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55 MW electrolyzer to decarbonize Saarland

55 MW electrolyzer to decarbonize Saarland

Hydrogen Regions series: HydroHub Fenne living lab

The power plant site in Fenne, Völklingen, a long-standing power generation facility which celebrates its centenary this year, is now the focus of Iqony’s plans to meet the future energy needs of the industrial region of Saarland. Owned by the STEAG Group, Iqony specializes in renewable energy, hydrogen projects, energy storage, district heating and decarbonization solutions.

The site is already a major energy intersection for the state of Saarland in southwestern Germany and is at the crux of the area’s district heating supply. Along with the present facility, the site will in future be home to HydroHub Fenne, an addition that will ensure it remains an essential part of Saarland’s energy system in the years ahead.

“Due to its existing infrastructure, we see the site as ideally suited to the building of a hydrogen production facility at this location. The existing grid connection allows us to draw sufficiently large amounts of renewably generated power to produce renewable hydrogen here, close to the point of use,” explains Patrick Staudt who is in charge of hydrogen at Iqony Energies, a Saarland-based subsidiary of Iqony.

The project will need to comply with the provisions of the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and its associated German legislation so that the hydrogen produced in Fenne can also be classified as climate neutral according to the strict criteria set out in EU law. Iqony’s own trading division will provide support to make sure this happens.

IPCEI notification is vital

Depending on the number of operating hours, HydroHub Fenne will produce approximately 8,200 metric tons of green hydrogen a year. “The current plan is to commission the plant in 2027 – assuming that the latest statements on the completion of the IPCEI notification by the European Union are correct,” says Patrick Staudt.

IPCEI stands for Important Project of Common European Interest. Iqony applied to have its Saarland hydrogen project recognized as an IPCEI back in spring 2021. Dominik Waller, who is responsible for project development alongside Patrick Staudt, explains the significance of the decision: “Our project needs to gain recognition as an IPCEI to allow the German government to support us financially with the investment. It’s impossible without IPCEI notification due to European law on competition and state aid.”

The prospects are looking good for the project in Fenne. A final decision is expected in Brussels by the end of 2023 – more than two years after the original announcement was due. “Once we have the funding authorization from the EU, it will then be a matter of the government putting specific funding in place. That should happen in the first quarter of 2024 which will mean we are on track in terms of the project schedule,” elucidates Patrick Staudt.

Public funding of the project is necessary because there is not yet a functioning market for hydrogen in general or for green, i.e., renewable, hydrogen in particular. Hydrogen can help industry or, for example, local public transport avoid carbon dioxide emissions. However, hydrogen finds itself in financial competition with other energy sources such as natural gas. In economic terms, hydrogen is no match for other energy forms at present, precisely because a competitive marketplace has still to develop.

“We see this as a classic chicken-and-the-egg problem: Potential hydrogen producers are holding back on their investment decisions, waiting for definitive signs of future off-takers. On the other hand, potential off-takers are not investing in converting their processes and plant technology while there is no guarantee that the required hydrogen will be available in sufficient quantities in the future. The only way of getting out of this dilemma is if public authorities provide investment security for both sides in the form of funding,” acknowledges Dominik Waller.

As for the level of funding for HydroHub in Fenne and the overall capital outlay, Iqony is not at liberty to divulge specific figures for competitive reasons. However, a few hundred million euros are expected to be invested in the project. “We won’t be able to give a more exact figure until the tender for the plant technology has been concluded,” says Patrick Staudt. Though this will only be when the funding letter has been received. According to Staudt, this once again shows how fundamentally important the conclusion of the IPCEI process is in order to progress the project further.

Fig. 2: Site development

Tenders on the market

Another stipulation resulting from the funding conditions for an IPCEI-designated project is that the hydrogen produced can’t simply be sold in the usual way. “We’re obliged to use tenders to bring our product to market so that all potentially interested parties have a chance to participate,” states Dominik Waller. This is where the Fenne location is said to be to the company’s advantage, since it already has a disused gas pipeline connection that could be employed in future to link HydroHub Fenne to the hydrogen supply network being created. Waller continues: “It’s also why we are paying close attention to the current discussion on the government’s plans for a core hydrogen network – and here we see the need for further improvement, especially for Saarland.”

This expressly applies not only to the delivery of the future electrolyzer in Fenne through the core network draft, which was presented by FNB Gas to Germany’s Federal Network Agency in November 2023, but also to the present STEAG and Iqony power plants in Bexbach and Quierschied (Weiher power plant). “At both sites we want to build new, hydrogen-compatible gas power plants – just like the government itself has set out in its 2030 target, so we can switch off old coal-fired units, meet our national climate goals while at the same time ensuring the security of supply if wind and solar power aren’t available in sufficient quantities,” says Andreas Reichel, CEO of STEAG and Iqony.

Reichel adds: “Current government plans do not yet envisage bringing the core hydrogen network to these two locations, which will be necessary to make this happen. That said, we’re grateful to the Saarland regional government for its reassurance that this is precisely what it will be campaigning for in Berlin.” If such efforts are successful, it would enable Iqony to build new power plant capacity in Saarland by 2030 which is urgently needed to guarantee security of supply as well as ensure the green transformation of power generation in Saarland.

In the medium and long term, it is then hoped that these and other new gas power plants will be run on hydrogen to provide a reliable, carbon-neutral supply of energy. If the core hydrogen network planned by the German government is not immediately routed to within close proximity of the sites, this will be completely impossible. Despite the unresolved issues, Iqony is optimistic about the realization of its hydrogen and power plant projects on the River Saar:

“We have the technical and commercial expertise from more than 85 years in the global energy industry, we have the right locations and we have proven through the construction and commissioning of one of the world’s most advanced combined-cycle power plants in Herne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, at the end of 2022 under difficult COVID-19 conditions, that we can carry out challenging large-scale engineering projects on time and on budget – if the regulatory environment allows us to do so,” concludes Andreas Reichel.

Author: Dr. Patrick Staudt, Dominik Waller, both from Iqony

SMEs demand more security

SMEs demand more security

Guest article by André Steinau, CEO of GP Joule Hydrogen

After all, the Ampel Coalition leading the German federal government did reach an agreement shortly before the end of the year. And the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy will – again after all – not be completely slowed down, but will continue. But: Among others, the subsidies for erecting refueling and charging infrastructure (“Zuschüsse zur Errichtung von Tank- und Ladeinfrastruktur”) will sink in the climate fund Klima- und Transformationsfonds 2024 by 290 million euros (from 2.21 to 1.92 billion euros), and – the second but – the framework until now was and is for the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy in Germany simply not sufficient.

This is particularly incomprehensible in view of the enormous relevance that hydrogen production has for achieving the expansion targets for renewable energies and thus also for achieving the climate targets. The generation of electricity from wind and sun is in any case dependent on the weather. Accordingly, everything that helps to integrate renewables into our overall energy system, temporarily store their energy and transport it to consumers must be promoted. Electrolysis has a particularly high value here, as it makes the energy in the form of hydrogen usable independently of time and then enables the distribution of the energy through transport on the road, by rail or in pipelines.

A gigantic market is growing here. Sustainable and at the same time vital if we want to avert the worst consequences of the climate catastrophe. In the USA, this has been recognized. There, in the framework of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), many billions will be invested in the development of the green hydrogen economy and thus also in the transformation of the industrial sector.

And here? Here, subsidies are still too often viewed as if they were gifts for risk-free entrepreneurship. The opposite is true. For the hydrogen projects alone that GP Joule is just implementing, a good 30 million euros in funding applied for or approved spurred nearly 60 million euros in private investments.

But uncertainty scares off investors, whether banks, entrepreneurs or other financiers. Financing green hydrogen projects is becoming increasingly difficult. Banks are demanding higher risk premiums. At the same time, subsidies are falling – see above – rather than attracting. The German government behaves hesitantly. Previously announced funding programs are a long time coming. All not good signals.

The promised calls of funding for electrolyzers, hydrogen refueling stations and, above all, fuel cell trucks should swiftly be put on the road, because the ramp-up of hydrogen production requires security of purchase. Hydrogen producers, infrastructure operators and truck manufacturers only have this security if vehicles are subsidized.

However, with a coherent policy, the state would need to be not only a giver of consumption security but also investment security as a guarantor. If the financing of hydrogen projects – also due to the international crises from Ukraine to the Middle East – becomes increasingly impossible, it will also become increasingly difficult to produce green hydrogen competitively and cheaply. Banks and companies from the world of capital and finance are indeed looking for ways to finance H2 projects. However, in the current market ramp-up phase, the state is also urgently required to provide financial impetus through industrial and economic policy.

There are plenty of suggestions as to what these impulses could look like, how the state can become a guarantor: instead of pure investment funding, a type of fixed remuneration on the basis of the capacity of the hydrogen refueling station that is payed out over a period of eight to ten years under the condition of a consistently high performance of the refueling station, which makes the now needed infrastructure establishment commercially possible.

The state could also really be a guarantor and provide cheap credits for hydrogen projects, for example through a loan program of the public fund KfW.

For the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy in Germany, strong incentives are urgently needed. The instruments are on the table. If they are not used, Germany could, after the relocation of the solar and wind turbine industries, be facing the collapse of the next crucial pillar of the energy transition. It would not only be bad news for the climate, but also for the country’s economic status.

Author: André Steinau, GP Joule Hydrogen, a.steinau@gp-joule.de

Hydrogeit Verlag turns 20 years old

Hydrogeit Verlag turns 20 years old

Hydrogeit Verlag is proudly celebrating its 20th anniversary as a renowned specialist publisher in the world of hydrogen and fuel cell technology. Founded in 2002, the journey began under the visionary leadership of mechanical engineer Sven Geitmann, who wrote a thesis on “Hydrogen as a fuel for vehicle drives” in 1997.

20 years of pioneering work in hydrogen and fuel cells:
Geitmann’s passion and commitment to hydrogen and fuel cell technology is reflected in the publisher’s long-standing history: for two decades we have strived to share the latest developments, innovations and success stories as well as detailed knowledge for the entire H2 and FC sector. Our primary concern is to ensure objective and independent reporting that provides confidence and clarity to our readers.

Outstanding Achievements:
Over the years, Hydrogeit Verlag has achieved significant milestones. The HZwei magazine is enjoying increasing popularity, both in digital form and as a high-quality print version. The hydrogen blog shines with current articles and exclusive interviews. And the calendar offers a comprehensive overview of events in the hydrogen and fuel cell industry. The extensive business directory is a proven resource for companies and experts. The first-class Google rankings, which make the content accessible to a wide audience, are the result of many years of dedicated work.

A look back and into the future:
Sven Geitmann, founder and owner of Hydrogeit Verlag, remembers the beginnings, when he personally put content online and even designed the first editions of his books himself.

“I had to spend hours trying to log into the university server via modem. But it was worth it – and luckily I no longer have to do everything myself. Today, when I look back on the past 20 years, I realize how far we have come together. I would like to emphasize that this success is not solely due to my work. A great team of professionals and talented authors accompanied me on this journey. Their dedication and expertise are essential parts of our outstanding reporting and information resources.

We are grateful for the support of our readers, authors and employees and look forward to further successful years in the service of hydrogen and fuel cell technology. We assure you that we will do our best in the future to continue to provide high-quality content and advance hydrogen and fuel cell technology,” explained Geitmann.

Visit us at www.h2-international.com to find out more.

Stracke other H2Now managing director

Stracke other H2Now managing director

BMV Energy GmbH is entering the market as another player in hydrogen refueling stations. The owner-managed, medium-sized company together with Score founded H2Now GmbH in August 2023 and appointed Stefan Schwarzer as managing director to advance the establishment of refueling stations with green hydrogen, particularly for commercial vehicles. In November 2023, the Berlin-based company announced that the company will be co-represented with second managing director Andrew Stracke in April 2024. Stracke was prior to this a member of the executive board at Westfalen AG.

H2Now was brought to life jointly by the petroleum company BMV and Score, a gas station operator with headquarters in Emden, to bundle the synergies of the medium-sized companies. To the BMV corporation belongs a gas station network with 145 stations of the brands Sprint and Go. According to the management, there are “already established locations suitable for the addition of a hydrogen refueling station with the help of H2NOW, to become part of the Germany-wide hydrogen station network and be supported with extensive know-how in project planning, funding, realization and operation.”

Starting points for a comprehensive hydrogen ramp-up

Starting points for a comprehensive hydrogen ramp-up

Industry congress GAT 2023 in Cologne

To establish a functioning hydrogen economy, the entire value chain must be addressed. It is important to keep in view the market and regulatory aspects as well as the technical aspects (standardization). At the event GAT 2023 in September in Cologne, it could be seen how intensively the industry is working on the implementation. Exciting here are, among other things, the conversion plans of the gas grid operators towards climate-neutral gases. The second phase of the GTP also shows the great interest on the part of municipalities and the industrial sector.

Dr. Kirsten Westphal made clear how the German association for energy and water economy (Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft, BDEW) see the heating market of the future: “Instead of natural gas, in the future especially hydrogen and its derivatives will be employed,” said the member of top management at the event in Cologne. The hydrogen will come from domestic production as well as a considerable portion from imports. The BDEW is not worried that it will come to a deficit situation. “The studies show that sufficient quantities of hydrogen will be able to be made available,” stated Westphal.

However, the ramp-up of hydrogen production requires the right framework conditions. Regarding this, the BDEW representative counts in addition to the acceleration and strengthening of the expansion of renewable energies in Germany also the quick notification of IPCEI projects (Important Projects of Common European Interest) for hydrogen production by the EU, which will then actually occur at the end of the year (see p. 20), as well as other supplementary funding programs to reach the electrolysis capacity target of 10 GW in year 2030.

On the import side, Westphal is calling on politicians to present an import strategy in the short term. Furthermore, the financing of import projects should also be flanked by measures such as Hermes cover (export credit guarantees) or capital subsidies.

Establishment of a functioning H2 trading market

One aspect of particular importance, however, is to embed the ramp-up of hydrogen production in the development of a market. In each of the various phases in this, different political instruments are needed: to begin, more steering and support; later, a growing market and less support. The visualized goal is a functioning trading market in which hydrogen volumes are efficiently distributed according to market-based mechanisms.

But what characterizes the image of the targeted steady-state hydrogen market? In Cologne, the BDEW expert named a whole bundle of criteria:

  • Production and trade of hydrogen and its derivatives in Germany, the EU and globally in sufficient quantities
  • The combination of long-term contracts (particularly at import level) with competitive prices that reflect current market conditions as well as increasing spot deliveries
  • The trading of guarantees of origin, certificates and commodities on a uniform, standardized European market that includes an international connection
  • Competition for access to end customers as well as transparent price signals and sufficient market liquidity on the supplier side
  • A fully functional and comprehensive network infrastructure. Non-discriminatory grid access for all competitive players on the hydrogen market. H2 grid access is essentially based on the entry-exit system.
  • Climate-neutral hydrogen is used wherever there is demand. Demand is based on the market price.
  • Storage options ensure security of supply for hydrogen and derivatives and open up various ways to make the hydrogen market flexible. There is decentralized generation and purchase as well as central storage.

In all these projects are, according to Westphal, a transparent and reliable standardization as well as certification needed, to also create acceptance for hydrogen and its derivatives, which also needs a stable regulatory framework.

Standardization of particular importance

The establishing of standards is also the means of choice from the view of Dr. Thomas Gößmann. According to the Thyssengas chairman, it should be borne in mind that the approval offices have had little contact with the topic of hydrogen until now and therefore have no experience in most cases.

For Germany as an export country, the agreement on international standards is of particular importance, stated Oda Keppler, ministerial director at the German ministry for education and research (BMBF), at GAT. This applies, among other things, for the quality criteria for the product hydrogen, as otherwise the international trading of it could not be done.

For the success of the hydrogen economy, it is crucial, according to Gößmann, to involve the people. “If the country of engineers succeeds in taking the people with it, then we will also succeed,” the Thyssengas chairman is certain. It is also important not to focus too much on the color principle of the hydrogen. This is hardly comprehensible for many people anyway. “We are colorblind. We’re setting up the highway. It doesn’t matter to us who drives on it,” said the grid operator.

Dr. Frank Reiners is certain that the hydrogen economy will only really take off when the entire value chain is populated. According to the member of the management board of Open Grid Europe, however, pipeline construction is of particular importance. Germany as a hub has a special role and responsibility here, as many gas pipelines come on land or come together here. “We cannot afford to do nothing,” stated Reiners in Cologne.


Prof. Gerald Linke, chairman of the DVGW, said at the opening of the industry event GAT in Cologne, “The backbone network must provide all regions in Germany with access to climate-neutral hydrogen.”

H2 core network for all regions

The German association for gas and water standards (Deutscher Verein des Gas- und Wasserfaches, DVGW) welcomes the federal government’s initiative, in an amendment to the energy industry act (Energiewirtschaftsgesetz), to establish a legal framework for the rapid approval and construction of a hydrogen core network. However, to the DVGW, this approach does not go far enough. “The backbone network must provide all regions in Germany with access to climate-neutral hydrogen, as otherwise an exiting of entire economy sectors is imminent, especially the small and medium enterprises,” said the DVGW chairman Prof. Gerald Linke at the industry event.

In a second step, transformation regulation for gas distribution grids is therefore also needed. Without an extensive conversion of the existing gas distribution infrastructure, it will not be possible to transform the connections of 1.8 million industrial and commercial customers toward climate neutrality, stressed Linke.

The basis for the transport to end customers has been laid out in the so-termed Gasnetzgebietstransformationsplan (gas grid area transformation plan, GTP) by the DVGW together with the initiative H2vorOrt. In the current second planning year, 241 gas distribution system operators have participated, a significant increase compared to the 180 companies in the previous year. Currently, the GTP covers pipelines with a total length of 415,000 km (258,000 mi) and reaches 381 of the total 401 regional districts of Germany.

The planning process with the GTP is deliberately designed to be open-ended and includes the conversion, decommissioning and partial new construction of pipelines. Considered are all new, climate-neutral gases, so in addition to hydrogen also for example biomethane. The aim of the GTP is to accelerate the transformation at the distribution grid level and, by the individual planning of the grid operators in coordination with the other stages of the supply chain, to create a coherent vision for the whole of Germany. As part of the GTP planning, the grid operators are analyzing on the basis of their specific situations on site the demands of their customers, the decentralized feed-in situation, the development of hydrogen availability by upstream network operators and the technical suitability of their networks for hydrogen.


For the first time in Germany, the conversion of a long-distance gas pipeline to transport hydrogen has begun at OGE Verdichterstation Emsbüren

Municipalities and industry are planning with hydrogen

Part of the GTP is also a survey of end customers by the respective network operators. This revealed a clear preference for the use of climate-neutral gases. Only five percent of the nearly 1,000 surveyed municipalities see no need in the long term for the use of climate-neutral gases. Of the nearly 2,000 major industrial customers who responded, more than three quarters are relying on hydrogen in the future. And 29 percent already see the use of hydrogen as an option by 2030, while a further 30 percent expect this in the coming decade.

Some current projects show that these visions are already currently being implemented. For example, mid-October at Verdichterstation Emsbüren, a compressor station of grid operator OGE in Niedersachsen, was the start of the conversion of the first long-distance pipeline to transport hydrogen (see Fig. 3). As part of the project GET H2 Nukleus, this is to establish the core for a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure. With the changeover, the participating network operators want to enable customers from industry and SMEs to connect to the hydrogen supply.

Most of the municipalities surveyed, according to the DVGW poll, are counting on climate-neutral gases in the long term

Another project started at the beginning of November in Energiepark Bad Lauchstädt with the start of the second phase of the conversion of a natural gas pipeline for the transport of hydrogen. For the technically seamless operation of the grid of the future of transmission system operator Ontras Gastransport, a pig launcher was placed in position. The following months will be preparation for putting into operation the hydrogen pipeline. For this, the construction of a transfer station as well as setting up a system for purifying and drying the gas are necessary. Once Energiepark Bad Lauchstädt is fully operational in year 2025, test transfers of hydrogen will follow, scientifically accompanied by DBI-GTI (DBI Gastechnologisches Institut gGmbH Freiberg), an independent laboratory of the DVGW.

Such projects help to increasingly address the locational advantages of the continent. At GAT in Cologne, Prof. Thomas Thiemann of Siemens Energy summed up the situation as follows: “With its large pipeline network and storage facilities, Europe has a huge asset compared to other areas. We must exploit this advantage.”


Out of the surveyed industrial customers, 76 percent are interested in hydrogen

Study: Green hydrogen not more expensive than gas in the long term

End customer prices for green hydrogen in the medium and long term could be in the range of natural gas or the current subsidization threshold of natural gas of 12 euro-cents per kWh (Gaspreisbremse). That is what the study by Frontier Economics on behalf of the DVGW determined. If total costs are compared – so costs for acquisition, building renovation and operation, – then the cost for both single-family and multi-family houses with a gas boiler powered by hydrogen, depending on building type and efficiency class, lie at a similar level to an electrically run heat pump. In the study, the total costs of various energy carriers for households as well as for exemplary heat supply solutions were compared with each other.

For the cost comparison, indicative end customer prices based on production costs were used. In addition to the prices for gaseous energy sources, the DVGW study also compares the total costs that households may incur depending on the heat supply solution. Because if the goal is to meet the climate targets, heat generation for buildings in Germany must be fundamentally changed, according to the DVGW.

The aim of the investigation is, on the one hand, to put the end customer prices of green hydrogen in relation to alternative energy sources for households in the years 2035 and 2045. On the other hand, the analysis focuses on the total costs of different heat supply solutions for two selected building types in the efficiency classes B and D. Considered are green gas boilers based on biomethane and climate-neutral hydrogen as well as heat pumps.

Overall, the comparison shows that the cost ratios of the energy sources change over the period under review. While end customer prices for climate-neutral hydrogen in Germany are expected to remain above those for natural gas and biomethane until 2035, they could reach a comparable level by 2045.

Households in Germany would therefore have to pay between 12 and 17 euro-cents per kWh for hydrogen in 2035. The price of natural gas, on the other hand, taking rising CO2 prices into account, would be between 9 and 11 euro-cents per kWh, and that for biomethane just above, at around 10 to 13 euro-cents per kWh, depending on the biomass used in its production.

After 2035, end customer prices for hydrogen could fall and approach those of natural gas. The main drivers for this include the degression of costs for H2 production and rising CO2 prices in the context of emissions trading. In year 2045, according to the study, purchase prices for hydrogen could then lower to around 11 to 15 euro-cents per kWh.

Author: Michael Nallinger