Working on the hydrogen infrastructure

What are the most significant actions being taken? What is Gasunie’s function? Helmie Botter, Hydrogen Business Development Manager, and Bert Kiewiet, Hydrogen Manager Germany, discuss Netherlands’ and Germany’s hydrogen objectives.

Starting Point

It remained mute for a long when asked who is ahead, the Netherlands or Germany. Helmie ultimately declares, “The Netherlands is leading the way.” “There were previous developments there. The Netherlands has made significant progress with hydrogen in recent years, with Gasunie playing a key role. However, the train has begun to run in Germany. As a result, I believe the Netherlands will be overtaken shortly.” “Work on the hydrogen backbone has been ongoing in the Netherlands for some time; in Germany, the similar program is barely a year and a half old,” Bert confirms. The Netherlands is leading the way, as seen by the pilot projects and the first hydrogen pipeline in Zeeland. However, hydrogen is given a strong boost in Germany’s new coalition agreement. The conversion of Germany’s (steel) sector is of special importance.”

Doing vs. thinking

“They are more realistic in the Netherlands,” Bert adds. “Just do it and see what happens.” People in Germany are more likely to consider things properly first. And then reconsider. But if they leave, they leave. Regulation is a good example. In the Netherlands, the market is truly given priority. In Germany, people like to plan ahead for such situations.” “The Dutch way is to gather a group of specialists for the broad picture and then get started,” Helmie says.

Various starting positions

“In terms of size and quantity of players, the Netherlands is also clearer,” Helmie says. Gasunie is the only national gas transport network operator (TSO). You have to deal with various TSOs and federal states in Germany. The Netherlands is occasionally respected throughout Europe. That the hydrogen transit might be picked up by Gasunie. That the Netherlands can take such significant moves while being realistic. And the government backs it up with subsidies.” “All German gas firms want to enter into hydrogen as well,” Bert says, “but the landscape is different.” With so many stakeholders, a compromise is sometimes the best option. That’s nothing but pondering!”

Governments that collaborate

Despite their differences, they work well together. “In the end, governments are solely accountable for their own country,” Bert says. However, energy exchange has a long history in Europe, particularly between Germany and the Netherlands. For example, the two ministries of economic affairs communicate practically weekly regarding so-called Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI). The hydrogen backbone is also included.”

Backbone as a link

“With the Dutch backbone,” Helmie says, “the five domestic industrial sectors will become hubs for hydrogen generation, transportation, and import.” We also take a look at the Ruhr region. Germany is in desperate need of hydrogen. The Netherlands can become a transit nation by linking the backbones of both countries. This is beneficial to the ports, the economy, and job creation. We also see a lot of promise for hydrogen storage in salt layers in the Netherlands-Germany border area. The region in which we operate as Gasunie is suitable for our position in the hydrogen market in Northwest Europe.”

Collaboration between departments

“If you look at the map of the ‘European Hydrogen Backbone,’ you’ll notice another map next to it that zooms down on the Netherlands and Germany.” Bert: As a result, we are well ahead of the competition. We also deal with one hydrogen department inside Gasunie, rather than the customary division between the Netherlands and Germany. Working on this is a lot of fun. On the one hand, we are breaking new ground; on the other, we can draw on decades of experience.” “Working on something fresh gives me a lot of energy,” Helmie says. To have the feeling that you are contributing to society and the future of Gasunie. And when you combine that with a large number of partners and a close-knit team, everyone is organically motivated to make a difference.”

The same strategic objectives

Bert: “In 2030? Then we recognized we had a German backbone. We have links with both the Netherlands and Denmark. Flexible storage capacity is also tied to the backbone.” “The Netherlands is almost the same,” Helmie says. By 2030, I believe we will have completed the national backbone, which will include numerous hydrogen caverns as well as a connection to Germany and Belgium. We will also have completed the first large-scale import, indicating that we are moving closer to a worldwide market. Germany and the Netherlands both have a strong start in terms of industrial clusters, offshore wind, and ports.”