring Netherlands, followed by the USA, Korea and Japan. Gunnhild Brumm from the Norwegian business development organization Innovation Norway was pleased about the good business and contract conclusions: “In short: It was really worth it! It was a real boost for us. We would love to come back.” Not as a partner country again, of course, because next year that will be Canada.

“We are laying the foundations for the H2 economy of the future…. The speed of artificial intelligence (AI) is too high in some places, but we absolutely need more speed for hydrogen.”

Dr. Jochen Köckler, chairman of Deutsche Messe

Authors: Monika Rößiger & Sven Geitmann

First commercial green hydrogen production

First commercial green hydrogen production

Solar Global operates electrolyzer plant in Czech Republic

An electrolyzer in the town of Napajedla in southeastern Czech Republic has produced the country’s first green hydrogen from solar power. The industrial green hydrogen production facility is run by Solar Global, one of the leading companies in the Czech renewables sector.

This hydrogen plant should be seen primarily as a pioneering initiative since its capacity of 230 kilowatts is relatively low. It can consume up to 246 megawatt-hours per year of electricity. The power is sourced from a photovoltaic plant with a peak capacity of 611 kW. Battery storage is used to buffer the discrepancies between generation and consumption. In line with the Czech hydrogen strategy, most of the hydrogen ends up as fuel.

“Green hydrogen produced in this way can be used at the refueling station in Napajedla to fill up not just trucks and buses, but also cars with environmentally friendly hydrogen propulsion,” explained Vítězslav Skopal, owner of Solar Global Group. According to Solar Global, the plant can supply around 8 metric tons (8.8 US tons) of green hydrogen. This is enough to enable a car to travel 800,000 kilometers (500,000 miles) and a hydrogen bus to travel 80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles).

Covering the entire value chain

Hydrogen production is expected to develop gradually into a major area of industry in the Czech Republic. As this happens, the Solar Global Group foresees an entire value chain developing alongside it. In addition to hydrogen production, the company has its sights set on the operation of vehicles equipped with fuel cells. Ultimately, the corporation also wants to get involved in the supply of hydrogen via refueling stations. “Of course all this depends on the building of other requisite technologies, in other words hydrogen compression, storage and refueling stations, and these are the next stages of our pilot project,” said Skopal.

The production of the country’s first kilogram of hydrogen was funded by the State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic or SEF CR, which has been in existence since 1992. So far the environment ministry has financially supported four electrolyzers from the environment fund. “Two further projects are under examination,” stated Lucie Früblingová, spokeswoman for the state environment fund. The schemes under which hydrogen projects can receive support are currently being widened. The number of assisted projects and the amount distributed in subsidies are set to rise in the future.

Traditional producers look to green hydrogen

Among those due to receive funding is Orlen Unipetrol, the Czech Republic’s largest producer of “gray,” fossil-based hydrogen. The company, which is part of Polish petroleum giant Orlen, intends to install an electrolyzer in conjunction with a solar power plant in Litvínov. Groundwork will begin sometime between 2024 and 2025, with the production of green hydrogen slated to start at the end of 2028. However, Unipetrol is well aware that its own production can only cover a fraction of its hydrogen demand and is already considering hydrogen imports.

Another electrolyzer being aided by the environment fund belongs to the Sev.en Energy Group. The mining company operates what was once the extensive opencast brown coal mine in Most, Komořany, which will soon be exhausted, as well as the associated coal power plants. Sev.en is planning a massive expansion in solar power plants totaling 120 MW. The proposals include a 17.5-MW electrolyzer that will manufacture 360 metric tons (400 US tons) of green hydrogen a year starting in 2027. The costs for the hydrogen system, according to Sev.en’s head of transformation Pavel Farkač, run to around CZK 700 million, which equates to EUR 28.5 million, a substantial proportion of which is to be covered by subsidies from the environment fund.

In October 2023, the Czech government presented the draft of an energy and climate plan for the years leading up to 2030. The press release from the environment ministry stated that the use of hydrogen would increase within industry and the mobility sector by the end of the decade. The plan also foresees that electricity derived from brown coal will no longer be exported.

Author: Aleksandra Fedorska

National hydrogen strategy for the Czech Republic:

Hydrogen 3.0

Hydrogen 3.0

“Are we on the cusp of a hydrogen revolution or merely witnessing the build-up of another bubble?” In his new book Hydrogen 3.0 – Reality Check, author Frank Genin seeks to separate fact from fiction. In doing so, the American invites his readers on a journey to uncover the truth behind the hydrogen hype.

Spanning 280 pages and with numerous black-and-white illustrations (also available in color in the digital version), the book provides an all-encompassing view of the global hydrogen economy – in Genin’s words a “nuanced, well-researched perspective” – in which he shines a light on a multitude of topics including various application areas and markets – from China to Germany.

Genin asks whether hydrogen is really the fuel of the future – the green panacea, the magic bullet that we have all been waiting for – or whether, in our desperation, we have perhaps overstated its potential. Written in an impartial and factual style, the book is aimed at investors and environmentalists alike as well as anyone who wants to find out more about hydrogen.

Genin, Frank; Hydrogen 3.0, ISBN 978-2-958-293093, 2024

Mechatronic H2 pressure regulator

Mechatronic H2 pressure regulator

Up until now, Italian company Landi Renzo has been mainly known for its conversion sets for gas engines. Now the automotive supplier, which employs more than 1,200 staff globally, is venturing into the hydrogen sector and developing an advanced electronic pressure regulator for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles with H2 combustion engines.

The Cavriago-based company has joined forces with German group Bosch to help it broaden its range beyond components for natural gas, biomethane or LPG. Its aim is to produce and market hydrogen-based fuel systems with next-generation mechatronic pressure regulators before the end of 2024. In doing so, Landi Renzo hopes to become an enabler of carbon-neutral commercial vehicle operation and thus play a part in accelerating the decarbonization of the mobility and transport sector.

Damiano Micelli, head of technology, commented: “This mechatronic hydrogen pressure regulator is an important milestone in technological advancement which we are able to offer to the rapidly evolving mobility and transportation market. […] This is a highly innovative solution that will be available shortly for medium- and heavy-duty applications.”

Pressure regulators are a key element in conversion kits since they help to balance out large pressure differences and, if needed, change the state of a particular fuel. According to Landi Renzo, “a simple and robust mechanical regulator” was previously sufficient to fulfill this function. However, mechatronic pressure regulators such as the EM-H can also control and calibrate the hydrogen delivery pressure in line with vehicle requirements. In a two-stage process, the inlet pressure is initially reduced mechanically from high to medium. The pressure is then lowered entirely electronically to the desired value.

Landi Renzo has over 70 years of experience in the automotive and energy sectors and its facilities include an H2 center of excellence in Bologna which has a well-equipped, modular Class 8 clean room.

HySupply – German-Australian hydrogen bridge

HySupply – German-Australian hydrogen bridge

Acatech and BDI show what’s feasible

Defossilizing the energy system is an important goal of the clean energy transition – importing green hydrogen a possible option for this. The cooperation project HySupply from the national academy Acatech and the national association Bundesverband der deutschen Industrie (BDI) has therefore examined the feasibility of a German-Australian hydrogen bridge. The result: The production and transport of hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives from Australia to Germany are technically, economically and legally possible. A crucial question here: How could domestic imports be distributed in an economically and technically sensible way?

Energy imports are a constant staple for the German energy supply. While they have largely concentrated on energy sources of fossil origin such as natural gas and crude oil, they could soon be expanded to include an alternative energy source: green hydrogen. According to the target picture contained in the update of the German hydrogen strategy, the total hydrogen demand in Germany in 2030 will be between 95 and 130 TWh and can only be covered by imports. Within the next ten years, Australian hydrogen could therefore play a role in the German energy system. But why is Australia, of all places, 14,000 kilometers away, being considered for this?

Making the energy supply stable and resilient
All the preconditions speak in favor: Renewable energies for the production of green hydrogen are abundant in Australia. In addition, the conditions are ideal with regard to a future-proof and reliable supply: “An Australian-German hydrogen bridge promises a stable and mutually beneficial trade relationship between two democratic countries,” states Acatech president Jan Wörner regarding preconditions. “We now have the opportunity to help shape the future hydrogen market and make our innovation location more resilient to dependencies. For this, we need a decided, joint establishment of infrastructures and framework conditions,” he adds.

However, the technology for transporting liquid hydrogen will probably not be available within the next 20 years, stated Robert Schlögl recently in an interview with Deutschlandfunk. He is president of the foundation Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung and an Acatech member. As co-project manager, he has accompanied HySupply since its start in November 2020. These and other challenges in the transportation of liquid hydrogen are the reason why the HySupply feasibility study deals with the import possibilities of H2 derivatives, so ammonia, synthetic natural gas, methanol, Fischer-Tropsch products and LOHCs.

HySupply investigated from the end of 2020 to January 2024 under which technical, economic and legal conditions a German-Australian hydrogen bridge is feasible. The feasibility study funded by the German education ministry (BMBF) was conducted by Acatech (Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften) and the BDI (Bundesverband der deutschen Industrie). The University of New South Wales (UNSW) led the Australian consortium. This was sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Together, the two sides united a unique network of experts from academia and industry to examine the entire value chain.

Transportation and supply routes

Studies in the past have already focused on various aspects of hydrogen imports. What’s special about the present study compiled by the research institute Fraunhofer IEG for HySupply: For the first time, a publication deals explicitly with the last mile, which usually poses the greatest challenges regarding infrastructure – both the technical and economic nature. Robert Schlögl states on the matter: “This study analyzes, evaluates and compares comprehensively and for the first time all major hydrogen derivatives and transport options, from the import hub to the end consumer.”

In total, there are 543 demand locations in Germany that went into this analysis. They were classified according to various use cases and investigated regarding the supply possibilities with hydrogen and its derivatives. Use cases – those are the production of ammonia, steel, petrochemical basic chemicals and synthetic jet fuels. In addition to that are the preparation of process heat in metal production and processing, the manufacture of glass and ceramics and in the paper industry. As transport modes, the study considers inland ship transport, the rail network, the hydrogen core grid and pipelines for other products. For each use case, the study lists the economic advantages and disadvantages of the respective options.

Fig. 2: Overview of the analyzed supply network and distribution of the demand locations, Source: Fraunhofer IEG

Flexibility determines the H2 ramp-up
The H2 core grid plays an important role in supplying industry. The study indicates that all identified locations of potential large-scale hydrogen consumers will be reached by the hydrogen core network in 2035. However: In many cases, the transport of hydrogen (or derivatives) by barge or rail represents a possible alternative or supplement to pipeline-based site supply.

Around eleven percent of the sites lie at a demand of over 500 gigawatt-hours of hydrogen equivalents (GWhHeq). For the most part, they entail uses like the production of basic chemicals and steel and the employment of ammonia and synthetic jet fuels. And 85 percent of the investigated 543 demand locations, in contrast, claim an annual demand of less than 150 GWhHeq. For these cases, the recommended alternative to pipeline-based supply is the provision by barge or rail.

Final study focuses on the year 2035
The national hydrogen strategy includes the installation of a hydrogen core network over 9,000 kilometers long by year 2032. It is intended to connect the major hydrogen feeders with all major consumers. The first phase of the market ramp-up, until 2035, requires the ability to offer answer options to the most important logistics questions. This applies in particular to the distribution options for the imported hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives that are required for the market ramp-up. The final study presented at the end of the project HySupply with the title “Wasserstoff Verteiloptionen 2035” (hydrogen distribution options 2035) therefore focuses precisely on this crucial period up to 2035 and provides an additional outlook for the following ten years up to 2045.

Fig. 3: Cost-optimized supply chains, Source: Fraunhofer IEG

Domestic transport costs only a small proportion of total costs

Between 3,400 and 16,000 euros per tonne of hydrogen equivalent (EUR/tH₂eq): This is how far the range of provisioning costs found in the study extends between the different use cases. In this, the import costs, with a range of 41 to 100 percent, make up the majority, whereas the costs for domestic redistribution, averaging five percent of costs, comes out comparatively low. In the economic evaluation were included the costs for the provision of hydrogen and its derivatives. The specific transport and conversion costs were additionally included.

Fig. 4: Cost model for evaluating the supply chains, Source: Fraunhofer IEG

Karen Pittel, Acatech presidium member and director of the IFO Institute’s center for energy, climate and resources (IFO Zentrum für Energie, Klima und Ressourcen), advocates flexibility in the distribution options: “These alternative distribution options play an important role in supplying the locations with comparatively low demand. They carry the necessary flexibility to come into implementation in the first phase of the market ramp-up. To be able to guarantee this, we should secure and expand the efficiency of the alternative distribution options.”

Nevertheless, the consistent expansion of the hydrogen core grid will play a central role, especially for locations with high demand. The parallel expansion of the various distribution options Robert Schlögl therefore also sees as crucial: “The completion of the hydrogen core network must be vigorously pursued. At the same time, we must also get implemented other tasks such as the expansion of the rail network or the development of CO2 infrastructure.”

Fig. 5: Categories of the modeled supply chain characteristics, Source: Fraunhofer IEG

Recommendations for action regarding hydrogen distribution options by 2035

  • The hydrogen grid must be further expanded. Storage options should be taken into account in the planning process.
  • The existing rail network must be expanded and new routes added.
  • The hydrogen import strategy should soon be published.
  • In the market ramp-up phase, hydrogen derivatives should initially be used as a material and only later as a hydrogen carrier.
  • Pipelines for product transmission should be used in the long term to support the distribution of hydrogen derivatives.
  • Sustainability criteria for the import of carbon-containing hydrogen derivatives should be guaranteed through the establishment of international certification systems.
  • Hydrogen and CO2 infrastructures must be planned together and built taking into account mutual interactions.

Spillmann, T.; Nolden, C.; Ragwitz, M.; Pieton, N.; Sander, P.; Rublack, L. (2024): Wasserstoff-Verteiloptionen 2035. Versorgungsmöglichkeiten von Verbrauchsstandorten in Deutschland mit importiertem Wasserstoff. Cottbus: Fraunhofer-Einrichtung für Energieinfrastrukturen und Geothermie IEG

Iryna Nesterenko, Philipp Stöcker
Both from Acatech – Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften