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Hydrogen lab Leuna starts operations

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Green hydrogen is a critical component of a long-term raw material supply for industry and the achievement of climate goals.


The Hydrogen Lab Leuna, which is completely integrated in a chemical park, is the first pilot plant for testing and scaling of the electrolysis systems needed for this.
This helps to speed the essential market ramp-up of H2 technologies, which the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft hopes to do by combining its hydrogen efforts in northern and eastern Germany: the Hydrogen Labs in Leuna, Görlitz, and Bremerhaven, as well as a Hamburg application center, will be linked. This results in a globally unique set of pilot plants spanning the whole hydrogen economy value chain.

When hydrogen is produced by electrolysis using renewable energy power, a climate-neutral raw material is created that can be used as an energy carrier and storage unit, as well as a material substitute for fossil raw materials. This has significant implications for industrial operations and mobility that do not rely on fossil raw materials, as well as the realization of the energy transition.

Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS, Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy Systems IWES, and Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU have joined forces to accelerate the implementation of this technique. They span the full process from CO2-neutral power generation via offshore and onshore energy generation, testing and optimization of electrolysis and the production of the systems utilized, to the storage, transport, and use of green hydrogen, with the recently inaugurated Hydrogen Lab Leuna and the pilot plants now under development in Görlitz, Bremerhaven, and Hamburg.

Assisting with the market’s expansion

“Green hydrogen’s potential and applications are exceedingly exciting. In example, in industry, the conversion of existing industrial processes to hydrogen can make a significant contribution to defossilization and meeting climate targets. Prof. Reimund Neugebauer, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, states, “The focus here must be on the economic and sustainable design of the changeover.” » The first Fraunhofer Hydrogen Lab in Leuna was established with the goal of transferring hydrogen technology from the lab to the industrial scale. The location, which is in the heart of the Central German chemical triangle and close to industry, will quickly bring safe and effective solutions to market.

The Hydrogen Lab Leuna provides flexible test spaces for electrolysis systems, Power-to-X, and Power-to-Liquid projects with a linked load of up to 5 MW. “Direct integration into a chemical park’s infrastructure provides us with not just access to Central Germany’s H2 pipeline network, but also access to the local chemical industry, which requires a lot of hydrogen and is keen on employing sustainable technology and processes. In Leuna, we will not only test and develop electrolysers, but we will also focus on difficulties related to Power-to-X technologies. « The first project with a 1 MW high-temperature electrolyser in connection with green methanol production has just begun », explains Dr.-Ing. Sylvia Schattauer.

By the end of 2022, there will be three megawatt-scale hydrogen labs.

The three megawatt-class hydrogen labs all have distinct selling points: The pilot plant at Leuna is immediately connected to the regional chemical industry’s pipeline.

The generation, storage, and use of hydrogen for mobile and stationary fuel cells, in particular for mobility and to supply districts and industrial sites, is the focus at Görlitz (12.3 MW linked load; projected commissioning: end of 2022). This comprises stack and system evaluation, microstructure analysis and diagnostics, digitalization, power electronics, and certification, among other things.

The connection to a MW wind turbine and a virtual simulation of a power supply network in Bremerhaven (initially 2 MW connected load, scalable to 10 MW; commissioning: mid-2022) is a unique feature for investigating the electrical properties of electrolysers. An application center in Hamburg complements the laboratories, which conducts research on the modeling and control of decentralized, local energy systems. The area industry’s characteristics are taken into account at all four locations, for example, while giving particular test processes for newly developed technology. CBP techniques are being scaled up in Leuna, for example, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes, to employ green hydrogen to add value to low-emission basic chemical and synthetic fuel manufacturing. For the first time, green methanol is being manufactured on an industrial scale in the previously mentioned start-up operation.

For the first time, a cross-sectoral demonstration of regenerative energy generation to the impact and modeling of the interaction of large regional energy generating, storage, and consumption units is possible thanks to the three institutes’ cooperative orchestration of activities. Manufacturers of plants and components have the opportunity to put new equipment to the test on a large scale. The scientists’ tight collaboration provides an intensive flow of knowledge, complementary development, and simpler access for industry.

Arnes Biogradlija
Creative Content Director at EnergyNews.Biz

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