The smallest molecule can solve decarbonization's biggest challenge
Europe’s electricity mix – like Uniper’s - is becoming greener. This will progressively decarbonize everything electric. But some industries are difficult to electrify (like steel, plastics, and concrete or aviation and maritime transport). These five industries alone account for 25% of anthropomorphic carbon emissions. If they don’t decarbonize, net-zero will never happen. Uniper’s believes this formidable challenge has a promising solution: hydrogen.
Molecular hydrogen (H2) – the smallest molecule in the universe – burns like natural gas but emits no CO2. It can therefore be injected into the gas network and used to generate electricity, heat homes, and fuel industrial processes. It can also power fuel cells that propel vehicles, locomotives, and ships. Most importantly, hydrogen can be combined with captured carbon dioxide to produce green jet fuel and diesel as well as climate-neutral chemicals. This is what could put hard-to-electrify industries on a realistic path to net zero.
Uniper’s hydrogen hubs
Uniper’s hydrogen hubs
The key is for hydrogen to be produced in a zero- or low-carbon process. Uniper has been using wind power to produce zero-carbon green hydrogen for almost over a decade. Now we plan to transform three of our existing facilities into major hydrogen hubs: Wilhelmshaven (Germany), Maasvlakte (the Netherlands), and Killingholme (U.K.). All three are on or near the ocean, giving them access to offshore wind power to run electrolysis equipment that transforms water into green hydrogen. We plan to have 1 GW of electrolysis capacity by 2030. Wilhelmshaven and Maasvlakte will also be able to offload imported hydrogen and low-carbon ammonia, which can be transformed into hydrogen. Wilhelmshaven could meet about 15% of Germany’s hydrogen needs by 2030.
Hydrogen trading will play an equally important role for us. The demand of hydrogen will rise across all sectors. Europe will therefore have to meet much of its future hydrogen needs with imports, either by pipeline or by ship. Uniper’s long history of sourcing energy globally positions it superbly to help Europe get the clean energy it needs. We’ve already signed agreements to import low-carbon ammonia for conversion into hydrogen at our future seaside hubs.
Supporting customers’ decarbonization strategies
Our hydrogen business will focus initially on providing our industrial customers – those near our hubs and elsewhere – with zero- and low-carbon hydrogen as well as hydrogen-based synthetic fuels. This will enable them to decarbonize production processes that are difficult to electrify. We also plan to supply hydrogen to the transport sector and to convert some of our gas-fired power plants to hydrogen.
Europe’s future hydrogen economy will only become a reality through collaboration. One example is the H2Global Foundation, a German government initiative launched in mid-2021 of which Uniper is a founding member. Its aim is to make green hydrogen competitively priced relative to conventional hydrogen (whose production is carbon-intensive) and thus to accelerate the ramp-up of green-hydrogen production capacity.
Uniper’s objective aim is to make zero-carbon green hydrogen a mainstay of tomorrow’s sustainably energy supply. Until enough is available, however, we believe it will be necessary to use low-carbon varieties of hydrogen as well. Our hub in Killingholme, for example, will also produce blue hydrogen (conventional hydrogen whose CO2 emissions from production are captured and stored).