Fortum unit Uniper plans to turn the North Sea port town of Wilhelmshaven into a national hub for climate-friendly hydrogen, including an import terminal for green ammonia and a 410MW electrolyser for the production of green hydrogen.

The utility originally had explored the idea of constructing a floating import terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the site, but a late 2020 market test to show binding interest proved that there is currently not enough interest in the LNG sector in terms of booking large, long-term capacities for LNG regasification in Germany.

The terminal is planned to be equipped with an ‘ammonia cracker’ for producing green hydrogen (by splitting off nitrogen), and it will also be connected to a planned hydrogen network.

The electrolyser in combination with the import terminal would be capable of supplying around 295,000 metric tons of H2, or 10% of the demand expected for all of Germany in 2030.

“It is essential that Germany and Europe remain industrial powerhouses: If we want to achieve this and still hit our ambitious climate protection targets, we need hydrogen to power sectors such as steel production, the chemicals industry or in freight, shipping and air transport,” Uniper chief operating officer David Bryson said.

“We need to get hydrogen out of the laboratory and start using it in large-scale applications and marketable industrial solutions - we should make it into a commodity and exploit its wide variety of uses. One way of achieving this is to import green ammonia and convert it into hydrogen, which is something we are looking at for Wilhelmshaven.”

Germany plans to generate green hydrogen from 14 terawatt hours of renewable power in 2030, but demand for that year is forecast to be 90-100TWh, Bryson pointed out.

“The discrepancy between these two figures is abundantly clear. We will be heavily dependent on imports if we want to use hydrogen to help us achieve our climate goals."

German economics and energy minister Peter Altmaier when presenting the country’s national hydrogen strategy last year said that Germany due to its limited land and sea area for renewable energy production will need to import large amounts of green hydrogen.

The country is currently engaging with several countries in the world to win them as possible suppliers of large volumes of green hydrogen to Germany, among them Australia and Saudi Arabia.

Uniper thinks commissioning the new terminal is possible in the second half of this decade, depending on national import demand and export opportunities.

The company is proposing its ‘Green Wilhelmshaven’ plan as part of a common European hydrogen market, and has submitted the idea to the German economics ministry a few weeks ago as an ‘Important Project of Common European Interest" (IPCEI) that could receive EU support.

The company is also working with partners on a project to study the feasibility to build a direct reduction plant with upstream hydrogen electrolysis on the site of an existing power plant in Wilhelmshaven, as well as the required infrastructure for supplying raw materials.

The aim is to produce around 2 million metric tons of "green" crude iron using hydrogen generated via wind power. Uniper is working with steelmaker Salzgitter and Rhenus Logistics, the city of Wilhelmshaven and the state of Lower Saxony on this project.

“One sector in which hydrogen can play a crucial role in reducing CO2 emissions is steel production,” said Axel Wietfeld, chief executive of Uniper Hydrogen.

“Currently, each metric ton of crude steel produced releases approximately one metric ton of CO2 emissions. Hydrogen is the only realistic option for decarbonizing this industry."