“Green” hydrogen in particular – i.e. hydrogen produced from renewable energies, is considered a key element for the turnaround in energy policy. Above all mobile applications and the topic of hydrogen transport are of interest to the logistics sector.

Some call it the “champagne of energy turnaround”. This is justified, among other aspects, by the energy requirement and the costs for its production. Furthermore, “green” hydrogen in particular is likely to remain a scarce commodity for the foreseeable future owing to the still limited generation capacities for renewable electricity and the lack of large-scale electrolysis plants.

On the other hand, hydrogen is an ideal storage medium, especially for fluctuating wind power. If there is plenty of wind, wind power plants generate a large amount of electricity. More than the national grid can sometimes absorb. Generation needs to be down-regulated in this case.

It would be preferable to use this renewable electricity in electrolysers to produce hydrogen. The resulting “green” hydrogen can be used for a wide range of applications: as fuel, for heat generation and for decarbonising the steel or chemical industry. Demand is therefore likely to markedly exceed supply initially.

With the National Hydrogen Strategy, Germany is seeking to establish climate-friendly hydrogen – especially that manufactured from renewable energies – and its derived products as key elements in the turnaround in energy policy. “We want to become number 1 in the world in hydrogen technologies. That is why we are joining forces in Europe and initiating massive investments in the future-oriented technological field of hydrogen through the first joint European hydrogen project. This ensures competitiveness and safeguards jobs – both in Germany and Europe”, said Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier.

More than eight billion Euros of federal and state funds will therefore be made available for 62 selected, German projects. The projects cover the entire value chain, ranging from hydrogen production including transport to applications in industry. Out of the eight billion Euros in state funding, around 4.4 billion Euros stem from the budget of the Federal Ministry of Economics and up to 1.4 billion Euros from the Federal Ministry of Transport.

Photo credit: BPA/Steffen Kugler

The latter is supporting 12 projects in the mobility sector. These concern the development and production of fuel cell systems and vehicles – ranging from private cars and trucks to municipal vehicles. In addition, it is intended to promote establishment of a nationwide and cross-border networked hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, for example. Aviation and the maritime sector, for example, are addressed in an integrated approach with a joint project in Hamburg.

Hydrogen vehicles have been few and far between up to now in this country. The major automobile manufacturers tend to rely on electric battery-powered drive systems. Which technology will ultimately win out is current not clearly discernible. The basic service station network for 700 bar refuelling will grow to 100 stations over the next few months, according to H2 Mobility. Currently, 91 are already operational. There are also already a larger number of hydrogen service stations in the Benelux countries, Great Britain, Austria, Switzerland and parts of Scandinavia. In Eastern and Southern Europe, infrastructure development is still in its infancy.

For the development of a hydrogen economy, the question of transport arises. One option is the natural gas network. Furthermore the German heating industry is driving the development of appliances that are “hydrogen-ready”.

However, since it is not only in Germany that renewable energy – especially wind power – is to be used to produce green hydrogen, the task is to transport the energy carrier economically and safely over long distances and also store it over a prolonged period. There are various ways of achieving this, such as for example

  • conversion of hydrogen into ammonia
  • or liquefaction in the form of LOHC (Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier).

The LOHC variant in particular offers many possibilities for the use of tankers and therefore highly decentralised use of hydrogen. LOHC denotes organic compounds that are capable of absorbing and releasing hydrogen through chemical reaction. These storage media “charged” with hydrogen can be transported using perfectly ordinary tankers.

In order to be permanently informed of the stock in hydrogen tanks, the Swedish company MCD, for example, offers level monitoring systems that not only enable constant control, but also provide information about the expected consumption via a history.