Green hydrogen is the future of the German steel industry, which is currently facing major pressure to change due to the challenges of climate protection and increasing international competition. Through H2-aided steel production by direct reduction (DR), on the one hand, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the steel sector can virtually be avoided and, on the other, the industry of Germany can once again demonstrate its strength in innovation. With this in view, energy consultancy Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik (LBST) is busy preparing a new analysis in the form of a metastudy on behalf of the German hydrogen and fuel cell association (Deutscher Wasserstoff- und Brennstoffzellen-Verband, DWV) in cooperation with DWV’s special advisory group HySteel on the role of green hydrogen in the steel industry.
Here’s a sobering statistic: Out of a total of 10 hydrogen living labs, only five have actually been rolled out. Peter Altmaier, economy minister in the previous German government, had enthused grandiosely about the practical relevance of the projects he was supporting and went to great lengths to rebut any criticism of them. Even during the selection process, a fair number of voices could be heard complaining that the time for demos had passed. And yet Altmaier used the full force of his authority and sailed on. Today the reality is that the majority of these field trials have yet to swing into action, hampered by excessive bureaucracy and onerous conditions.
Gaseous or liquid hydrogen? It’s a dilemma facing everyone involved in the refueling of heavy-duty vehicles. It makes no difference to the power system whether the fuel is a gas or a liquid as the fuel cells can process the hydrogen regardless. In infrastructure terms, however, it’s another matter. The consensus among experts is that it’s not economically viable for fuel station operators to support every available technology in the long run. One alternative is cryogas, which is produced by cooling pressurized gas to extremely low temperatures or by directly compressing liquid hydrogen. Work is currently underway to deliver cryogas tank systems that will give a range of around 620 miles (1,000 kilometers), the CryoTRUCK project and the Salzburger Aluminium Group initiative being prime examples.
During a media-effective ceremony on May 12th, 2022 at the event hotel Titanic on the Chausseestraße in Berlin, NOW GmbH together with German transport minister Volker Wissing cheerfully presented the funding decisions for the new HyStarter Regions and the participants in the second round of the HyExperts program. A good two years before, Martin Thaler, as the representative from the city of Fulda, likewise stood onstage in Berlin to accept funding from the federal transport minister, then Andreas Scheuer. It was 300,000, an outcome from the first call for HyExpert Regions. What has happened in the meantime? What is special about Hydrogen Region Fulda?
Commonly known is the ever-increasing need to transport energy from north to south within Germany. The rapidly expanding renewable energy generation capacities from wind in the North Sea and the onshoring of liquefied natural gas (LNG) or hydrogen at German seaports – whether as an international import or generated offshore – are further increasing this need.
So far, H2 has comprised only a tiny slice of the German gas grid. And the suitability of increasing this share to up to 30 percent is currently only being tested within the framework of individual, time-limited demonstration projects. H2 “micronets,” that is city districts or regions running 100 percent on hydrogen, are yet to exist. But Lennart Lohaus has recently demonstrated that H2-based solutions can already be economically attractive today. As part of his master thesis, he developed an optimization model for designing regenerative supply solutions with hydrogen as energy carrier for the coal district Rheinisches Revier.
The German capital is also becoming increasingly important for hydrogen activities as an industrial location. Siemens Energy announced at the end of March 2022 that the manufacture of electrolyzers will be occurring at its location on the Huttenstraße in Berlin-Moabit. Starting 2023, electrolysis capacities on a gigawatt scale are to be produced there.
The future of the DZM, a national center for future mobility, is more than unknown. The homepage currently only states: “The Deutsche Zentrum Mobilität der Zukunft (DZM) will be restructured and expanded in accordance with the agenda of the new federal administration.”
For this Scandinavian country, the natural foundation for a hydrogen economy, compared to many others in Central Europe, is rather good. Finland has sufficient renewable energy resources, an enormous amount of water sources at its disposal and competitive electricity prices. Of the electricity generated from renewables in 2021, the highest share in Finland was nuclear at 35.6%, but hydro with 22.5% constituted nearly one quarter. Wind with 12.5% was the third most significant renewable electricity source. Biomass closely followed with 10.3%. All this accompanied by an intensely developed and reliable energy transmission network and the technological and digital expertise to make power generation in Finland extremely efficient and low cost.
While German economy minister Robert Habeck is busy visiting Qatar and Norway in a bid to ease Germany’s dependence on Russian energy supplies, representatives from the Italian government are heading for Algeria, Angola and the Republic of Congo. The German administration, it would seem, still continues to undervalue Africa, both as a potential supplier of natural gas and a partner for new hydrogen projects.