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Hydrogen as a miracle cure – key element for the energy transition?

| von Julia

To achieve the 2030 climate targets, Germany must significantly reduce CO2 emissions in the steel and chemical industries and in the transport sector. Novel hydrogen technologies are increasingly proving to be useful solutions for this purpose. Green hydrogen is the keyword. Lunfortunately, there is still a need for action here on a number of points, e.g. with regard to production, components, cost-effectiveness, storage, etc. But what actually is green hydrogen? And how far are we from using green hydrogen? We answer all these questions here.

Green hydrogen: An opportunity for our climate

Against the background of reducing CO2 emissions in various industries, more and more hydrogen technologies are proving to be a promising solution. With this in mind, the German government presented theNational Hydrogen Strategyon June 10, 2020. Green hydrogen” in particular plays a decisive role here.

Alongside sustainable electricity, sustainably produced hydrogen (H2) is seen as a major opportunity to achieve the German and European climate targets. Here, the German government expects a demand of 90 to 110 terawatt hours of hydrogen within the Federal Republic by 2030. But meeting this demand from domestic production is becoming a real challenge. Accordingly, the question arises:

How and where do we get CO2-neutral and affordable hydrogen in the quantities we need?

As both Germany and many other industrialized nations increasingly focus their energy policies on green hydrogen, it is becoming more attractive not only for use but also as an import product. For this reason, countries such asSaudi Arabia, Chile, Australia, South Africa and Morocco are already positioning themselves as suppliers of the new green fuel with lucrative production and framework conditions.

This holds opportunities for both the energy source and the respective supplier countries. This is because the energy source not only offers great climate protection and technology potential for the German economy, At the same time, it opens up opportunities for economic diversification for the production and supply countries. In addition, German technology and system providers have the opportunity to expand their position in the course of an international hydrogen market ramp-up on the world markets and to create regional cooperations.

Questions and answers about hydrogen

Basic questions about hydrogen explained.

So-called green hydrogen is produced sustainably and exclusively with the help of renewable energies. The production processes are diverse. In its climate strategy, our federal government is relying on the process of electrolysis from water. Green hydrogen also causes no CO2 emissions and virtually no air pollution and, unlike blue hydrogen, for example, is considered the only “real” hydrogen solution studied by environmentalists when it comes to achieving climate targets.

In addition to electrification with electricity from renewable sources and a more efficient, cycle-oriented use of resources, clean hydrogen can also contribute in different ways to achieving the ambitious climate targets. Two points play a fundamental role here:

  • The decarbonization of industrial processes and economic sectors: Hydrogen can be used where reducing CO2 emissions is both urgent and difficult to achieve. In the future, the aim is first to decarbonize hydrogen production itself (it is currently still often produced using fossil fuels) and then to use green hydrogen in sectors where it can replace fossil fuels.
  • The balancing of fluctuations in renewable energies. Here, green hydrogen can contribute to an energy system based on renewable energies, among other things. For example, where conversion from fossil fuels to electricity is not possible.

In principle, green hydrogen can be used in all areas where there are no simpler, climate-neutral alternatives, even in the foreseeable future. Especially in cases where hydrogen can be organized in larger quantities relatively easily. For example, we are talking about industry here – the chemical and steel industries in particular have a high demand for hydrogen.

In addition, the transport sector plays a crucial role when it comes to the use of hydrogen. Because hydrogen enables us to move around on the move with low CO2 emissions. As a result, some automakers are already beginning to incorporate the sustainable fuel into their vehicles.. Car manufacturer Toyota, for example, has set itself the goal of drastically reducing its emissions by 2050 and is now working on a hydrogen racing vehicle (type designation GE16-GTS) based on the Corolla. The manufacturer relies on 700 bar compressed hydrogen as fuel.

Hydrogen could also play an important role in heating in the future. It can already be injected into the existing gas network to a certain extent. The current limit is a maximum of 10 percent. In addition, heat and electricity can also be generated from hydrogen with the aid of fuel cells. The Copernicus project ENSURE is currently investigating how hydrogen can be integrated into the energy grid of the future in the best possible way.

According to the German government, the exact costs of green hydrogen cannot yet be calculated precisely. What is certain, however, is that the cheaper renewable electricity can be produced, the cheaper green hydrogen will become. In addition, there is the further development of water electrolysis.

With regard to manufacturing costs, according to the standard work “Energy Storage” by Professor Michael Sterner of the OTH Regensburg and Ingo Stadler of the IET of the Cologne University of Applied Sciences, the following can be stated: “Conventional production is largely based on the reformation of natural gas (around 48 percent), as it is unrivaled in terms of cost, with manufacturing costs of one euro per kilogram. This is followed by production from liquid hydrocarbons with 30 percent and from coal with 18 percent. Water electrolysis accounts for only about four percent, which is explained by its higher cost. Hydrogen from renewable energies, for example, currently has a price range of six to ten euros per kilogram.”

The Kopernikus projects currently make the largest contribution to hydrogen research by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The Kopernikus project P2X, for example, is researching green hydrogen from production through transport to use. In addition, the HYPOS project consortium, which is working intensively on the production and use of hydrogen, is also receiving funding. The Copernicus project ENSURE, on the other hand, analyzes how hydrogen can be integrated into the energy grid of the future.

Other notable projects include Carbon2Chem and the MACOR feasibility study. These are investigating how hydrogen can make the steel industry climate-friendly. Research initiatives such as DEPECOR, BioDME and NAMOSYN are also being funded and are dedicated to climate-friendly fuels that require hydrogen for their production.

Video: Mastering the energy transition with green hydrogen

In our last climate episode of medsolutTV, we talked about the energy transition and the EU’s goals in this regard. An essential part of achieving these goals is hydrogen. In general, it offers many possibilities and has good properties. Nevertheless, it cannot be used to its full extent at present. So what is possible and what needs to happen at this point? And what do racing cars have to do with it? Find out all this in our latest video:

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