Uniper eyes developing hydrogen hub

By Jack Burke21 April 2021

410 MW electrolysis plant also planned

Energy company Uniper said it wants to establish a hydrogen hub in Wilhelmshaven, Germany.

The Green Wilhelmshaven hub would include an import terminal for green ammonia equipped with an ammonia cracker for producing green hydrogen. The terminal would also be connected to a hydrogen network. A 410 MW electrolysis plant is also planned, which—in combination with the import terminal—would be capable of supplying around 295 000 metric tons or 10% of the demand expected for the whole of Germany in 2030. The generated climate friendly hydrogen will primarily be used to supply local industry, but it will also be possible to feed it into the national hydrogen network. This approach will help to solve one of the key problems of energy transition: security of supply. The NH3 splitting plant for producing green hydrogen would be the first scaled plant of its kind, the company said.

“It is essential that Germany and Europe remain industrial powerhouses: If we want to achieve this and still hit our ambitious climate protection targets, we need hydrogen to power sectors such as steel production, the chemicals industry or in freight, shipping and air transport,” said David Bryson, COO Uniper. “In other words: We need ‘green molecules’ as well as ‘green electrons’. We need to get hydrogen out of the laboratory and start using it in large-scale applications and marketable industrial solutions — we should make it into a commodity and exploit its wide variety of uses. One way of achieving this is to import green ammonia and convert it into hydrogen, which is something we are looking at for Wilhelmshaven. Currently, Germany plans to generate 14 TWh of green hydrogen in 2030, but the demand for that year is forecast to be 90–100 TWh — the discrepancy between these two figures is abundantly clear. We will be heavily dependent on imports if we want to use hydrogen to help us achieve our climate goals.”

Commissioning of the new terminal is planned for the second half of this decade, depending on national import demand and export opportunities.

Green Wilhelmshaven with its combination of hydrogen import and production is one of the projects Uniper is proposing to create a common European hydrogen market and submitted to the German Federal Ministry of Economics a few weeks ago as an “Important Project of Common European Interest” (IPCEI). IPCEIs are intended to promote integrated projects along the entire hydrogen value chain. In addition Uniper is working with its partners on a project to ascertain whether it would be feasible to build a direct reduction plant with upstream hydrogen electrolysis on the site of the existing power plant in Wilhelmshaven, as well as the required infrastructure for supplying raw materials. The aim is to produce around 2 million metric tons of “green” crude iron using hydrogen generated via wind power. Uniper is working with Salzgitter and Rhenus Logistics, the city of Wilhelmshaven and the state of Lower Saxony on this project.

Originally, Uniper explored the idea of constructing a floating import terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the Wilhelmshaven site. In October 2020, a market test to show binding interest proved that there is currently not enough interest in the LNG sector in terms of booking large, long-term capacities for LNG regasification in Germany.

Uniper is an international energy company with around 12 000 employees in more than 40 countries. With about 35 GW of installed generation capacity, Uniper is among the largest global power generators. Its main activities include power generation in Europe and Russia as well as global energy trading, including a diversified gas portfolio that makes Uniper one of Europe’s leading gas companies.

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