Unique project in Germany: Natural gas pipeline is converted to pure hydrogen
- Test in Holzwickede creates an important basis for the success of the energy transition
- Gas network could be the battery of the future
In order to achieve the climate targets and reduce carbon emissions, politics and business are increasingly turning to hydrogen as a climate-neutral energy carrier while also working to expand renewable energies. E.ON is now taking a significant step forward in putting the hydrogen vision into practice: as part of its new research & development project “H2HoWi” in Holzwickede in North Rhine-Westphalia, the first of its kind in Germany, the company will convert a natural gas pipeline, which is part of the public supply system, to pure hydrogen. The project will be backed by scientific monitoring to confirm, among other things, that hydrogen has no influence on the properties of the pipe material or the tightness of the existing infrastructure.
There is a technical standard in Germany that limits the hydrogen concentration in natural gas networks to a maximum of 10 percent, but a number of trials have already explored higher admixture rates. With the project now launched, E.ON subsidiary Westnetz is trying to establish whether the existing infrastructure could even be used for pure hydrogen. “Upgrading the existing gas network infrastructure for hydrogen is an important prerequisite for the success of the energy transition. By converting green electricity into hydrogen, regenerative energy can be stored in gas networks. The gas networks can thus become the storage facilities of the future. E.ON has set itself the goal of adding green gases to natural gas in the distribution networks and, if required, offering a supply of 100 percent hydrogen,” said Thomas König, E.ON’s COO responsible for the company’s network business.
“It is not technically feasible or economically viable to electrify all applications. Therefore, hydrogen will be indispensable as an energy carrier for applications where the direct use of green electricity is either not feasible or sensible for technical or commercial reasons. This is why we need to connect the different sectors of energy consumption. Given its carbon-neutral nature, pure hydrogen is a future-oriented solution, for example when it comes to supplying heat or for industrial production processes,” explained Katherina Reiche who, in addition to her role as CEO of Westenergie AG, is also Chairwoman of the German government's National Hydrogen Council.
With its “H2HoWi” project, Westnetz is exploring these options and examining if and how it could be technically possible to convert a natural gas pipeline to pure hydrogen. To this end, the company will disconnect a medium-pressure gas pipeline in the town of Holzwickede in the Ruhr area from the network and then connect it to a hydrogen storage facility. Four commercial customers will be supplied from here. The hydrogen is to be used to generate the required space heat. In addition to the conversion of the pipeline, this also requires adjustments to the existing customer installations. For this reason, hydrogen-compatible condensing boilers from Remeha are being installed at their premises.
The “H2HoWi” project launched by E.ON SE and Westnetz GmbH will be an important milestone in making the public supply to the community of Holzwickede sustainable. The entire project will be executed by Westnetz and will be managed and operated until the end of 2023. Construction work will start in November 2020. The company will invest roughly 1€ million.