Hydrogen is considered the “energy carrier of tomorrow”, and the noticeable consequences of climate change and politics make its rapid introduction indispensable. But the path to an efficient hydrogen economy is complex, poses economic and social challenges – and requires excellent research. The large-scale hydrogen research project hyBit, coordinated by the University of Bremen, is now receiving almost 30 million euros in funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
“This is a great success for the University of Bremen, which is currently making its way towards sustainability and climate neutrality,” says Professor Jutta Günther, who has just taken up her post as the new rector of Bremen University. “The Federal Ministry of Education and Research made this enormously high sum available for the large-scale research project ‘Hydrogen for Bremen’s Industrial Transformation’ – hyBit for short – because the university has already proven in numerous areas of work with successful projects that it is capable of interdisciplinary research Hydrogen strategies plays an important role. I am sure that, in cooperation with our non-university partners, we can make important contributions to the socio-ecological transformation towards sustainability in the years to come.”
Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger: “I want to make Germany a hydrogen republic. Because in the future we must supply our industry with energy in a climate-neutral and reliable manner. In doing so, we want to become independent of individual countries and, above all, work together with partners who share our values. As an innovative country, we now have the opportunity to make hydrogen technologies the next German export hit. The Bremen region and in particular the hyBit project can make an important contribution to this because research and industry work hand in hand here. The hydrogen economy for the whole country is being tested here on a small scale. That is why we are supporting this special project with a total of 30 million euros.”
The central starting point of the project in Bremen’s industrial port is the Arcelor Mittal steel works. “Why? Because it is currently still one of the biggest air polluters in the region. It emits around six million tons of carbon dioxide a year, almost as much as the rest of the city combined,” says the project’s overall coordinator, Dr. Torben Stuhrmann. The steel industry is one of the outstanding industries starting the transition process from coal and natural gas to green hydrogen with research and innovation. The hyBit project consortium is supported by 19 partners from science and industry who work together with a strong collaborative approach. Project partners include the Wuppertal Institute, the Bremen Institute for Production and Logistics (BIBA) at the University of Bremen, the Fraunhofer IFAM (Bremen), the Fraunhofer ICT (Karlsruhe) and the Bremen University of Applied Sciences, as well as other key players in Bremen’s industry such as Arcelor Mittal Bremen, swb and BLG. Eleven working groups from the fields of technology, humanities and social sciences are represented at the University of Bremen, because the transformation towards sustainability is not only a technical but also a social and cultural challenge.
Goal: Set up a hydrogen hub in Bremen
With success: “Hydrogen for Bremen’s industrial transformation” – the German title of the hyBit project – is the program in this case. “Building a German hydrogen economy works best through exemplary regional lighthouse projects – so-called hydrogen hubs. We want to pursue the development and design of hydrogen hubs as part of hyBit in Bremen and the region,” says Dr. Torben Stuhrmann. The head of the Resilient Energy Systems department in the Department of Production Engineering at the University of Bremen is an experienced expert with regard to the introduction of hydrogen. He has been working on relevant projects for several years.
“The development of the hydrogen economy affects a wide variety of levels in the electricity, heat and mobility sectors. Hydrogen is the future – but many of those affected have had little experience with it so far,” explains Stührmann. “We are talking about far-reaching changes in markets, infrastructure and work processes.” In plain language: the farewell to fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas and the switch to “green hydrogen” calls many processes and habits into question and requires immense adjustments – transformations that in the The hyBit research project can be researched and prepared in an interdisciplinary manner.
What is the hyBit project about?
“The central questions of hyBit are: At what speed can the conversion of hydrogen hubs be successful for society as a whole, what obstacles can be expected along the way and how can unexpected challenges be met during this conversion at the local level. Technical, economic, ecological, legal and social aspects are specifically taken into account. What insights into synergies and consideration processes support the transfer of smaller regional transformation processes to a larger scale of the hydrogen economy? How can hydrogen, which will be scarce in the foreseeable future, be used quickly and with the greatest possible leverage in the transformation process?” explains Torben Stührmann.
- A roadmap for the design of a green, hydrogen-based sustainable industry in Bremen’s industrial port, which enables a new connection of the heat, electricity and mobility sectors.
- A digital twin of the Bremen industrial port as an example for the design of large-scale hydrogen hubs that takes into account the technical and social aspects.
- The digital twin is used for local monitoring in order to keep the speed of transformation in Bremen’s industrial port high, even under changing framework conditions.
- The defossilization process is designed to be resilient in order to counter changes and uncertainties in the development and operation of hydrogen hubs at an early stage. The availability of different resources such as hydrogen, electricity, heat, logistics, etc. are secured against external shocks – and thus the climate neutrality, profitability and availability of industrial processes are ensured in the long term.
- A network of hydrogen actors from politics, business and science leads to a strong north German hydrogen economy.
“hyBit will map and accelerate the transformation process towards a hydrogen economy in a monitoring system by carefully planning the necessary measures and avoiding undesirable developments or delays as far as possible. If we succeed in doing this here in Bremen’s industrial port, we are very confident that we will be able to transfer this knowledge to other locations in Germany and Europe that are subject to similar structural changes,” explains Torben Stührmann. “With hyBit, our future sustainable hydrogen economy should be more resistant to external influences and give our economy and society more security.
Interdisciplinary expertise at the research center BEST
The work of the university research center BEST – Bremen Research Center for Energy Systems, which opened in spring 2022, forms the transfer focus of the project. The results for the transfer are merged here. Professors from a wide variety of disciplines work together here across disciplines. “BEST brings together the extensive expertise of the University of Bremen and the state’s non-university research institutes and universities in order to solve future energy system and energy supply issues,” says Professor Johanna Myrzik, spokeswoman for the center. “The interdisciplinary approach is crucial here, because the right answers to the complex links between sustainability, security of supply,
BEST is part of the still relatively new research and transfer focus on energy science in the Science Plan 2025 of the State of Bremen. The state is supporting the establishment of the facility with start-up funding.