Universal all-rounder

What makes this ancient building block of life a building block for a sustainable and new energy supply? There are various general properties that make hydrogen so attractive – and not just as an energy source for E-Mobility.

  • CO2-neutral: the combustion product of hydrogen is water
  • Infinitely available: 90% of all atoms in the universe are hydrogen
  • Rich in energy: high mass-related energy density
E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen

What are the benefits of hydrogen?

Hydrogen storage icon

Safe transport and reliable storage

The safe handling of hydrogen has long been state-of-the-art in industrial applications. Transport by road, rail and water, transport through pipelines, temporary storage in pressurised or liquefied gas storage facilities – none of the above pose any fundamental problems. In order to set up an infrastructure, it is important to develop devices and systems suitable for everyday use and to further develop existing systems, such as making the current, conventional gas pipelines suitable for hydrogen, i.e. H2-ready.

Electrolyser icon

Unlimited availability and generation

When it comes to renewable energies in particular, we are often faced with the following fundamental challenge: in principle, they are abundant, but are not always available in places where they are needed – or in other cases renewable energy is generated in excess but cannot all be used. 
With hydrogen as an energy source, we can bridge these local and temporal gaps between supply and demand. The electrolysis process in particular makes it possible to produce (green) hydrogen exactly where there is a lot of  renewable energy available. This can then (liquefied under pressure) be transported to exactly where it is needed.

Hydrogen / CHP icon

Diverse uses and applications

Hydrogen will not only change the future of mobility, but other areas as well. This is because H2 is not only very well suited for fuel cell vehicles (e.g. in heavy load sector) but is also ideal for heating flats and for use in heavy industry for the production of climate-neutral "green steel".

 

Icon trees hydrogen

Reduction of emissions and environmental degradation

Sustainable systems are needed to replace fossil fuels, the extraction and combustion of which are harmful to the environment. With the use of hydrogen, we are giving the process of decarbonisation a considerable boost. It is an important alternative that brings us closer to the goal of achieving climate targets and preserving our world.

refuelling of fuel cell car with hydrogen

How is hydrogen obtained?

Hydrogen is present in almost unlimited amounts in the universe and on Earth, but unfortunately almost exclusively in chemical compounds, such as in water, acids, hydrocarbons and other organic compounds. Therefore, hydrogen that can be used as a gas has to be specially produced. The following procedures are mainly used for this purpose:

How is hydrogen obtained?
Options for the production of elemental hydrogen

Electrolysis

electrolysis of hydrogen

Electrolysis is essential for the CO2-neutral production of hydrogen that is variable in terms of location and time. Here, water (H2O) is mixed with a liquid that enables ion transport. Using electricity, water is broken down into its components hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) in a redox reaction. The electrical energy is converted into chemical energy and stored in the hydrogen. In a fuel cell, the reverse principle can be used to convert the energy previously chemically stored in hydrogen back into electrical energy.

Reforming process

reforming process of natural gas to hydrogen

Most of today's hydrogen production occurs as a by-product of processes in the chemical industry and is also used again by other chemical industry processes, especially in the petrochemicals industry. If hydrogen is specifically generated on an industrial scale, this is currently done mainly by reforming natural gas. However, this process is based on a fossil and raw material that is not always available and is also associated with considerable CO2 emissions.

Hydrogen: PtG project Ibbenbüren
PtG plant including gas storage facility in the sector-coupled energy system in Ibbenbüren, North Rhine-Westphalia

How can hydrogen be used as an energy source?

Hydrogen: PtG plant Brunsbüttel
PtG plant in Brunsbüttel, Schleswig-Holstein: Feeding hydrogen into the natural gas network

However, all universal advantages and plus points in terms of energy can only come into play if there are specific areas of application where hydrogen can largely replace fossil fuels. Only then will we be able to develop a secure, economical, resource-friendly and environmentally friendly energy supply in the long term. The main usage scenario will be the chemical storage of large amounts of excess power in conjunction with renewable energies such as the sun and wind using electrolysis. Hydrogen can then be used as follows:

  • With decentralised reconversion into electricity in fuel cells or gas engines
  • For feeding into the gas network (directly or after methanation) or as a pure substance
  • For high-quality applications in industry
  • As a fuel in vehicles with fuel cell drives
Reverse electrolysis: Hydrogen in fuel cell

How do we use hydrogen?

Hydrogen: PtG project Falkenhagen, Germany
Hydrogen production using wind power in the Falkenhagen electrolysis plant

For us at E.ON, one of the main challenges is to find ways and means to expand hydrogen technology and infrastructure. We are in the process of advancing development on many levels – away from unprofitable niche technology towards the efficient, mass-market and cross-sector use of this universal element. We are in the process of advancing the following hydrogen projects:

  • Significant participation in decentralised, integrated H2 B2B solutions (e.g. Norddeutsches Reallabor, SmartQuart, PtG project in Ibbenbüren)
  • Development of future heating systems with heat pumps that are operated with electricity from H2
  • Retro-fitting the gas infrastructure to make it H2-ready
  • Developing an electrolysis industry
  • Digitalisation of our networks to intensify sector coupling for efficient use of renewables
  • Partnerships with politics and business for the energy transition
Boy in car

What is green hydrogen - and what do the other colours mean?

Green, grey, blue and turquoise – there is a “colourful” mixture of types of hydrogen, even when in reality they are all colourless. We explain what it all means:

Room with fuel cell

A decision that leaves no room for doubt about the practicability of energy from hydrogen: The Radisson Blu Hotel in Frankfurt is the first hotel in Europe to generate its own sustainable energy using fuel cell technology. The effect: 600 tonnes less CO2 per year.

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