German conglomerate Siemens Energy and the French industrial gas specialist Air Liquide have jointly opened a factory in Berlin, which may be modest in size but possesses the revolutionary potential to transform the landscape of heavy industry decarbonization. The factory, inaugurated on Wednesday, is set to manufacture electrolyser modules, a critical component in the production of low carbon hydrogen.
These modules, often referred to as “stacks,” facilitate the process of passing an electric current through water, separating hydrogen and oxygen molecules found in H2O, effectively unlocking the immense potential for green hydrogen. Siemens Energy, responsible for 75% of the investment, and its French counterpart, Air Liquide, covering the remaining 25%, have jointly invested approximately €30 million in this endeavor.
These compact cubic modules can be interconnected in series, forming industrial-scale electrolysers with the capacity to generate substantial volumes of hydrogen. This green hydrogen holds the key to decarbonizing heavy industries such as steel manufacturing, chemical production, oil refining, and cement production.
Situated on the historic Siemens site in Berlin, which has a legacy dating back to 1904, this factory spans a mere 2,000 square meters but is a testament to automation and robotics. The facility boasts an annual production capacity of 1 gigawatt, with ambitious plans to scale up to 3 gigawatts by 2025.
This marks a significant turning point in global hydrogen production. Until now, over 95% of hydrogen production has relied on the transformation of methane gas, a process notorious for emitting substantial amounts of CO2, leading to the production of what is often termed “gray” hydrogen.
However, this joint venture is poised to redefine the hydrogen landscape. By using electricity sourced from renewable energy, such as wind, solar, or hydropower, the resulting hydrogen is not only green but also low in carbon emissions.
Siemens Energy and Air Liquide have already established an industrial electrolyser in Oberhausen, within the Ruhr region, situated on a chemical site owned by the OQ group. This facility, equipped with 24 modules and an installed capacity of 20 megawatts, is set to be operational “before the end of the year,” servicing a range of industrial processes in the vicinity.