Utility RWE and gas transmission operator OGE have teamed up to build up to 1GW of new electrolyser capacity for the production of renewable hydrogen and a 1,500km grid of pipelines to transport the green gas across Germany.
The €3.5bn ($3.86bn) plan called H2ercules aims at connecting electrolysers as well as storage and import facilities in the north to industrial customers in the west and south of Europe’s largest economy. Additional import routes from the south and east that are currently under development are to be connected by 2030.
“In order to achieve its climate goals, the industry needs large volumes of green hydrogen – as quickly as possible,” RWE chief executive Markus Krebber said.
“RWE is thus planning to construct additional electrolyser capacities in the coastal regions of northwest Germany by 2030.
“The green hydrogen produced there is then to be transported from the north to the steelworks, chemical plants and refineries in the Ruhr area and southern Germany.”
First large companies such as steelmaker Thyssenkrupp have already signaled their interest in being connected to such a grid.
As most of H2ercules could use converted existing fossil gas pipelines, the proposal can be implemented significantly more quickly and more cost-effectively overall than infrastructure that is constructed from scratch, RWE said.
The companies said that to implement the hydrogen grid plan, necessary conditions must be in place, and said it hinges on upcoming discussions with policymakers - which could mean RWE and OGE are seeking state subsidies for the ambitious project.
“The concept is to be seen as a proposal that can be implemented in order to solve the Herculean tasks of decarbonising and diversifying the energy supply,” OGE chairman Jörg Bergmann said.
“These tasks can only be mastered if companies collaborate across different levels of added value with the support of policymakers to quickly create suitable operating conditions.”
Under the plan, RWE would build up to 1GW in electrolysers by 2030. The utility is also planning to import large volumes of hydrogen, and build H2-ready gas-fired power stations with a capacity of at least 2GW close to the planned H2ercules route. The company also intends to connect its gas storage systems near the Dutch border into the hydrogen pipeline.
OGE is slated to ensure that the green hydrogen can reach customers by converting existing fossil gas pipelines for hydrogen transport and building new pipelines. The hydrogen grid would be coordinated with Germany’s Gas Network Development Plan (NEP Gas).
H2ercules would also open up new opportunities for connecting Germany to major import routes – initially via pipelines in Belgium and the Netherlands, and at a later stage via Norway as well as southern and eastern Europe, in addition potentially via import terminals for green molecules in northern Germany in the future, RWE said.