The German Federal Government is picking up pace with the development of hydrogen. By 2025, a total of 700 million Euros will be allocated to three research projects with numerous industrial partners. The goal is to move into large-scale production and use of hydrogen by building production facilities (electrolysers) and corresponding transport infrastructure. Electrolysis is the most sustainable and promising technology for the production of hydrogen. In this process, water molecules (H2O) are basically split using electrical energy into molecular hydrogen and oxygen respectively (power-to-hydrogen). If the required electricity comes from renewable energy sources, no CO2 emissions are generated (so-called green hydrogen). Hydrogen not only allows energy to be (temporarily) stored and transported over long distances, but - in addition to being converted back into electricity by using fuel cells - could also directly replace fossil fuels in industry and logistics. It can therefore make a significant overall contribution to reducing emissions and achieving climate targets.

Question: Where can production plants for green hydrogen be built?

Response: In principle, production plants for green hydrogen can be built both onshore as well as offshore. In addition to potentially larger space capacities, production at sea would also have the advantage that offshore wind farms can generate on a more regular basis greater volumes of electricity than onshore wind farms. Moreover, if the generated energy is fully converted to hydrogen, costly grid connections are no longer necessary. In connection with floating foundations, this opens up completely new possibilities, since both water depth and distance to the coast would no longer be limiting factors. Hydrogen could be transported by ship from offshore wind farms all over the world. Existing wind farms could be combined with energy islands or onshore production plants where electricity cannot be directly fed into the grid. In this way, the now common short-term (partial) shutdowns of offshore wind farms in case of grid congestion could be significantly reduced and energy output increased, without building additional generation facilities.

Question: Are there any special requirements for the construction and operation of the hydrogen production plants?

Response: Our experience in chemical plant construction shows that a special focus will be on the commissioning of the plants and the question of how performance parameters such as efficiency and purity levels can be demonstrated during trial operation and performance tests and the legal consequences associated with this. In case of offshore construction, the typical challenges already known from the industry, such as the complex logistical set up including weather, but also increased requirements for materials and maintenance need to be taken into account. Here, however, one can rely on existing industry experience from offshore wind as well as oil and gas production.

Question: Do we need a new infrastructure for the transport of hydrogen?

Response: Hydrogen facilitates the transport of (renewable) energy without electricity grids. In addition to pipelines, hydrogen could be transported by ship, rail and lorry which would, however, require a considerable expansion of corresponding terminals and transshipment points. According to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft e.V. (BDEW), the existing natural gas infrastructure, including caverns, can also be used for hydrogen storage. Germany has the largest gas storage capacities in the European Union. Hydrogen could thus be stored and transported via the existing gas networks. Even if it currently remains undecided which means of transport will emerge and become established in the ongoing research projects, new large-scale projects are predicted. Plant and infrastructure construction contractors are already preparing for this.

Do you have any questions or are you interested in an (interdisciplinary) discussion on hydrogen infrastructure? The experts from our international Energy & Infrastructure group have a comprehensive overview of the market and the latest developments and can provide support in drafting and negotiating all relevant agreements (e.g. EPC, EPCM, O&M and SMA) as well as on all regulatory topics, such as privileges and subsidies under the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) or on grid regulation.