Underneath the ceaseless winds and sun-soaked expanses of Kazakhstan’s Mangishlak peninsula, lies an unprecedented plan to generate enormous quantities of hydrogen.
The vision, conceptualized by Wolfgang Kropp, CEO of Hyrasia, aims to establish energy parks akin to Germany’s state of Brandenburg in size and possessing a capacity of 40 gigawatts. These parks will leverage the peninsula’s harsh yet favorable climate, resembling the North Sea’s persistent winds and southern Spain’s ample sunshine.
Scheduled to commence operations in 2030, these colossal wind farms and solar plants are projected to produce electricity at an anticipated cost of two cents per kilowatt-hour. This groundbreaking initiative was recently shared with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his visit to Central Asia, providing him an opportunity to witness first-hand the construction activities near the Kazakh port city of Kuryk.
If all goes according to plan, by 2032 the Kuryk plant will be fully operational, annually producing up to two million tonnes of green hydrogen, meeting roughly a fifth of the European Union’s predicted total hydrogen demand. As countries strive for decarbonization, green hydrogen – an energy carrier produced without emitting carbon dioxide – plays a crucial role.
However, the colossal task doesn’t end with production. The green hydrogen, once generated, needs to be transported to Europe. Current infrastructures, such as the Russian “Soyuz” pipeline system, are deemed unsuitable by Kropp. Consequently, an alternative route dubbed the “middle corridor,” is under consideration. Unfortunately, the Kuryk port, viewed as a chokepoint by logistics experts, is ill-prepared for the expected trade flows. The geopolitical transformations following Russia’s war against Ukraine also necessitate reconfiguring the links between East and West, according to President Steinmeier.
Addressing these challenges involves the expansion and upgrading of transport routes in tandem with the energy park development. Two-thirds of the electricity will be produced by wind turbines, with solar cells generating the rest. Additional requirements include a water desalination plant on the shore, electrolyzers, and ammonia converters.
The produced green hydrogen will be immediately converted back into ammonia for its journey towards the EU: by ship across the Caspian Sea, by rail through Azerbaijan and Georgia, and then reloaded onto a ship for the Black Sea passage. Once in the EU, the ammonia is converted back into hydrogen for distribution. Kropp assures that these intricate logistics have been accounted for and can be implemented economically.
The ambitious venture will not only need to address technical issues but also social aspects to ensure the local population’s acceptance and support. With the landscape ready to harness the winds of change, the venture represents a colossal step towards securing Europe’s energy future and facilitating the energy transition.