Siemens Gas and Power and Fortum’s Uniper subsidiary have signed a cooperation agreement for the development of projects on the decarbonisation of power generation and sector coupling, with one focus on the production and use of green hydrogen (produced from renewable sources).

The deal includes the evaluation of the potential of Uniper’s existing gas turbines and gas storage facilities for the use of hydrogen, and aims to define what role hydrogen can play in the evolution of the utility’s coal power plants.

Uniper recently had announced a target to close or convert its coal-fired power plants in Europe by 2025 at the latest, and become carbon neutral in Europe by 2035. The company currently still emits 22m tons of CO2 in Europe.

“After the coal phase-out and the switch to a secure gas-based energy supply, the use of climate-friendly gas will be a major step towards successful energy system transformation; therefore, the decarbonisation of the gas industry, including gas-fired power generation, is essential if Germany and Europe are to achieve their climate targets,” Uniper chief executive Andreas Schierenbeck said.

“We are ready to invest and have set the strategic course to significantly accelerate the decarbonisation of our portfolio. In doing so, it is important to bundle energies, act openly in terms of technology, and work with proven high-technology partners like Siemens.”

Siemens Gas and Power said it can help to decarbonise coal plants through so-called “brownfield transformation” and significantly reduce emissions from gas-fired power plants, including the integration of storage solutions and the use of “green gas”.

The energy unit of the German conglomerate claims it offers all core technologies for CO2-free energy supply from renewables-based power and heat generation to electrolysis for hydrogen production.

“ʻGreen hydrogenʼ can contribute to achieving climate targets and is thus a key to a successful energy turnaround. And it can do so across sectors in industry, mobility, and heat and power generation,” said Jochen Eickholt, Siemens Energy executive board member.

“But we’re only at the beginning. Joint projects with our customers, such as the partnership with Uniper focusing on ʻbrownfield transformationʼ and the design of the ʻgreen hydrogenʼ value chain, are extremely important here. Here we can show that a CO2-free, environmentally friendly energy supply is possible and makes sense under real conditions and using existing plants.”

Uniper under its new strategy plans to gradually increase the share of “green” gas or “green hydrogen” in its conventional gas business, in both power generation and energy trading.

The company already in 2013 had built its first power-to-gas plant in Falkenhagen, Germany, followed by another one in Hamburg in 2015.

Finland’s Fortum in 2018 bought a 46.65% stake in Uniper from German utility E.ON, and late last year announced it would increase its share in Uniper to more than 70% to gain control of the company. Uniper next to fossils, also has hydro and nuclear generation plants.