The push for decarbonization of the energy, industry and mobility sectors is one of the major challenges of our time. Hydrogen has the potential to make a key contribution here by providing a storable, carbon neutrally produced energy source. At Fichtner, we believe that we can make a valuable contribution to the development of the hydrogen economy, not only by sharing our knowledge and vast experience in projects, but also by creating networks and enabling the joint improvement of new ideas for a cleaner future.

60 participants from 16 countries

It was this conviction that motivated us to host our very first Fichtner Hydrogen Forum in September 2019. We brought together representatives and decision makers from international energy and industry players such as Siemens, OGE, RWE, Equinor, Engie and ThyssenKrupp at the legendary Regent Hotel Berlin to discuss their views and ideas on the future role of hydrogen. Two sessions of presentations and panel discussions took place, with high-profile speakers debating the role of hydrogen in the transformation of our energy systems. While the panelists agreed that hydrogen will be an integral part in mastering this transition, it was fascinating to learn about the different views and contributions that the various industries and companies can provide.

One interesting example was the presentation by Randi Mette Hegseth from Equinor: While hydrogen in Germany is mainly discussed in the context of power-to-gas, she made the revealing comparison that Europe’s annual natural gas consumption of 1500 TWh is equivalent to the capacity of 20 billion Tesla 75d batteries – or some 200 hydropower plants. Achieving decarbonization of this huge amount of energy consumption, she argued, could not be achieved by power-to-gas alone, but only by utilizing hydrogen produced from natural gas and using carbon capture and storage.

Safe, proven and future-proof technology

Dr. Andrei Zschocke from ThyssenKrupp reminded the audience that electrolysis is not a new development but rather a proven technology with a long track record not only in hydrogen, but also in chlorine production. He referred to ThyssenKrupp’s capability to currently produce up to 600 MW of power-to-gas plants per year.

The fact that hydrogen technology is ready for the market was a theme that resonated throughout the day. Prof. Stefan Schlechtriem of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) informed the audience about his institute’s experience of working with large quantities of hydrogen without a single accident in decades of testing rocket engines. Fichtner’s project director for oil and gas, Dr. Joachim von Schnitzler, made the same point when speaking about safety aspects of hydrogen systems; there is a long track record of handling hydrogen safely and the technical means to do so are available and have been in use for a long time.

Dr. Thomas Hüwener, CTO of Open Grid Europe GmbH, is convinced that Germany’s and Europe’s targets for emissions reductions will not succeed without hydrogen. According to Dr. Hüwener, climate targets can only be achieved through sector coupling, power-to-gas and hydrogen. He presented his sector’s planned contribution in the form of projects like Hybridge and called on regulators to remove barriers to advance these efforts.

Olivier Lhote, of Engie, defined the technical possibilities and critical points of using the natural gas grid for such sector coupling with hydrogen. One key takeaway was that small amounts of hydrogen in the grid can be considered feasible with no or only minor modifications. The technical view on sector coupling was rounded out by Stefan Bergander. He shared insights of the HYPOS project, with special regards to the development and construction of a large-scale salt cavern underground storage for hydrogen that will be required for a hydrogen economy.

What does it take to make hydrogen successful?

Developing ideas of what is required so that hydrogen can become a success story in the near future was not only a prominent topic in the majority of presentations but also in the panel discussions. It was one of the main points of the panel discussions moderated by Energate Messenger’s Heiko Lohmann. Fittingly, this was also the point of the presentation by Fichtner’s senior project manager for energy economics, Matthias Schlegel, that had started the day. He presented Fichtner’s lessons learned from various hydrogen projects, establishing our ideas and recommendations on how hydrogen projects can be developed successfully.

It was great to see throughout the day that not only are visions being formed, but that many people are working on concrete steps to take hydrogen from a vision to an integral part of our energy system. We plan to continue being a part of this. Therefore, and because of the great feedback from our guests, we are happy to announce that we are setting up a second edition of our Fichtner Hydrogen Forum on 7 May 2020 in Cologne.