28 Apr 2023, 13:17
Sören Amelang

Estimates on hydrogen needs for decarbonising chemical industry vary widely – science academy

Clean Energy Wire

Existing estimates on how much green hydrogen Germany’s chemical industry will need to decarbonise vary widely, according to a meta-analysis by the country’s science academy acatech and DECHEMA, an expert network for chemical engineering and biotechnology. "The hydrogen demand of the chemical industry could at least double by 2050. Some scenarios also model an increase in demand by factors of 5 to 7," said DECHEMA project manager Jens Artz, adding the sector can use hydrogen and its derivatives not only as an energy provider, but also as a raw material to make plastics and other products. The scenarios examined in the meta-analysis result in hydrogen requirements of between 80 and 283 terawatt hours in 2050. “The enormous range results from the fact that the scenarios weigh the different areas of application of hydrogen differently,” acatech said.

Most scenarios argue that Germany’s chemical industry will have to replace its existing demand for fossil-based hydrogen of 1.1 million tonnes, which it uses to make ammonia, for example. The replacement of fossil raw materials will also require CO2-neutral hydrogen, for example to make synthetic naphtha, the industry’s most important input. Additional demand will result in using hydrogen or synthetic methane to generate process heat wherever it can’t be generated by direct electrification or by using biomass. Increasing recycling rates, which will be necessary to reduce demand for raw materials, will also require reprocessing using hydrogen. All scenarios in the meta-analysis forecast state that the industry will require more energy than today’s levels of around 450 terawatt hours per year, equivalent to about a fifth of total industry demand in Germany. “That’s why it is vital for the chemical industry to have access to renewable electricity at favourable conditions,” acatech said, adding that production sites will have to be connected to future hydrogen and CO2 grids.

Germany’s chemical industry currently causes emissions of up to 112 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents directly and indirectly, acatech said. Germany’s economy ministry is planning to present a plan for lowering electricity prices for industry in the coming week, according to media reports.

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