Hydrogen Holds A Key to A Green Germany

The task of decarbonizing a major industrial nation like Germany was never going to be easy. But innovative German and international companies, with a helping hand from the government, are demonstrating how green hydrogen could help turn the tide toward a cleaner economy.

February, 2022

The city of Oberhausen in North Rhine-Westphalia is in many respects typical of Germany’s western industrial heartland: a densely populated municipality of over 200,000 people with a gasworks for a landmark and factories and chemical plants as far as the eye can see. It’s a perfect illustration of both the challenges Germany is facing with its transition to clean energy, and the critical role that green hydrogen will play in the energy turnaround.

Oberhausen’s busy cityscape will soon be joined by a 30-megawatt renewable hydrogen production plant being built by France-based Air Liquide in partnership with Siemens Energy. Scheduled for completion in 2023, the new proton-exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer facility will be integrated into the existing local pipeline infrastructure of Air Liquide to supply key regional industries and mobility.

GP Joule is a provider of renewable energy generated from solar radiation, wind and biomass and has been supplying power for electromobility, district heating and industry for many years. In 2020, it launched Germany’s largest green hydrogen mobility project to date: the eFarm H2 filling station in Schleswig-Holstein designed to power regional public buses. At the heart of the company’s ethos is the belief that the world can achieve a transition to 100% energy from renewable sources in the future, and the desire to deepen our connection with nature.

© Gesche Jaeger/laif

What’s also striking is that the plant will sell not only hydrogen but oxygen, which would otherwise be wasted, for use in steel-producing blast furnaces. That’s one example of how the hydrogen economy can help other sectors lower carbon emissions. In August 2021, the Oberhausen project was awarded EUR 10.9 million from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

For Air Liquide, simple geography was a major factor in its choice of location. “We carefully assessed which country we should choose, and Germany’s Oberhausen won out,” says Andreas Voss, a spokesman from Air Liquide Germany. “It’s crucial to build up hydrogen production capacity and hydrogen applications simultaneously in geographic proximity to one another if you want to narrow the price gap between grey (non-ecological) and green hydrogen.”

Germany’s serious commitment to decarbonization

The growth of cleantech in Germany shows its environmental protection policies are more than just spin.

No. 2

Germany is ranked second globally (after Japan) in terms of public access to hydrogen refueling stations*

4.4 M

tons of hydrogen were produced by Germany in 2020**

40 %

of all puplicly accessible hydrigen refueling stations in Europe are in Germany*

Sources:*ecomento, **VCI; German Federal Statistical Office

Air Liquide is involved in a whole spectrum of green H2 projects in Germany. Along with Siemens Energy, it is engineering mass-produced components to lower the cost of producing renewable H2. It’s been involved in a pilot program for fueling Daimler trucks with liquid hydrogen. It supplies green H2 and a mobile filling station to a pilot program for hydrogen-drive trains on Baden-Württemberg’s Tübingen–Sigmaringen line. And it is scheduled to build a centralized high-pressure H2 filling facility for the southwest German H2Rivers project to support fuel cell mobility.

“Burgeoning interest in green H2”

Just up the road from Oberhausen, in the city of Duisburg, the leading American provider of green hydrogen, Plug Power, is also expanding its presence in Germany with a new European headquarters. The facility will house an innovation center with engineering labs and technical support, a monitoring, diagnostics and technical support center, a green hydrogen generator with electrolyzer infrastructure, a shipping and logistics center, and a training space. That entails quite a financial commitment.

H2 INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES

In the first half of 2022, GTAI will conduct a series of roadshows to promote hydrogen-¬related industrial and research clusters in three of Germany’s traditional coal mining areas: Lusatia, Rhineland and Central Germany. The events will highlight investment opportunities at every stage and level of the hydrogen value chain. For more information, contact sandra.moser[at]gtai.com.

“The expansion to Europe comes as Plug Power faces a growing customer base abroad with the burgeoning interest in green hydrogen energy,” commented Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh in a meeting with Andreas Pinkwart, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy, last September.

Spurring all these activities are programs and incentives at the regional, national and European levels. Most prominent is Germany’s National Hydrogen Strategy, which sets the legislative agenda and allocates EUR 9 billion+ in government money.

Germany Trade & Invest’s senior manager of hydrogen, smart grids and energy storage, Heiko Staubitz, points out that the National Hydrogen Strategy has been providing the right stimuli for the hydrogen sector to pick up steam. “The regulative framework provides the guidance while the incentive programs accelerate the progress,” says Staubitz. “We have been receiving many inquiries from companies around the world with promising project ideas and innovative solutions.”