RWE plans to build a terminal for the import of green ammonia at Brunsbüttel at Germany’s North Sea coast, both in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine and for climate protection.

Ammonia (NH3) is a liquid hydrogen derivative that is much easier to transport than pure H2, and can be re-transformed into gaseous hydrogen that subsequently is transported via pipelines to industrial customers.

RWE revealed its ammonia terminal plan just days after Dutch gas grid operator Gasunie, RWE and German development bank KfW, had signed a memorandum of understanding to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in a nearby site at Brunsbüttel – a project pushed by Berlin to lessen Germany’s dependence on Russian gas.

“Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine has made it abundantly clear that we must become independent of fuel imports from Russia,” German economics and climate minister Robert Habeck said.

“The LNG terminal in Brunsbüttel is an important element in this, as it will increase the capabilities to import gas to Germany.

“Green ammonia as a liquefied hydrogen derivative can make an important contribution to supplying Germany with green hydrogen. At the same time, we can gain important experience with this project for the conversion from LNG to green hydrogen or hydrogen derivatives.”

RWE said the ammonia terminal project is intended to facilitate the subsequent conversion of the entire site ready to import green molecules.

Around 300,000 tonnes of green ammonia per year are due to arrive in Germany via the terminal from 2026 on to be distributed to customers, RWE said. The next step is to build a cracker on a large industrial scale at the terminal to produce green hydrogen on site as well. This will then be transported to industrial customers via a dedicated hydrogen pipeline.

“It is now more important than ever to think of climate protection and security of supply as one,” RWE chief executive Markus Krebber said.

“That’s what we are doing. On the one hand, we are involved in the forthcoming construction of the first LNG terminal in Germany. On the other hand, we are going to build an ammonia terminal at the site to forge ahead with the import of green molecules for the decarbonisation of industry.”

The project will cover the entire value chain from import to conversion, transport and use by industrial customers, he added.

In an expansion stage, RWE plans to increase the volume of ammonia imports to two million tonnes per year.

Due to its direct access to the North and Baltic Seas, and its connection to European inland waterways, the Brunsbüttel site offers ideal logistical conditions for the project, the utility reckons. Brunsbüttel is located at the mouth of the river Elbe into the North Sea near Hamburg, where a canal linking the North to the Baltic Sea ends.