Hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels has been discussed for decades. But only recently since the publication of the German government's National Hydrogen Strategy has the topic bounced back on the agenda in Germany. In view of the manifesting climate change, hydrogen has the potential to play a major role in the upcoming energy transition. Whether in the chemical or steel industry, in transport or in the heating sector, the possibilities for GHG savings by using green hydrogen are manifold.
We at HPC have been dealing with the use of hydrogen in the port industry for quite some time and are already working on first projects in this context. In Northern Germany and the Hamburg area in particular, establishing a hydrogen infrastructure that covers all phases of the hydrogen supply chain from the production to the end user is already planned. To this end, HPC is investigating new business areas and developing pan-European project initiatives. We welcome the initiative of the Federal Government as an important step in advancing this topic and take this as an impulse to review the strategy and the hydrogen market with regard to "What is in for terminals and ports?".
Why hydrogen matters
The combustible gas hydrogen, produced from water, oxygen, and electricity, can serve as a medium of storage of green energy, balancing supply and demand and making oversized power lines dispensable. At the same time, hydrogen in combination with fuel cells or refined into fuel contributes to climate-neutral transport. In particular, the use of green hydrogen in the chemical industry or in steel production can also lead to an increasing decarbonisation of these energy-intensive sectors.
The hydrogen industry thus promises to contribute significantly to reaching the climate targets set by the European Union. It has ambitious plans, but so far it has hardly been able to exploit its potential. This is not only, but above all, because of the absence of economic viability in favour of the large-scale roll-out of hydrogen. However, it is precisely this large-scale production and use of hydrogen that promises economies of scale and technological progress that will pave the way for the expansion of the hydrogen market.
The National Hydrogen Strategy
With the publication of the National Hydrogen Strategy, the German government has announced an "investment and innovation offensive" to fasten the market ramp-up of hydrogen. Hydrogen is supposed to be made competitive, while Germany is intended to become "the number 1 in hydrogen technologies in the world". The goals are thus set high.The current annual consumption of hydrogen in Germany is around 55 TWh, of which the largest portion is fossil energy based, so called “grey” hydrogen. Only about 7% of the demand is covered by electrolysis processes and therefore considered “green”. By 2030 the hydrogen demand is estimated at 90 to 110 TWh, of which the largest share is supposed to be green. To this end, the German government is planning to establish electrolysis plants with a total capacity of up to 5 GW in Germany as well as the necessary offshore and onshore energy generation plants to produce up to 14 TWh of hydrogen. But since the renewable energy generation capacities in Germany are limited, the large quantities of hydrogen required in the long term cannot be covered only through national production. Germany will therefore remain a major energy importer in the future and establish international cooperation and partnerships.
In the strategy, a total of 9 billion euros in additional funding has been committed. 7 billion euros will be invested for the market ramp-up of hydrogen technologies in Germany and 2 billion euros will be used to develop international partnerships in the field of hydrogen. The Action Plan envisages the initiation of the first phase up to 2023. After that, a revision of the Action Plan is intended. It comprises a package of 38 measures in total, which address the production as well as distribution structures, and the consumption of hydrogen. Furthermore, research and education in Germany as well as European cooperation and foreign trade partnerships are intended to be promoted.
Good news for the port and shipping industry
Also, for the port and shipping industry there is great potential to benefit from the state incentives as it opens new opportunities for the implementation of hydrogen into existing structures.
As in any other industrial sector, hydrogen can replace conventional engine models also in ports and contribute to the decarbonization of the transport hub. Terminal equipment, for example, can be replaced by fuel cell-based models to reduce air pollution caused by e.g. CO2 emissions. The measures planned in the hydrogen strategy are designed to support such projects. With the project H2Ports, the Port of Valencia demonstrates how fuel cells and hydrogen can be integrated into ports. The project is “focused on testing heavy-duty port equipment powered with Hydrogen Fuel Cells”, with the hydrogen being supplied via dedicated distribution channels.
Especially for the international trade of hydrogen, the transport of liquid hydrogen in its pure form, as a secondary product (such as methanol or ammonia) or bound to LOHC (Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers) are considered important options. These can be easily and safely transported and distributed over long distances and via existing transport capacities. Ports as major hubs can play an important role in this by taking on a central distribution function in the hydrogen supply chain. The growing need for reliable distribution channels thus opens further opportunities to jump on the hydrogen bandwagon. In Australia and Japan, for example, a pilot project to examine the requirements for hydrogen import and export terminals has already been initiated.
Port cities are often also home to large hydrogen consumers, such as steel, chemical or mineral oil companies. The settlement of value-adding companies in or near the port area and the expansion of the port’s role in its region can be promoted by addressing production companies in a targeted manner by providing a dedicated hydrogen infrastructure.
Hydrogen or its derivatives are also being discussed in shipping as an environmentally friendly propulsion technology. In Antwerp, a dual-fuel hydrogen-diesel ship is already being used in ferry traffic, while pilot projects for hydrogen-powered deep-sea vessels are running worldwide. The German strategy also explicitly addresses this area of application and offers the prospect of funding. For ports that want to play an active role in this development, the opportunity to serve as a bunker port and provide ships with the required fuel is given at this point.
In other words, something is happening in the world of hydrogen. And now it is your turn to use the manifold opportunities of the hydrogen economy beneficially for your company. We would be pleased to support you with our experience and expertise in the determination of the potential for hydrogen in your individual case. Or perhaps you have already reached the level where you have a concrete vision and are only looking for suitable partners or funding opportunities. We are also looking forward to being at your side at this point and to highlighting the corresponding possibilities.
About the author
Dorothe Görtz is part of the terminal planning team at HPC. With a background as logistics engineer, her focus is on transport and traffic optimization. In interdisciplinary projects she developed practice-oriented concepts for various clients from politics and economy.
She is convinced that hydrogen will play a key role in the energy transition in the upcoming years and that it provides great opportunities to enhance climate neutrality in the ports and adjacent industrial sectors.