The two federal states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland will be national leaders in hydrogen, according to fuel cell and electrolysis expert Gregor Hoogers. According to Professor of the Environmental Campus Birkenfeld of the Trier University of Applied Sciences, “The Saarland is an important transit nation for hydrogen from France.” Both the Saarland and the Palatinate had natural gas pipes that might one day be used to transport hydrogen.
A significant pipeline link, for instance, can be found close to Pirmasens. Hoogers, who oversees the only hydrogen research facility in the country, noted that there are numerous things that may be done to advance the future hydrogen economy. Malu Dreyer, the prime minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, will meet with Anke Rehlinger, the premier of Saarland, on Friday to discuss hydrogen among other things.
Rhine-based green hydrogen for Germany
Rhineland-Palatinate has “a very good infrastructure for transit” along the second pipeline route over the Rhine, according to Hoogers. The nation with the interior ports and cross-border canal network is “predestined” to use the third method as well, which is the tanker transportation of liquid hydrogen. The delivery and distribution of hydrogen will consequently “play a crucial role for Germany as a whole,” according to him.
Green hydrogen is required on a global scale as a climate-neutral energy carrier, particularly for energy-intensive industries. As a source of high-temperature heat, such as in the glass industry in Mainz, or for a direct reduction in the steel industry in the Saarland. For instance, the Saar steel industry seeks to transition to the manufacturing of green steel, which does not need coal or coke. Hydrogen in high quantities is needed for this. Yet in the future, chemical manufacture, where Rhineland-Palatinate plays a key global role, is likely to have the highest demand.
Almost half of the hydrogen required in Germany, according to current estimates, will need to be imported. It is then produced, among other things, in nations in southern Europe or North Africa using the sun and wind before being injected into the pipes. These are multiple-tube natural gas pipes, some of which could be converted to hydrogen fuel.
In addition to “green hydrogen,” hydrogen will also soon be created in France using nuclear energy for electrolysis: this is “pink hydrogen,” according to Hoogers. He added that this hydrogen, which is now categorized as sustainable by the EU Commission, maybe a source of hydrogen for Europe, at least during the transition. According to Hoogers, Rhineland-Palatinate is likewise well situated to produce green hydrogen on its own. This was established by the hydrogen analysis that the state government delivered in November of last year. Around half of the hydrogen needed in Rhineland-Palatinate may be generated by wind and solar energy. In order to accomplish this, he stated, “the country’s plan must be followed in the continued expansion of wind and solar energy, and the appropriate electrolyzer infrastructure must be put in place.
By employing clean, green electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, electrolyzers create hydrogen without emitting any carbon dioxide. However, the professor advised against merely purchasing electrolyzers from the local market: “Rhineland-Palatinate offers fascinating industrial research possibilities for our own plate manufacture for electrolyzers.” There is already a federal project in Saarland for automating the stacking of fuel cell plate technologies, which might be applied to electrolysis. He undoubtedly recognizes the need to “strengthen and coordinate research in this area.”
The state of Rhineland-Palatinate announced funding for hydrogen projects totaling 184 million euros in November 2022.