05.08.2021 | Hydrogen projects – Australia, Oman, Spain and Germany moving forward

Stirring things up with a really big spoon

Green hydrogen, which is produced with power from renewable energy sources, is considered a key technology for the global energy turnaround and industry decarbonisation. Axpo intends to develop know-how on this topic and realise leading-edge projects. Many other companies around the world are also making plans in this area. Some of them want to stir things up with a really big spoon. A few examples:

  • Under its new strategy, Axpo has taken the first important steps. In the future, the company will focus on three pillars: In Switzerland, on its leading role in Switzerland's transition to a CO2-free energy future, and internationally on the customer and trading business, as well as the expansion of renewable energies. In addition to hydropower, wind and solar energy, battery storage and the energy carrier hydrogen will play an increasingly important role. The first hydrogen projects, for example at the Eglisau-Rheinfelden hydropower plant have already been launched. Axpo is also active on an international level and, in Italy, has entered into an innovative H2 partnership with ABB.
  • On a global scale, green hydrogen is currently only available in homoeopathic doses at very high prices. Politics and the economy agree that this must change quickly. As a result, many international companies want to actively engage in the area of hydrogen. Below, a few typical examples:
  • The entrepreneur Andrew Forrest, who made a fortune with his company Fortescue Metals Group and, with assets amounting to 27 billion US dollars, is the second wealthiest Australian, wants to enter into the production of green H2 quickly and on an major industrial scale, reports the German "Handelsblatt". He wants to use several tens of thousands square kilometres of his land in Australia for the production of electricity and hydrogen. By 2030, wind farms and solar plants with a capacity of 150 gigawatts will be installed on this land. The project is scheduled to start in 2023 with the goal to produce over 15 million tonnes of green hydrogen annually by the year 2030. As a comparison: In Germany, wind and PV plants with a capacity of 109 gigawatts are connected to the grid. Germany's hydrogen strategy aims to produce 0.5 million tonnes of green hydrogen with an electrolysis output of 5 gigawatts by the year 2030. However, the need to restructure the German steel and chemical industry is much higher. As a result, Forrest plans to ship his hydrogen to Rotterdam in the form to methanol or ammonia where it will be transformed into gas and profitably marketed in Europe.
  • Oman also wants to stir things up. The Gulf Sultanate is planning the construction of the worldwide largest green hydrogen factory. At the beginning of June, the Omani state-owned energy company OQ announced that the energy for the production of hydrogen would come from solar and wind power. The project will have a capacity of 25 gigawatts. The Sultanate in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula is strongly dependent on oil and gas production. Under the new Sultan Haitham bin Tarik Al Said, the country wants to position its economy more broadly under the so-called Vision 2040.
  • Europe also has plans for the production of large quantities of H2. Initiator Thierry Lepercq, a former manager of the French energy company Engie, has been active in the solar industry for many years. Under the project "HyDeal", in which 30 European energy players are involved, the electrolysis capacities will be increased to 67 gigawatts and solar capacities to 95 gigawatts by the year 2030. The production of green hydrogen will begin in Spain in 2022. The energy, industry and the mobility sector will be supplied through the existing gas transport and storage network. On its website, the German transmission system operator OGE, one of the companies involved in the project, states that the goal is to offer green hydrogen at a price of 1.50 Euros per kilogramme by the year 2030. At this price, green hydrogen would be competitive with grey  hydrogen, which is produced based on fossil  energy sources such as natural gas . From today's perspective that seems illusory. However, the journal "Welt" assesses local conditions for solar plants in Spain as very favourable. At the same time, costs for solar panels and those for industrial electrolysers fabricated in series will continue to fall in the future (see box below).
  • The German chemical corporation BASF and the German energy producer RWE want to build a wind farm with a capacity of 2 gigawatts in the North Sea. The plant would be the largest offshore wind farm in the world. At the end of May, the company reported that as of 2030 it would supply the chemical industry location of Ludwigshafen with green electricity. In addition, one fifth of the power used for production will come from CO2-free hydrogen. According to the company, costs for the wind farm and the electrolysis plant amount to over 4 billion Euros. The wind farm will be a flagship project for the preservation of German industry and demonstrate how industrial production can be sustainably achieved, says BASF Chairman Martin Brudermüller. 
Lots of money from the state

With its hydrogen strategy, the European Commission wants to make the EU a pioneer in the use of hydrogen as an energy source. More details here . Germany also calls for the use of hydrogen on a broad scale under its hydrogen strategy and with subsidy funds amounting to 7 billion Euros. A total of 700 million Euros alone will be used for three major research projects for the serial production of electrolysers in Germany. In addition, inexpensive global transport methods are being researched – as well as the technology to generate hydrogen from wind power on the high seas. As reported by the "Handelsblatt", Germany wants to secure a piece of the growth market with hydrogen, which according to an EU study could generate sales of over 800 billion Euros by the year 2050. Consortia and major corporations such as Siemens, Thyssen-Krupp, RWE and Shell are involved in the projects.

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