02 Aug 2022, 13:36
Julian Wettengel

No dominant option for future German hydrogen import – researchers

Clean Energy Wire

Germany will be able to procure the volumes of hydrogen imports needed by 2030 if it quickly sets the right infrastructural, legal and entrepreneurial course, a team of researchers from the “Energy Systems of the Future” (ESYS) has found in an analysis. The team looked at the different import options – from pipeline transport of the gas to liquefied hydrogen or shipping the fuel in the form of ammonia – and found that there is no dominant alternative. “All options have specific strengths and weaknesses as well as different implementation horizons and requirements, so they ultimately need to be established on a case- and application-specific basis,” writes ESYS, which is an initiative of the German Academies of Sciences. For example, a shipping import system for green ammonia – to be used as a raw material for example in the chemical and fertilizer industry – could be set up almost immediately. Significant volumes of pure hydrogen could also be imported via refurbished natural gas pipelines within 3-5 years. Liquid hydrogen transport via ships, however, is still a long way off, say the researchers. They call it a “valid option” from 2030, but highlight that the necessary liquid hydrogen tankers are still in the development phase, and it is currently not possible to foresee by when sufficiently large fleets of ships will be available for commercial liquid hydrogen transport. The analysis is based on calculations on the costs and energy efficiency of the respective transport chains, as well as on qualitative criteria, including environmental impacts, existing infrastructures and political and legal feasibility.

In the fight against climate change, hydrogen made with renewable electricity is seen as a vital tool for decarbonising sectors with particularly stubborn emissions, such as heavy industry and aviation. Germany is set to import the lion’s share of its future green hydrogen requirements because it doesn’t have the space required for the additional renewable power production. Current scenarios predict a domestic demand for hydrogen and its synthesis products of around 45 to 110 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2030, which will rise to 400 to 700 TWh by 2045, said ESYS.

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