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Green hydrogen makes industrial sites resilient

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Green hydrogen, which is generated decentrally with the help of regenerative energy sources, has the potential to cover the energy needs of industry and heavy traffic regionally. This is the result of a study by Fraunhofer IPA that has now been published.

“The use of green hydrogen makes ecological and economic sense,” Dr. Jürgen Henke is convincing: “Hydrogen, which is obtained with the help of regenerative energies, can be used for various industrial processes, the production is climate-neutral and reduces the dependence on gas imports.”

In the recently published study “Industrial Hydrogen Hubs in Baden-Württemberg”, or I-H2-Hub-BW for short, Henke and his team have compiled and evaluated a wealth of data. The result: Decentralized hydrogen production and use pays off if you place the distribution centers, hubs, in the right place.

Reduce transport costs through decentralized production

“The aim of the study was to develop criteria for site selection,” explains the researcher. The first priority here is the availability of green electricity, which can be generated on site with photovoltaics, wind or hydropower. The electrolyzers in the hubs, which break down the water into its components, are operated with the green electricity. In order to avoid transport costs, the hubs must be as close as possible to the consumers. The second important criterion for the choice of location is therefore the need of the local industry for process heat, high-temperature processes and hydrogen gas, for example for the production of nitrogen fertilizer. And the infrastructure is also important: Ideal locations are near busy roads with truck depots where hydrogen filling stations can be set up.

With the help of the location criteria, the research team in Baden-Württemberg was able to identify possible locations – above all the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region and the greater Karlsruhe area. The generation of regenerative energy is not a problem here, emphasizes Henke: »We are the sunniest federal state. If you equip the open spaces along the federal roads and motorways and maybe also the roofs of the industrial companies with photovoltaics, there will be enough.” There are also large numbers of buyers for green hydrogen in the model regions: logistics companies that operate large truck fleets, chemical industries and paper mills could use the gas directly or indirectly for their processes.

A win-win situation for companies and society

With the help of computer simulations, the researchers at Fraunhofer IPA were able to show that 30 percent of fossil energy can be replaced within ten years with regionally produced green hydrogen, and that only if the state’s own open spaces are used. “So the investments would pay for themselves within a few years. If gas prices continue to rise, things will go even faster.

And if the costs for the electrolysers, which have not yet been mass-produced, fall as a result of future optimized production, the construction of hydrogen hubs will become profitable even more quickly,” Henke sums up.

Not only industry could benefit from the decentralized supply of green hydrogen, but also society as a whole, emphasizes the researcher: companies would become less dependent on crisis-related price increases and bottlenecks in the energy supply – could therefore increase their resilience; Jobs would thus be safer; the air is better because fewer or no more fossil raw materials are burned; and greenhouse gas emissions would also be reduced.

In the study, which was funded by the Ministry for the Environment, Climate and Energy of the State of Baden-Württemberg, only locations within Baden-Württemberg were examined. But the model could set a precedent. “The methodology that we have developed can be transferred to any other federal state and any other region in Europe,” explains Henke.

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