Project H2annibal

H₂annibal project — Water electrolysis for Herne

In dialogue

Friday, November 17, 2023, 8 a.m.: Siemens Energy Gigawatt Factory in Berlin (Germany)
This morning, two representatives of Evonik, Dr. Rainer Stahl (Manager of the Herne site) and Lutz Komorowski (Head of Electrical and Process Control Technology in Herne), are meeting with Eric Klein (European Sales Director, Hydrogen) and Axel von Levetzow (Production Manager Gigawatt Factory) from Siemens Energy for a tour of Siemens Energy’s new Gigawatt Factory, where stacks for proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers are manufactured. The key components of the planned electrolyzer for the Herne site will also be produced here.

Members of the Siemens Energy and Evonik joint project group (from left: Axel von Levetzow, Dr. Rainer Stahl, Eric Klein, and Lutz Komorowski).
Green hydrogen, in other words, hydrogen produced with the aid of renewable energy, is a key element in the transition from fossil fuels and feedstocks to renewable resources and an important step forward in the Herne Green Deal.« Dr. Rainer Stahl
Thanks to our highly automated series production of PEM stacks, we are well- positioned to meet a significant rise in demand for equipment to produce hydrogen. That is an important basis for the defossilization of industry.« Eric Klein

Wind energy for green hydrogen and green hydrogen for wind energy

Evonik is investing in a pilot electrolyzer at its site in Herne (Germany) to produce green hydrogen as a starting product for isophorone diamine (IPDA), a key raw material for the rotor blades for wind turbines. In the electrolysis process, water is split into green hydrogen and green oxygen with the aid of green electricity. Evonik plans to invest a total of €700 million in production processes by 2030 as part of its Next Generation Technologies drive. Our goal is to reduce our carbon footprint (scope 1 and 2 emissions) by 25 percent. The H₂annibal project is one element in this. Incidentally, it is named after one of the shafts at a former coal mine. The project started at the end of 2022 and runs until mid-2025. The aim is to install industrial-scale water electrolysis technology at Evonik’s site in Herne and test how it stands up to industrial operation. Installation by the project partners—Siemens Energy and Evonik—is in full swing. When it is completed, the site will have a state-of-the-art electrolyzer (advanced technology based on the Silyzer 300) with the capacity to produce 13.5 million m3 of green hydrogen a year. It will be powered by green electricity, for example, from offshore wind farms. It will be able to meet about 45 percent of the hydrogen required by this site each year and 100 percent of its oxygen requirements. As well as avoiding 12,500 metric tons CO2 a year, local production will make operation of the facilities at the site more reliable. At present, gray hydrogen (see box “The colors of hydrogen”) is delivered to the site by pipeline. A single pipeline is used to supply the entire site, which is also a risk for production availability. Therefore, beside the impact on the carbon footprint of production in Herne, the decentralized production of hydrogen directly at the production site offers the opportunity to avoid any shutdowns in the event of pipeline maintenance or defects. In addition, the decentralized production offers the opportunity to free up capacity of the existing pipeline networks and therefore offer capacities for new hydrogen applications. The new Siemens Energy PEM electrolyzer at the site will have rated power demand of 8 MW. If the project is successful, a second electrolyzer could be installed in the same building in order to raise the supply of green hydrogen to 100 percent of the site’s requirement.

Transforming Herne into a green site in this way is possible, but it takes time, and we need colleagues and partners who are prepared to think out of the box. That requires a real team effort. At the same time, we must never lose sight of the cost-efficiency of the project.« Lutz Komorowski
Without green molecules there would be no energy transition. By producing electrolyzers on a gigawatt scale, we’re creating the technological basis for the smallest molecule to be a huge success story.« Axel von Levetzow

The industrial significance of hydrogen

Steel, chemical, petrochemical feedstocks and the production of ammonia are important industries. Mobility—aviation, shipping, and the transportation of heavy goods—is another key sector where hydrogen could play an important role, along with synthetic fuels. In the energy sector, hydrogen will be used both as an energy storage medium for exports and long-distance transportation and in re-electrification in hydrogen-capable gas turbines.

To replace fossil fuels, sufficient quantities of green hydrogen need to be available at competitive prices. That requires massive expansion of renewable energies, the construction of highly automated factories to produce gigawatt-scale industrial electrolyzers, and pipelines and large-scale infrastructure for the storage and transport of hydrogen. One significant factor in this is how the price of fossil fuels develops, especially in light of carbon pricing.

The PEM electrolyzer technology being installed in Herne has enormous potential for use in the chemical industry: It can respond flexibly to fluctuations in power supply and the demand for hydrogen and also enables the use of high-purity oxygen. Moreover, the floor space required for installations is low.

Why is Herne an ideal site for the use of green hydrogen? Green hydrogen is a key element in defossilization. It can be used as a storage media and a starting product for other applications, for example, for “green chemistry”. Herne could become the first chemical site where production without any fossil-based resources is possible. Evonik calls this the “Herne Green Deal”.

Among other things, the Herne site produces isophorone, which is then processed into VESTANAT® IPDA eCO, a crosslinker used in the manufacture of rotor blades for wind turbines. Simple commodity chemicals such as hydrogen, ammonia, methane (natural gas), acetone, and oxygen are required to produce this product. Those are all compounds that can already be procured from sustainable production or, even better, produced on-site.

Siemens Energy Gigawatt Factory for electroylzers

In November 2023, Siemens Energy and Air Liquide opened a new Gigawatt Factory for electroylzers in Berlin. This 2,000 m² manufacturing facility produces stacks, which are the key components of electrolyzers. The stacks are based on proton-exchange membrane (PEM) technology. The new factory allows highly automated industrial-scale manufacturing of PEM electrolyzers, enabling a rapid ramp-up of production for gigawatt-scale production. The stacks produced in Berlin are assembled into ready-to-use electrolyzers at the Siemens Energy facility in Mühlheim an der Ruhr (Germany) or by partners close to the project locations.

Annual production capacity was initially 1 gigawatt and is scheduled to increase to 3 gigawatts in 2025. An installed electrolyzer with capacity of 3 gigawatts powered by renewable energy could produce an average of 300,000 metric tons of green hydrogen a year. If the green hydrogen were used as a substitute for fossil fuels, it would be possible to avoid the CO2 emissions of a town the size of Aachen (Germany), which has 260,000 inhabitants.

The colors of hydrogen

Green hydrogen
Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water with electricity sourced entirely from renewables. Production is completely CO2-free.

Gray hydrogen
Gray hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, and the CO2 released is discharged unused into the atmosphere.

Blue hydrogen
Blue hydrogen is gray hydrogen that uses carbon capture and storage (CCS) to capture the CO2 during production.

Turquoise hydrogen
Turquoise hydrogen is hydrogen produced via thermal splitting of methane. Solid carbon is generated instead of CO2. This process may be carbon-neutral if the heat supplied for the process comes from renewable resources and the carbon released is permanently captured. Green hydrogen and its derivatives can make renewable energy available to industry and the transportation sector for defossilization of all end-consumer sectors. As a first step, the gray hydrogen currently used is being replaced by green hydrogen.

Robot-assisted high-tech production of electrolyzer stacks.

Visual check on a newly produced PEM membrane.

View of the fully automated stack production for PEM electrolyzers.

In the podcast

Eric Klein, Axel von Levetzow and Lutz Komorowski in conversation about…
…the production of stacks for PEM electrolysers and the importance of green hydrogen.

Eric Klein, Lutz Komorowski and Axel von Levetzow in the podcast

In the video

Eric Klein and Dr. Rainer Stahl in conversation about…
…the H2annibal project.
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