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Plans for German hydrogen hub, while UK hydrogen trial gets underway


Hydrogen moleucles Photo: Shutterstock
Wintershall Dea has unveiled plans for the BlueHyNow energy hub in Germany, while SGN and Ineos embark on a hydrogen trial in Scotland Photo: Shutterstock

Wintershall Dea is planning a major new project to produce clean hydrogen in Germany and store CO2 underground in the North Sea in order to secure energy supply while cutting carbon emissions.

The BlueHyNow project will be developed at Wilhelmshaven, on the German North Sea coast, which already boasts strong, networked infrastructure with two nearby landing points for gas from Norway, the possibility of hydrogen storage in neighbouring facilities, and a direct link to the planned German hydrogen network. It also has a deepwater port where large tankers can dock and work has started on building an LNG terminal. 


The energy hub project aims to produce over 200,000 cm3 of hydrogen per hour, equating to 5.6 TWh/y, and will use green wind power from the North Sea. 


The hydrogen will be fed into the pipeline network and supplied to industrial customers. The CO2 separated off during hydrogen production will be shipped by sea to offshore locations in in Norway and Denmark and stored under the seabed in underground reservoirs. ‘By setting up this CO2 storage infrastructure, the project will also enable storage of unavoidable CO2 emissions from energy-intensive industries. It could even facilitate negative emissions if bioenergy is used with carbon capture and storage (BECCS),’ comments Wintershall Dea. 


Hydrogen is regarded as a key element of a climate-neutral energy supply. According to recent forecasts, Germany’s hydrogen needs will rise from a current 55 TWh/y to between 90–110 TWh by 2030. That projected demand could even rise further as a result of current European initiatives such as REPowerEU or the new gas package. Current plans in the German government’s coalition agreement will add around 28 TWh/y.  


Norway has been using carbon capture and storage (CCS) for around 40 years, while Denmark and the Netherlands are now also pushing CCS technology. Wintershall Dea notes that although cross-border transport of CO2 from Germany to these countries is technically feasible, inter-governmental agreements based on the London Protocol must first be created.  


The company also reports that there are ‘highly promising’ CO2 reservoirs off the German North Sea coast, outside Germany’s territorial waters, but within its own exclusive economic zone. Studies by the German Academy of Science and Engineering put the total CO2 storage potential in the German North Sea at around 2.9bn tonnes. Wintershall Dea says it is therefore ‘in favour of modernising the legal framework so that offshore CCS can also be implemented in Germany’. 


UK hydrogen fuel network trial underway  

Meanwhile, building a UK-wide delivery network for hydrogen is a step closer to reality following the start of a trial at Grangemouth, Scotland, being undertaken by SGN in partnership with Ineos. 


The trial is being funded by the energy regulator and gas distribution companies. It will use hydrogen supplied from Ineos’ low carbon hydrogen plant at Grangemouth, which is being developed as part of the company’s commitment to being net zero by 2045. The hydrogen will travel through a 29 km section of decommissioned gas pipeline between the Grangemouth site and Granton. The project will help determine how existing natural gas networks can be repurposed for hydrogen. 


SGN Director of Energy Futures Gus Mcintosh comments: ‘Our local transmission system is part of the national critical infrastructure that reaches millions of homes and businesses across the UK. So, repurposing it for hydrogen could support a hydrogen system transformation that is least cost and least disruptive to customers.’ 


Andrew Gardner, Chairman Ineos Grangemouth, adds: ‘We believe that Grangemouth is the ideal location in Scotland to create a hub for hydrogen production, use and export.’ 


The CO2 from the Grangemouth hydrogen facility is to be routed to the Scottish Cluster’s Acorn carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, resulting in reductions of more than 1mn t/y of CO2 emissions, according to Ineos. The company has committed over £500mn on active projects across the Grangemouth site, including investment in a new energy plant that is due to be commissioned in late 2023 and will supply energy to all site operations, also cutting emissions by at least 150,000 t/y of CO2. The new power plant will later be converted to run on hydrogen, further reducing CO2 emissions.