Utility E.ON will convert a natural gas pipeline in Germany that is part of the public supply system to carry 100% hydrogen to test whether gas pipelines are technically able to transport pure H².

A technical standard in Germany currently limits the hydrogen concentration in natural gas networks to a maximum of 10%, but a number of trials have already explored higher admixture rates, E.ON said.

The trial is part of the company’s ‘H2HoWi’ research and development project in Holzwickede in North Rhine Westphalia State, and will try to confirm that H² has no influence on the properties of the pipe material or the tightness of the existing infrastructure.

“Upgrading the existing gas network infrastructure for hydrogen is an important prerequisite for the success of the energy transition,” said Thomas König, E.ON’s chief operation officer responsible for the company’s network business.

“By converting green electricity into hydrogen, regenerative energy can be stored in gas networks. The gas networks can thus become the storage facilities of the future.”

“E.ON has set itself the goal of adding green gases to natural gas in the distribution networks and, if required, offering a supply of 100% hydrogen,” he added.

An E.ON press official said the pipeline is slated to transport green hydrogen (made from renewable power), which at first needs to be transported to the site.

A company spokesman told Recharge the objective of the project at first was to test the technical viability of converting gas pipelines into hydrogen pipelines, while E.ON’s longer-term goal is to make its grids fit for the transport of green hydrogen.

H² for heat and industrial production

“It is not technically feasible or economically viable to electrify all applications. Therefore, hydrogen will be indispensable as an energy carrier for applications where the direct use of green electricity is either not feasible or sensible for technical or commercial reasons,” said Katherina Reiche who, in addition to her role as CEO of E.ON unit Westenergie, is also chairwoman of the German government's National Hydrogen Council.

“This is why we need to connect the different sectors of energy consumption. Given its carbon-neutral nature, pure hydrogen is a future-oriented solution, for example when it comes to supplying heat or for industrial production processes.”

The company as part of the project will disconnect a medium-pressure gas pipeline in the town of Holzwickede in the Ruhr area from the network and then connect it to a H² storage facility.

Four commercial customers will be supplied from here, E.ON said.

The hydrogen is to be used to generate the required space heat. In addition to the conversion of the pipeline, this also requires adjustments to the existing customer installations. For this reason, hydrogen-compatible condensing boilers from heating company Remeha are being installed at their premises.