12 Feb 2020, 13:19
Benjamin Wehrmann

'Tomorrow's oil': Germany seeks hydrogen export deal with West African states

Reuters / Handelsblatt

Germany plans to set up a production and import chain for renewable hydrogen in a joint project with Western African countries, news agency Reuters reports. "Green hydrogen is tomorrow's oil and offers huge opportunities," research minister Anja Karliczek said after a meeting with her colleague from Niger, Yahouza Sadissou. Germany wants to use green gas to decarbonise its transport and industry, and is looking for partnerships with other countries where large-scale renewable hydrogen production is cheaper thanks to lower population densities and better solar and wind power conditions, such as Australia. Karliczek said 15 states will be surveyed for suitable production locations, and added that her ministry will invest 30 million euros in a so-called “potential map” to pave the way for "true cooperation" with African partner countries. Niger's research minister Sadissou said West Africa's renewable power production potential would primarily be used to supply countries in the region with clean electricity, but that green gas exports are also a goal for the government. 

According to a survey by gas grid operator Open Grid Europe (OGE), the majority of Germans believe hydrogen can play an important role in the country's energy transition. Klaus Stratmann wrote in business daily Handelsblatt that almost 70 per cent of respondents said hydrogen production is a "technology of the future" that could create jobs and spur growth, and more than three quarters back further investment in the sector. "The age of hydrogen has begun," OGE's Daniel Muthmann told the paper, explaining that most people surveyed had no reservations against the technology and were willing to apply it in everyday life. "The survey shows that policymakers and companies have to act now," Muthmann added.

Germany's government is working on a much-anticipated hydrogen strategy that aims to outline how renewable hydrogen production could become a cornerstone of the country's decarbonisation efforts. The draft currently being debated by ministries says that by 2030 about 20 per cent of hydrogen demand could be met using renewable energy sources. The green gas could also be distributed through the existing natural gas grid infrastructure. However, Germany is unable to cover its expected demand for green hydrogen itself. The fuel is supposed to replace oil and natural gas in cases where other decarbonisation measures are difficult to apply, for example in aviation or in energy-intensive industries.

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