The Rhenish mining area in Germany is poised to become a pioneering region for hydrogen technologies following the cessation of lignite mining, according to the research center Jülich.
Professor Andreas Peschel, head of process and plant technology for chemical hydrogen storage at the Institute for Sustainable Hydrogen Management (INW), asserts that numerous hydrogen technologies are already being developed in the region.
In a significant step towards the hydrogen future, a demonstration project has commenced at Erkelenz hospital, where a new type of fuel cell is set to provide electricity and heat to the facility. The initial phase will involve natural gas as the fuel source, with a transition to hydrogen planned for the future. This project aims to serve as a global model for the energy supply of large buildings, showcasing the potential of hydrogen-based systems. By 2025, the hydrogen will be stored in a form of organic liquid called LOHC (Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier).
Regarding the transportation of hydrogen to the planned gas power plants in the Rhenish Revier, Peschel suggests that pipelines, possibly converted from natural gas pipelines, will play a role. However, other methods such as transport by barge and tanker truck using energy sources like LOHC or dimethyl ether (DME) are also being considered.
Peschel envisions a network of storage facilities for hydrogen and organic hydrogen carriers distributed throughout the pipeline infrastructure. Similar to the storage of natural gas, LNG, or oil, various techniques will be employed, including hydrogen storage in caverns for pipeline supply and liquid hydrogen storage at filling stations.
The goals of the Rhenish mining area’s hydrogen transition are twofold. First, it aims to establish itself as a leading hub for hydrogen technologies, showcasing innovative solutions for energy supply. Second, the region seeks to contribute to Germany’s broader strategy of decarbonization and achieving climate targets by transitioning away from fossil fuels towards clean and sustainable hydrogen-based energy systems.
While the prospects for hydrogen technologies in the Rhenish mining area are promising, challenges remain. The development and deployment of hydrogen infrastructure on a large scale will require significant investments, coordination among stakeholders, and addressing technical and logistical complexities. Additionally, ensuring a reliable and cost-effective supply of hydrogen and organic hydrogen carriers is crucial for the success of the transition.
In conclusion, the Rhenish mining area in Germany is on track to become a model region for hydrogen technologies as lignite mining concludes. With ongoing research and development efforts, demonstration projects, and plans for hydrogen transportation and storage infrastructure, the region is poised to lead the way in the transition to a hydrogen-based economy. By leveraging hydrogen technologies, the Rhenish mining area aims to contribute to Germany’s sustainable energy goals and demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as a key driver for decarbonization.