Review by Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy clears its initial hurdle
- Plans for an electrolysis facility generating up to 35 megawatts
- World’s first cavern storage facility for green hydrogen
- Wind power can be stored as hydrogen providing for greater economic predictability
Beginning next year, Uniper and its consortium partners, VNG Gasspeicher GmbH (VGS), ONTRAS Gastransport GmbH, DBI Freiberg and Terrawatt Planungsgesellschaft mbH, are seeking to build an electrolysis plant in the central German chemical triangle that will produce green hydrogen with a capacity of up to 35 megawatts.
The consortium intends to explore the production, transportation, storage and efficient use of green hydrogen at the “Energiepark Bad Lauchstädt” in southern Saxony-Anhalt. German Minister for Economic Affairs, Peter Altmaier (CDU), announced today that the project is considered deserving of financial support as a “living lab for the energy transition” and that it had reached the final round of the application process. The ministry expects to make a final decision regarding project funding by the end of this year.
The project, planned near Bad Lauchstädt in Saxony-Anhalt, would involve converting renewable electricity from a nearby wind farm into green hydrogen using electrolysis. The green hydrogen will be placed in underground interim storage in a salt cavern outfitted especially for this purpose and can be fed into the chemical industry’s hydrogen grid via a rededicated gas pipeline and utilized for urban mobility solutions. The Energiepark Bad Lauchstädt will then serve as a site where every aspect of the intelligent and economically efficient integration of green hydrogen can be tested under real-world conditions and at an industrial scale.
The planned underground salt cavern will be outfitted specifically for storing up to 59 million cubic meters of hydrogen – an amount equivalent to approximately 150 million kilowatt hours of energy, or roughly the annual demand for heating in households in a city of 20,000 residents. It would be the first hydrogen cavern in continental Europe and the first such facility in the world for storing green hydrogen, or hydrogen generated from renewable electricity.
Eckhardt Rümmler, Chief Operating Officer at Uniper,commented, “The energy transition will only succeed if we are able to store renewable energy, and in so doing make it reliable. Up to now no persuasive economic solution has been available. Our project addresses exactly this issue: We combine the production of green hydrogen from wind power together with the transportation as well as the storage and use of hydrogen for commercial purposes. If it proves successful on a large scale, we’ve found a core component for a secure and sustainable supply of energy. For many currently operating wind power generators that will soon see direct marketing and EEG [renewable energy] subsidies run out, this facility offers new prospects that are both attractive and sustainable.
A sketch of the project was entered into the design competition in early April. A detailed funding request has been filed as part of the final stage of the selection process. Living laboratories for the energy transition were established as a new funding element in the federal government’s 7th energy research program aimed at facilitating the transfer of technology and innovation from research to everyday use. Between 2019 and 2022, subsidies totaling up to 100 million euros per year will be appropriated. An additional 200 million euros will be made available to living laboratories in regions undergoing structural transformation, which include Bad Lauchstädt.
Along with the living lab in the Energiepark Bad Lauchstädt, a second project that Uniper is involved with was also shortlisted. The “North German living laboratory” will focus on testing the comprehensive transformation of the energy system with respect to rapid decarbonization in all consumer sectors. A variety of sector coupling concepts focused around hydrogen are to be tested in the Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania regions.
Axel Wietfeld, Managing Director of Uniper Energy Storage GmbH said, “Green hydrogen is considered an energy source key to the success of the energy transition. We’ve added staff accordingly and established our own hydrogen team that will develop commercial projects in Germany and in other European countries. The decision by the Federal Ministry of Economics to specifically review funding for two projects that we are involved with validates our strategy of focusing on green hydrogen.”
Produced from renewable electricity using electrolysis, hydrogen is non-polluting and easy to store. It can be used in a variety of ways – whether as part of electricity or heating supply, in mobility or by the chemical industry. That means green hydrogen is able to compensate for weather-related fluctuations in solar and wind power generation and provides for efficient sector coupling.