Hydrogen is considered crucial to transforming the energy market, especially in the northern parts of Germany and the Netherlands with their growing number of clean energy systems. On two North Sea islands, INTERREG project H2Watt is now investigating the opportunities that a hydrogen infrastructure can provide before it will put ideas into practice. Where will it be eco-friendly to switch to hydrogen? What is the best way to accomplish this? Representing a microcosm of a supply chain, both islands offer the perfect chance to study the real-world use of hydrogen. In late April, H2Watt was kicked off by a week-long virtual event showing video clips created by the project’s partners.
Sandwiched between the North and Baltic seas, Schleswig-Holstein is considered to have great potential for generating clean wind energy. Boasting an installed turbine capacity of around 6.7 gigawatts onshore and 1.8 gigawatts offshore, and a nearly 37 percent renewable energy share in total final consumption (122 percent in gross electricity use), Germany’s northernmost state is well above the national average. Its 2025 aim is to have renewables contribute up to 65 percent to state-wide energy generation. And by 2050, the North Sea and its coastal areas could be home to Europe’s largest clean energy system – ideal prospects for kicking off a real hydrogen economy.
A few years ago, research at Dresden-based Fraunhofer IFAM’s Hydrogen Technologies department led to the development of a paste-like substance that can provide on-demand energy under well-controllable conditions for multiple kinds of fuel cell applications. In partnership with businesses and other research institutes, IFAM has since launched several projects to demonstrate that this substance called PowerPaste, the main ingredient of which is magnesium hydride, is both safe and easy to handle. The institute is also currently building a system to produce multiple tons of PowerPaste a year for use in field tests.
How to use hydrogen, not oil, to power the economy
To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, Germany will need low-emission – if not zero-emission – solutions for transportation and industry. As part of a Kopernikus initiative called P2X, researchers are developing ways to safely store hydrogen in containers in atmospheric conditions. They use liquid organic hydrogen carriers, also known as LOHCs, which bind hydrogen reversibly and allow the subsequent separation of carrier material and gas through a special dehydrogenation unit. It is the only method for efficiently discharging this liquid storage. At the same time, however, the hydrogen needs to be upgraded to fuel cell quality.
Reducing global emissions by 7 percent
A new, revolutionary process developed by the Swedish steel industry could be a viable and competitive way to use hydrogen to displace coal and other fossil fuels in steelmaking. It would lower the carbon footprint of 1 ton of steel from 1.8 tons of CO2 to 25 kilograms.