Eleven founding members set up H2BX – Hydrogen for Bremerhaven Region as recently as two years ago. At the first meeting, the number had already climbed to 25, while there were more than 60 last November. The subsequent information event on “Hydrogen Technology in Practice – Prospects for Bremerhaven” attracted more than 150 attendees.
This is how fast it can go if a group of strongly dedicated people sense it is exactly the right time to push ahead because the will across the country is there. Today, this is true for the rapidly growing interest in hydrogen, not only, but especially, in this city at the sea.
Claas Schott, the president of H2BX, did expect a certain crowd but was a bit surprised how many showed up in the end. Originally, he wanted to hold the event in a much smaller room at the Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost building on Nov. 20, 2018. But now, even the big one was maxed out.
On Germany’s North Sea coastline, energy production has long been a topic of great importance. In his opening remarks, Nils Schnorrenberger, the chief executive of BIS, which has, for all intents and purposes, assumed the role of Bremerhaven’s economic development department, reminded attendees of a similar meeting about 20 years ago, when the issue was offshore wind farms. At the time, Bremerhaven was ahead of the curve and has benefitted from that for years. Now, it seemed as if hydrogen could develop in the same way, Schnorrenberger said.
Schott, the one who has come up with a lot of ideas and launched H2BX, then spelled out why the region at the mouth of the Weser river was especially suited for not only generating electricity from wind but producing and storing hydrogen. First, it offered the ideal environment thanks to many devoted stakeholders, who had helped get numerous projects underway in a matter of months. Second, the city possessed the ideal spot for hydrogen production, he said.
Plans are to turn a formerly uninhabited Weser island named Luneplate, which is part of Bremerhaven’s South District, into a hub for innovation and development by 2035. It already has an 8-megawatt wind farm installed. Now, startups and forward-looking demonstration projects would have to settle in the area and an electrolyzer would need to be put up as well. Professor Carsten Fichter, from Bremerhaven’s university, is preparing a road map for hydrogen use in the suburb and on Luneplate on behalf of Bremen’s economy senator.
“We are looking forward to receiving applications,” said Jörg Peters, who works for the economy department in the state, promising that his department would also become a member of H2BX. However, support didn’t pour in from the realm of politics only. Those who presented their businesses and products at the information event had much to say about getting new projects set up. For example, Pierre Steffen, Keyou’s CSO, explained how to use a hydrogen combustion engine to make transportation by commercial vehicle a zero-emission trip. Joachim Hoffmann provided attendees with an overview of Siemens’ extensive work in hydrogen and fuel cells, ranging from submarines and ferryboats to fuel cells and electrolyzers. Kathrin Schulz presented Storengy, a subsidiary of Engie and an operator of underground natural gas storage facilities. All of them stated their great interest in implementing projects across the region.
Even after the event was officially over, an informal get-together showed how good the region’s prospects are. Schott said that he had more than 10 years’ experience in offshore wind energy and that the idea to set up an association had been conceived in a discussion with two of his friends over a bottle of wine. A lot has happened since then. For example, H2BX has developed close ties to H2 Mobility, as Schott really wants to see a hydrogen fueling station being built in Bremerhaven. In February 2018, he was told it would require multiple declarations of intent to buy fuel cell cars to secure the city a spot on H2 Mobility’s list, and all of them had to be submitted by the end of March the same year if Bremerhaven wanted to be among the first hundred to be considered for a fueling site. In four weeks, Schott, whose main job is with Bremerhaven’s university, collected the signatures of 40 individuals who pledged to purchase 46 vehicles. Now, he is waiting for positive news from H2 Mobility’s Berlin headquarters.
Although everything went very quickly in the case of H2BX, one association member didn’t think it went quickly enough. He ordered his own fuel cell car, a dark blue Mirai, and has made it available to other members of the organization. The side of the car now features the association’s name in big letters, albeit the vehicle still needs to be driven 43.5 miles (70 kilometers) to Bremen to be filled up. This could change soon, since Bremerhaven is already a dot on the latest H2 Mobility map that shows the hydrogen stations in Germany.