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On the way to becoming a green hydrogen partner

On the way to becoming a green hydrogen partner

Oman aims to score points with H2 infrastructure

Wind, sun and loads of expertise – these ingredients are to be used intensively in Oman to produce green hydrogen in the future. In contrast to other Gulf states, the Sultanate is making great strides in this regard. The green hydrogen is to be exported, but also used locally. First projects are underway and the infrastructure is being expanded. Experts see Oman as a promising partner for the clean energy transition in Germany.

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The excavators have rolled in; the sand has been swept out of improvised offices. The go-ahead has been given for a steelworks in the industrial port of Duqm in the Gulf state of Oman. Starting 2027, green hydrogen is to be produced here. “Vulcan Green Steel” is what the Indian owners from the family Jindal have named this business branch, for which a separate quay will be built to ship the products – directly opposite the other quays, from which containers and vehicles are transported across the Arabian Gulf. Customers for the green steel Jindal sees in Europe, for example in the German automotive industry.

The infrastructure in Duqm (see photo on p. 4) is growing rapidly, and the new steel plant is one of the building blocks of Oman’s future, which is to logically develop in the direction of green hydrogen. For the export, according to Dr. Firas Al-Abduwani of Oman’s energy ministry, ammonia and methanol are currently being considered as the main means of transport. Part of the new energy source, however, they want to use within the country. Other parts and products such as green steel are to be shipped via the industrial ports in Sohar, Duqm or Salalah in southern Oman, for example to Germany.

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Future plans with the best prerequisites

Experts from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the German foundation Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP, see info box) see ideal conditions for the future plans of Oman: more than 2,000 kilometers of coastline, along which the wind blows around the clock, and eight to more than ten hours of sunshine per day.

Furthermore, the country has leading expertise in hydrogen production, well-developed ports with strategic positions and plants for desalinating seawater. These usually work with reverse osmosis to filter out dissolved substances. The associated costs for hydrogen production Dr. Dawud Ansari from the research group Globale Fragen (global questions) of SWP estimates as very little – he talks of about one percent of the cost per kilogram hydrogen.

The state institution Hydrom, however, does not want to commit itself to this yet. Hydrom has been developing a master plan for the green hydrogen sector in Oman since autumn 2022 and is creating the conditions for production. Also currently being discussed is the use of treated wastewater from the oil and gas industry.

Oman is pressing ahead with the development of green hydrogen as a future energy supplier so that it will be economically no longer predominantly dependent on dwindling oil and gas reserves. Also to be supported will be the country’s climate neutrality plans that the ruling sultan Haitham Bin Tarik set out in Oman Vision 2040. This could make the Sultanate a promising candidate for supporting the energy transition in Germany.

According to the Wuppertal Institut, a think tank for sustainability research, only up to one sixth of the expected H2 demand in Germany can be covered by domestic production in 2030. The majority will have to be imported – partners for this are being sought worldwide.

Pioneering work begins with five local consortia

Against this background, Oman is bringing itself in position: The strategy of Hydrom would allow for Oman to produce one million metric tons of green hydrogen annually starting 2030, and by 2050, it is to be around 8.5 million tonnes. By then, Oman wants to have fully reduced its CO2 emissions and additionally to have created around 70,000 new job positions. Estimated investment cost according to Hydrom and the energy ministry: around 150 billion US dollars.

To achieve the ambitious goals, pioneering work is now required: For example, it is important to attract companies that develop the corresponding technology. Electrolyzers for industrial processes that use sun, wind and water must be built. Furthermore, plans for sustainable, effective and economical business models are still needed.

The first five international consortia have just been awarded contracts by Hydrom to produce green hydrogen and ammonia for export and domestic consumption on a total area of around 1,500 square kilometers (580 sq mi) in the region Duqm. A further 1,800 square kilometers of land are currently being made available in southern Oman, in Salalah, via a second public tender. This auction is running until April 2024.

Potential for German companies

German companies are already involved in development in Oman. But Oman’s high-flying plans offer much more potential. This is the view of, for example, Dr. Abdullah Al-Abri, Omani consultant at the IEA – and hopes that the cooperation that was agreed in a Joint Declaration of Interest with Germany in summer 2022 will gain momentum.

“So far, the potential customers for green hydrogen from Oman are still mainly located in Japan or Korea,” opined the expert. Dr. Ruth Prelicz, expert for hydrogen and renewable energy systems at the chamber of commerce AHK Oman, however, stressed: “In summer 2023, the German energy supply company SEFE (Securing Energy for Europe GmbH) concluded an offtake agreement for liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Oman. This contract for LNG deliveries serves to build trusting business relationships and is also seen as a precursor to later deliveries of green hydrogen.”


Alok Bisen, who works for the Indian steel company Jindal, showing the construction area for green steel production in Duqm

Ruth Prelicz is observing the development on site: She is supporting the hydrogen foreign office Wasserstoffdiplomatie des Auswärtigen Amtes (H2Diplo) and the energy dialogue of the German economy and climate protection ministry (BMWK) in Oman. The expert sees a number of opportunities for German companies to benefit from cooperation with Oman in the field of green hydrogen: “It’s not just about the acceptance of the end product. Oman is also interesting as a market for German high-tech technology. Siemens Energy and ThyssenKrupp are established as potential suppliers of electrolyzers in Oman. And in the area of hydrogen transport, the Bavarian hydrogen experts of Hydrogenious as well as MAN Energy Solutions have presented their technology in the field of liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC) and methanol.”

Also companies specializing in hydrogen compressors, pipelines or measuring devices, in her view, will be in demand in the country in the future. Further opportunities for German companies could be in the areas of green hydrogen certification as well as training and education. According to the expert, TÜV Süd, for example, is already active in this in Oman.

Oman’s stable position in the region

That cooperation with the Sultanate is not only worthwhile from a trade policy perspective stressed Dr. Dawud Ansari of SWP. For him, closer (energy) relations with the Sultanate as Germany’s central partner in the region bring further advantages: “Germany has an interest in strengthening relations with and the economy in Oman, as the Sultanate constitutes a cornerstone of regional peace processes. Oman itself is very stable and safe – both in terms of trade relations and domestic policy and in relation to its neighbors. The Yemen conflict and other regional disputes will, thanks to Oman’s diplomatic fortitude and border security, not spread to the country.”

The research for this text was supported by Park Inn by Radisson Hotel & Residence Duqm as accommodation. https://www.radissonhotels.com

Further reading:

Current information from the state institution Hydrom, which is developing a master plan for the green hydrogen sector in Oman: hydrom.om

Vision 2024 of the Sultanate of Oman: oman2024.om

More information about the port in Duqm, where Oman’s first green hydrogen projects will appear: https://portofduqm.om

Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Publikationen, Dawud Ansari: Wasserstoff aus Oman für Deutschland und die EU – nicht nur aus energiepolitischer Perspektive sinnvoll. SWP-Aktuell 2023/ 9.3.2023 https://www.swp-berlin.org/publikation/wasserstoff-aus-oman-fuer-deutschland-und-die-eu

Die Geopolitik des Wasserstoffs. Technologien, Akteure und Szenarien bis 2040. Studie von Jacopo Maria Pepe, Dawud Ansari und Rosa Melissa Gehrung, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 16.11.2023. https://www.swp-berlin.org/publikation/die-geopolitik-des-wasserstoffs

The International Energy Agency (IEA), a cooperation platform in the field of research, development, market introduction and application of energy technologies, has commented on Oman’s great potential for the production of green hydrogen: https://www.iea.org, subitems News / Oman

The chamber of foreign trade Außenhandelskammer (AHK) Oman maintains a representative office of German industry in Oman’s capital Muscat. There, Sousann El-Faksch and Dr. Ruth Prelicz (ruth.prelicz@ahkoman.com) give information on the topic of green hydrogen: https://www.ahk.de/oman

Author: Natascha Plankermann

We can master a scale-up for green hydrogen

We can master a scale-up for green hydrogen

Interview with Dr. Kai Fischer, Director at RWTH Aachen

The efficient scaling of green hydrogen production technologies is an essential step in making hydrogen an economically sound part of the energy transition. With regard to this necessary and massive capacity expansion, the plastics industry has a lot to offer as far as the hydrogen industry is concerned, because plastics are high-performance materials whose property profile can be engineered very precisely for the intended application. Additionally, the processing technologies in the plastics industry allow high-tech components to be produced efficiently and in large numbers. Dr. Kai Fischer, scientific director at the IKV and responsible for the topic hydrogen economy, explains in this H2-international interview why the exchange between the two industries is so important, what significance plastics have for the scaling of hydrogen technologies, and how the cooperation between the participating industry partners is to be continued in the “Hydrogen Business and Technology Forum”.

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H2-international: Following the hydrogen study produced in the past two years, there now is the “Hydrogen Business and Technology Forum” to intensify the exchange between the hydrogen industry and the plastics industry. Why is that now important?

Fischer: Hydrogen is intended to become the backbone of the energy turnaround. Today, approx. 96 % is obtained from fossil resources such as natural gas and coal. Only 4 % is produced by electrolysis. For this – as some people may remember from school – water is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity. Electrolysis is the way to produce “green”, i.e. climate-neutral, hydrogen. And even for this 4 % electrolysis, only a small proportion of renewable energy is currently being deployed. Consequently, only a very, very small part of the production capacity is at present suitable for producing green hydrogen. Yet all today’s projections are aimed at producing green hydrogen. It is indeed important to see that a great deal needs to be done here with completely new development work. Large numbers of electrolysers and the corresponding infrastructure have to be put in place. That again means working with large numbers, and large numbers are always predestined for plastics. For this reason, we believe that plastics are the enablers to make hydrogen production economically scalable.

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And that is why you believe the plastics industry must get together with the hydrogen industry to exchange information and ideas?

Exactly. The people in the hydrogen industry are familiar with all the requirements of the process engineering plants, the media, the temperatures, the pressures etc. But, of course, they think not in plastic but in metal. It is not the case that the construction can simply be switched from metal to plastic. That would not bring any advantages. In order to find new solutions for the requirements of systems, it is necessary to go beyond substituting single metal components with single plastic components, and to look at functional integration. Precisely for this, this application know-how must be communicated so that the plastic value chain can say how solutions would ideally look in plastics.

Are there already examples in the hydrogen industry?

Yes of course. As an example, let us look at the end plates of a fuel cell. Here, many media have to be conveyed, both gaseous and liquid. Connections also have to be integrated. If they are made of metal, it means that a very large number of individual components have to be mounted. In the meantime, there are some applications in which this is solved by a single large injection-moulded part in which all media lines, connections, electronics etc. are already integrated.

This means that the hydrogen industry is not yet aware of the possibilities offered by the plastics industry?

These are two completely different worlds. The facilities for producing or converting hydrogen are classic process engineering plants. They consist predominantly of stainless steel with stainless steel pipes. The producers of such plants are indeed only seldom aware of the possibilities offered by plastics. For this reason it is important to bring the hydrogen OEMs with their knowledge of the requirements together with the plastics specialists with their know-how and their technical capabilities. Only in this way can we start to think in terms of highly integrated products that can be automatically manufactured in very, very large numbers. This is an absolute necessity if the scale-up of green hydrogen technologies is to succeed within a reasonable time and at reasonable cost.

How did the idea of a network forum come about?

The idea of a network forum came because, in 2021, we at IKV launched a market and technology study in cooperation with more than 20 companies in order to deal with this issue holistically. The study is, however, only really the basic package. Our aim was always to operate a continuous exchange to identify how plastics can help in establishing hydrogen. For this, we need continuity, and we have now implemented this in the form of this forum, which will meet regularly twice a year. These meetings will be supplemented by continuous technology monitoring. At the kick-off meeting, we also decided that there would be individual workshops on special topics between the meetings.

What were your impressions of the kick-off meeting and what did you think of the content?

It was a great event! We had a total of 50 participants in the room and four keynote presentations that were divided in equal parts between users of hydrogen systems and solution providers from the plastics value chain. We had very open and transparent discussions. In the breaks, the business cards were flying around and everyone was networking on a grand scale. As part of the event, we also charted the course for defining, according to the requirements, the elements of further cooperation for these two target groups.

As far as the content was concerned, I felt that a very lively demand exists for understanding the systems in the various segments – especially on the part of the plastics industry. I also felt that there are many companies who, irrespective of the competition in their hydrogen systems, are prepared to talk about the challenges because they hope for the push of the open-innovation approach – in other words the push from the supplier industry – and want to create competitive advantages through this in future.

Another aspect that I took from the meeting is that the companies in the plastics value chain, some of which are competing with each other, are very open to cooperation. For example, we discussed the fact that we would sound out in the consortium which testing and characterisation processes are available in which companies so that the companies can supplement each other. In this way, it will also be possible to identify supplementary demands and derive measures to realise them. It was truly noticeable that everyone is keen on baking this large pie together instead of generating competition and trying to grab the biggest slice of a small pie. This seemed to me to reflect the spirit of the meeting generally.

As you said at the beginning, the market and technology study forms the basis for this network. What are the most important things you have taken from this?

The hydrogen industry is still driven very much by traditional process engineering plants. An important finding is, however that we do not have to revolutionise the plastics industry in order to offer solutions to the hydrogen industry. Plastics can be compatible and there are numerous applications and good examples for the implementation of highly integrated and function-integrated components. This means that if the scale-up is necessary and the number of pieces must increase, the plastics industry can offer these solutions without reinventing the world. It is possible to transfer a lot from other industries, but it is naturally not necessary to be familiar with the specific applications in order to be able to suggest suitable solutions for the hydrogen industry. The good news is that we do not now have ten years of development ahead of us and the plastics industry must not fundamentally change or develop completely new products. For each industry it can take what is already there in order to further develop it and transfer it.

What happens now?

Our Forum member Freudenberg held theme workshop in August in addition to our half-yearly meetings to discuss the questions that the Forum participants had addressed fairly openly at the kick-off. The idea for specific workshops was born during the kick-off because the participants deisred an exchange on how to bring plastics expertise specifically into the development of new systems. Furthermore, the team is now starting the Market & Technology Monitor in order to continuously observe the market. We have agreed that it should be more than simply collecting the available information. The information should be questioned, evaluated and categorised. We will look exactly how reliable it is and how realistic the implementation scenarios are. In this way we will draw up an organised list of information, that we will pass on at three-month intervals to the partners in the forum.

Is it still possible to join?

Yes, it is. We naturally want this network to grow, and are pleased to have both small and large companies from the plastics value chain and naturally companies from the hydrogen value chain. Through the synergies of both industries, we can master a scale-up for green hydrogen and make it economical.

Hydrogen Business and Technology Forum


Dr. Kai Fischer leads the „Hydrogen Business and Technology Forum“

With its “Hydrogen Business and Technology Forum”, the Institute for Plastics Processing (IKV) in Industry and Craft at RWTH Aachen University has established a close network between the hydrogen economy and the plastics industry, where it regularly fosters the connection of requirements and application know-how with material and production know-how.

The “Hydrogen Business and Technology Forum” emerged from a market and technology study on plastics in the hydrogen economy initiated by the IKV and completed in November 2022. About 20 industry partners were already involved in the study. With regular workshops and a continuous Market & Technology Monitoring, the work is now being continued in the “Hydrogen Business and Technology Forum”. The kick-off for the Forum was 16 May 2023. The first thematic workshop dealt with “Testing and Analysis of Plastics in Hydrogen Applications” and took place on 9 August 2023 and was hosted by the Forum member Freudenberg. On 19 October 2023 Forum members met again at the IKV for its second regular Workshop. The Forum is still open to new members. Information at H2@ikv.rwth-aachen.de

Frustration over continuing uncertainties

Frustration over continuing uncertainties

Interview with Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, CEO of Hydrogen Europe

There is a lot that needs sorting out at a political level: A large number of industry representatives are waiting for politicians in Brussels and Berlin to put regulatory safety nets in place so they can make appropriate decisions about their investments. H2-international asked Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Europe’s “Mister Hydrogen” and CEO of Hydrogen Europe, about the European Union’s revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED III) and its Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEIs). The interview also touched on Germany’s 37th Ordinance on the Implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act (37th BImSchV) as well as the recently revealed problems with fuel cell buses and their refueling stations. His guest article about H2Global appears on page 48.

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H2-international: Mr. Chatzimarkakis, fortunately the adoption of RED III didn’t take as long as RED II. What do you think of the outcome?

Chatzimarkakis: The adoption of RED III is a positive step for the hydrogen industry in Europe. It provides clarity and the basis for funding and developing hydrogen projects and applications. That said, it’s important that it’s swiftly implemented so that the sector has the necessary planning certainty to make investment decisions.

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The extremely arduous procedure for IPCEI projects has been a massive headache for the H2 industry. Apparently there should now be some movement. Can you confirm that and shed some light on it?

Yes, the delays in IPCEI projects have troubled the industry, caused by bureaucracy at either a European or national level. The consequence has been that funding recipients have to wait too long and then they back out. That harbors the risk that projects could be carried out in the USA, for example. We can’t afford to lose any time as the creeping deindustrialization process is accelerated by such unnecessary delays. To counteract this, I was able to get things moving for one process or another. The IPCEI initiatives are crucial for the development of the hydrogen economy and the funding of innovation. It’s important that the bureaucratic hurdles are surmounted so these projects can move forward.

What feedback do you get from your members? Do they regret having applied in the first place?

Some of our members have expressed concerns about the long delays for IPCEI projects. They have invested considerable resources in the applications and are waiting for the green light in order to move their projects forward. It’s understandable that they are frustrated by the continuing uncertainties.

What’s your advice? To forgo funding and start something quickly themselves or to continue to wait?

The decision whether to forgo funding and start independently or to wait depends on each company’s individual circumstances. However, it’s important that funding is released as quickly as possible to support urgently needed hydrogen projects and accelerate rollout.

Sadly, the production of green hydrogen is still associated with high capital expenditure and financial risks. Despite funding, the long-term operation of a plant for producing green hydrogen on an industrial scale is often not viable. That’s why we still need alternative hydrogen production pathways which can produce more competitively.

Let’s turn our attention to Germany: Many have been waiting a number of years for the 37th BImSchV. To your knowledge, when will there be a new ordinance and what, to your knowledge, will it contain?

It’s regrettable that the revision of the 37th BImSchV is taking so long. Unfortunately, I don’t have any precise information on when a new ordinance is expected or what it will contain exactly. However, it’s essential that the ordinance takes into consideration the needs of the hydrogen industry and the requirements for reliable and efficient hydrogen production.

Allow me to ask two or three questions about the open letter that Hydrogen Europe recently received (H2-international has a copy). In it, various high-ranking industry representatives from the JIVE, JIVE 2 and MEHRLIN project consortium ask for an “improvement to the hydrogen refueling infrastructure for FC buses.” Did you receive this letter?

Yes, we received the open letter. We take the concerns of the industry representatives very seriously. Improving the hydrogen refueling infrastructure for fuel cell buses is of critical importance to support the spread of eco-friendly means of transportation. Waste-to-hydrogen, in particular, could be a piece in the puzzle. That’s because the costs of production, for example from biogas, are two to three euros per kilogram. Combined with the GHG quota, that quickly becomes viable.

The letter also says: “The members of the consortium are convinced that FC buses can be a practicable option for public transport throughout Europe. They have proven themselves to be reliable and have been well received by both passengers and bus drivers. However, the consortium is of the opinion that the technical readiness and the capabilities of hydrogen refueling stations (HRS) fall well below the requirements for the operation of an FC bus fleet. The consortium believes that this represents a huge obstacle and a limitation for the commercialization and proliferation of FC buses and could in fact represent a challenge for FC vehicles across Europe and perhaps, indeed, the world.” You are urged in this letter to recognize the significance of this problem and to conduct talks with industry about possible solutions as a matter of urgency. What’s your response to this?

The consortium’s concerns are justified. We’re supporting efforts to improve the hydrogen refueling infrastructure for fuel cell buses. For instance, we and our member companies are actively involved in standardization in this area – for example with ISO and UNECE. It’s important that industry and political decision-makers work together to find solutions to this challenge and to ensure that fuel cell buses are able to realize their full potential.

What’s more, AFIR [Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation] is sure to have a very positive effect on the ramp-up in refueling. It obliges EU member states to build hydrogen refueling stations at central European intersections and in city hubs. We’ve calculated that up to 600 refueling stations in total will need to be built within the EU by 2030. That will give a considerable boost to users of fuel cell buses.

Does that mean you will address this problem – including in the interests of your association members?

Yes, Hydrogen Europe is actively addressing this issue and is advocating for the improvement of hydrogen refueling infrastructure. We are committed to representing the interests of our association members and driving forward the development of the entire hydrogen economy in Europe.

Interviewer: Sven Geitmann

Extracts from the open letter

“If there is something needed for the commercial operation of buses in public transport systems, then it is an HRS that is reliable and available for operation. This basic standard is frequently unmet at current refueling units. Almost all sites in the JIVE, JIVE 2 and MEHRLIN projects experienced considerable downtimes for the refueling unit, meaning that vehicles were not deployable.”

“It took many months to achieve a reliable and robust refueling process, and during that time numerous faults occurred in the course of the refueling process which took considerable time to be remedied by the supplier – and this despite the inherent redundancy of the station.”

“Consortium members report problems with a range of essential hydrogen dispensing equipment. These problems are surprising given the extensive experience of hydrogen handling in industry.”

“Furthermore, the problems and comments are similar to those reported in numerous projects in the early 2000s. It is remarkable and extremely disappointing that the performance of compressors for the refueling of FC buses has clearly not yet reached the level necessary for the operation of a commercial fleet.”

“The project sites have reported that data transmission is often interrupted which causes refueling to stop or leads to refueling taking longer than necessary. The sensor in the nozzle is not robust. If it fails, the entire fuel nozzle unit has to be replaced at a cost of EUR 10,000.”

“Significant problems occurred in buses when tanks were converted from Type 3 to Type 4. At least in some cases, this appears to be due to information from the bus manufacturers not being passed on to the HRS OEMs.”

“Indeed, the HRS availability targets of above 98 percent had already been met, e.g., by some sites in the CHIC project; yet this level of performance was only achieved with considerable deployment of staff and financial input, in other words with higher costs.”

“Commercial operators require their vehicles to be available whenever and wherever they are needed (and at reasonable operating costs). This is perhaps the most important variable considered by operators if they are contemplating investments in new or additional vehicles. If they cannot be certain that the vehicles can be refueled when needed, none of the plans for expanding the fleet of FC buses will go ahead.”

“It is our opinion that the continuing refueling problems must be resolved if the EUR 407 million that have been invested in FC buses over the past 20 years from EU public funds as well as funds from industry, bus operators, SMEs and research partners is to result in the long-term commercialization of the buses. We are convinced that they can be quickly resolved if they receive the necessary attention and the requisite resources.”

“If ever there was momentum for hydrogen, it is now”

“If ever there was momentum for hydrogen, it is now”

Interview with Dr. Jochen Köckler, chairman of Deutsche Messe

“We’re bringing people together.” With these words Dr. Jochen Köckler, board chairman of Deutsche Messe, described Hannover Messe’s ambition to once again be the place to go in real life for exhibitors and visitors in the industrial sector in 2024. This year, the focus will be even more on hydrogen than in 2023. Köckler emphasized the need for more togetherness by saying that the establishment of an H2 economy will “only succeed if people from politics and commerce work together.”

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H2-international: Dr. Köckler, in 2023, hydrogen was already one of the five core topics you showcased during Hannover Messe. Will the presence of H2 technology increase again in 2024?

Köckler: We assume that we will experience a significant increase in the area of hydrogen. At Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe as well as in the other exhibition areas of Hannover Messe, the signs are pointing to growth.

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H2-international: What will you, on the part of Deutsche Messe, do in order to underline the major importance of the topic hydrogen?

Köckler: With Norway as this year’s partner country, we are focusing on the topic of energy, and with that especially the topic of hydrogen. Germany and Norway agreed on an energy cooperation back in January 2023. In the joint declaration on hydrogen, the two countries reaffirmed their intention to establish a large-scale supply of hydrogen, including the necessary infrastructure, by 2030. Norway will therefore position itself with its joint stand in the energy section of the Hannover Messe.

H2-international: With Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe, one of the most important H2 trade fairs in Europe is part of your industry show. What can visitors expect there?

Köckler: Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe has been the meeting place for the international community for around 30 years. They meet there, they discuss all critical topics in two forums there. The Public Forum deals with current topics such as the question of what contribution hydrogen can make to reducing CO2. In the Technical Forum, new products and solutions are presented. Visitors who are interested in the topic of hydrogen will be given a comprehensive overview of technical innovations there but also of different fields of application.

But H2 solutions will be shown not only at the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe in hall 13, but also in other areas of the Hannover Messe. We are pleased that increasingly more exhibitors with hydrogen-related and fuel cell-related products are represented. In total, we expect more than 500 companies in Hannover. This will give the hydrogen economy a real boost. Salzgitter AG, for example, is informing on climate-neutral production of green steel from green hydrogen in hall 13.

H2-international: Were you at the Hydrogen Technology Expo in Bremen? Are you impressed by how quickly this trade fair has grown and how professionally it has matured?

Köckler: When a topic gains in importance, new opportunities for trade fairs naturally arise. That is normal. Our advantage is that we have been working in the field of hydrogen and fuel cells for decades and, in all this time, have established a unique community. This appreciates the integration of Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Europe in Hannover Messe, as it has direct access to industry, the energy sector and politics here. No other trade fair in the world has this.

H2-international: What is your view of the German events sector? What are the advantages of Hannover Messe compared to now large European H2 trade fairs such as those in Rotterdam or Paris?

Köckler: Hannover Messe is a horizontal trade fair at which representatives from politics, commerce and academia exchange ideas every year. They cross-fertilize each other and work together to drive developments forward. In hall 2, for example, scientists from leading research institutes will be showing what products and solutions are being researched. In the other halls of the Hannover Messe, the focus is on specific applications. Politics will be even more strongly represented this year than in previous years, as in addition to the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, German economy minister Robert Habeck and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, are expected

The EU will be strongly represented overall. On the first day of the fair, the EU conference “EU as Home of the Decarbonised Industry” is taking place in the Convention Center on the fairgrounds in Hannover. At the event, industry representatives can exchange ideas with high-ranking EU politicians to discuss relevant topics such as the Green Deal. This possibility only Hannover Messe offers. Particularly in the energy sector is contact with politicians important, as all political decisions in this area have an impact on businesses.

Interviewer: Sven Geitmann

Just switch over?

Just switch over?

Hydrogen in the existing natural gas network

Whether hydrogen contributes to the clean heating transition will also depend on how easily existing natural gas networks can be converted. This is what Gasnetz Hamburg wants to find out in the project H2Switch100. For this, the company is looking at a very ordinary section of its existing network.

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There’s nothing special about the small grid section in the southern district of Hamburg – exactly why the grid operator Gasnetz Hamburg chose it. In total 16 connections, including 14 normal households, a business park and a sports club. In the residential buildings, natural gas heating systems are installed. The business park and sports club operate a combined heat and power plant with natural gas. There are in the partial network new PE (polyethylene) pipes as well as old steel pipes and house connections from various decades. “The network section is representative for Hamburg’s gas grid,” said Sebastian Esser, project leader at Gasnetz Hamburg.

The aim is to find out whether other ordinary network sections could also be converted to hydrogen. The mix of materials and designs distinguishes H₂-SWITCH100 from the longer-running project H2Direkt of the company Thüga in Hohenwart. There, already in winter 2023/24, ten households and one commercial customer are to be supplied with pure hydrogen. However, only PE pipes, known to be suitable for hydrogen, are installed there (see p. 30).

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Feasibility study with laboratory trials

In Hamburg, meanwhile, preliminary investigations are still pending. Together with the partners TÜV Süd and DBI Gas- und Umwelttechnik, Gasnetz Hamburg wants to demonstrate in a feasibility study within twelve months the integrity of the network for hydrogen. In the first step, samples from the original network will be sent to the lab. “For each component type that occurs in the network, we will examine at least one specimen,” said Esser.

In particular, these are individual gate valves and ball valves, but also entire service laterals and pieces of piping. In the laboratories of partner organizations, the components should then demonstrate that they are suitable for employment in a hydrogen network. Is there any embrittlement of the steel parts? Do the pressure regulators work? Are the shut-off devices tight? Answers to these questions are to be provided in the feasibility study running until August and funded by the investment bank IFB Hamburg (Hamburgische Investitions- und Förderbank).

“We’re very confident about the old components and the pipes themselves, as gas with about 50 percent hydrogen content was flowing through the pipes until the 1980s. Some components, however, were added later,” said Esser. The cost for this first project phase, according to Gasnetz Hamburg, lies “in the low six-figure range.”

Replace meter and burner

If the laboratory tests turn out positive, step 2 will follow: the actual conversion of the network. At issue will not be merely feasibility but also costs. Because even if the network is suitable for hydrogen, at the least the burner nozzles and the meters will probably have to be replaced. Lastly, the standard volume of gas must increase by a factor of three to compensate for the lower calorific value of hydrogen compared to natural gas.

“In the pipes themselves, this is no problem. Firstly, the hydrogen has a lower viscosity and therefore flows faster; secondly, we can slightly increase the pressure if necessary; and thirdly, the pipe diameters in the Hamburg gas grid are sufficiently dimensioned to accommodate the higher throughput,” erklärt Esser.

Many manufacturers already have up their sleeves heaters that can be operated with pure hydrogen, for the coming years. “As far as the combined heat and power plants are concerned, manufacturers have already announced their intention to make devices available for testing,” according to Esser. The additional costs incurred as a result of the pilot test will be borne by Gasnetz Hamburg. Thanks to this pledge, the supplier is being met with wide-open customer doors. “Even some neighbors who do not yet have a natural gas connection have now expressed an interest in hydrogen,” Esser recounted.

Hydrogen from planned industrial network

While the pipes and other components are very normal, the location of the network section is very special. It lies almost directly along the route for the already planned hydrogen network for the Hamburg industry with project name HH-WIN. Already in 2024, Gasnetz Hamburg wants to have built large parts of HH-WIN. In year 2027, the company intends to be able to supply the first hydrogen volumes. The confirmation that this will be an IPCEI (Important Project of Common European Interest), which is eligible for a particularly high level of funding, was still pending at the time of going to press.

“Compared to the needs of industry, the hydrogen requirement for the pilot project is minimal,” said Esser. The hydrogen for the industrial network is to come from three sources, which according to current announcements should all stand ready to be put into operation. On the one hand, there is the 100-megawatt electrolyzer that should appear directly in the industrial area at the site of the former coal-fired plant Kohlekraftwerk Moorburg. After some unrest within the project consortium, Hamburger Energiewerke wants to implement the project now together with asset manager Luxcara as majority shareholder. Commissioning is still targeted for 2026.

Secondly, hydrogen is to come to Hamburg via an ammonia terminal that Mabanft and Air Products announced at the start of 2022. By now, the project has undergone a nautical risk analysis, and the companies are in the process of compiling the documents for the approval procedure. As target year for commissioning Mabanaft still named 2026.

And thirdly, there is the European hydrogen core network of the grid operators. Both with the Netherlands and with Wilhelmshaven, Hamburg is connected by existing long-distance lines that are to be converted to hydrogen in the first project phase (see p. 30).

How low-CO2 the production of hydrogen will be in each case is difficult to say, as the regulations as well as the energy production and conversion are massively in motion.

Role of hydrogen in the heating transition unclear

If it turns out that the pipeline network could be easily repurposed, this does not make hydrogen the first choice for Hamburg’s heating transition. After all, in contrast to industry, there are many other options for heating buildings with significantly lower conversion losses. This consideration was once also the basis of the Wasserstoff-Roadmap (hydrogen roadmap), which prioritized – initially still scarce – green hydrogen for sectors that are difficult to decarbonize, including first and foremost industry. The environmental and energy office of Hamburg (BUKEA) also is following this strategy.

The Hanseatic city started collecting data for a heating register much earlier than most other large cities, and intends to present a complete heating plan already by 2024. In the city center, this will probably mainly be district heating, while heat pumps are popular in the peripheral areas.

“Certainly, converting the natural gas pipelines to pure hydrogen operation is not a solution for the whole of Hamburg,” acknowledged Michael Dammann, the technical managing director of Gasnetz Hamburg. “However, the further use of an already existing infrastructure with the green gas can be a sensible supplement to options like expansion of district heating and heat pumps in certain building structures and locations. With H₂-SWITCH100, we want to find out specifically what effort and costs are associated with such a changeover and whether there are technical hurdles.”

Author: Eva Augsten