Hydrogen power plants get backing from two big German companies

FILE PHOTO: The logo of German energy utility company Uniper SE is pictured in the company's headquarters in Duesseldorf

FILE PHOTO: The logo of German energy utility company Uniper SE is pictured in the company's headquarters in Duesseldorf

Published Apr 8, 2020


INTERNATIONAL - Uniper SE and Siemens AG said they will develop a hydrogen business in an effort to slash fossil-fuel pollution from industrial processes.

Uniper’s Chief Executive Officer Andreas Schierenbeck said his utility will seek to gradually replace coal and natural gas with hydrogen at some of its power generation plants. It will also adapt its gas pipelines and storage sites to receive increasing quantities of the fuel that burns without releasing carbon dioxide.

“Siemens is also committed with hydrogen, so it makes perfect sense, this strategic partnership,” Schierenbeck said in a telephone interview. “It’s good timing, as we need to bring the new technology to the table in Germany.”

Traditionally a power generator using gas and coal, Uniper decided to invest 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in the next three years to reduce the emissions of its plants. It set a goal to make its power generation portfolio in Europe climate-neutral by 2035, which is 15 years before the European Union’s target for the region.

Hydrogen has the energy to provide temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius or more needed by steel makers and oil refiners. The fuel is now in the center of Germany’s energy transition strategy and is a possible replacement for fuels like gas and coal that release greenhouse gases. The country is due to announce a plan to support the development of a hydrogen industry this month.

“After the coal phase-out and the switch to a secure gas-based energy supply, the use of climate-friendly gas will be a major step towards successful energy system transformation,” said Schierenbeck. “The decarbonization of the gas industry, including gas-fired power generation, is essential if Germany and Europe are to achieve their climate targets.”

Uniper’s strategy is a response to questions from investors about the company’s future after Germany closes the last of its coal plants. Uniper will close 1.5 gigawatts of capacity by 2022 and submit another 2.4 gigawatts to the government’s shutdown program by 2026.

Established in 2016 as a spin off of EON SE’s gas and coal operations, Uniper is now looking at new technologies to grow. Some of the company’s coal plants will be converted into new gas-fired facilities, increasing the company’s gas capacity, which currently responds for over half of Uniper’s electricity generation.

Under its new partnership with Siemens, some of these new facilities will be set to receive hydrogen. That will enable Uniper to gradually increase the share of the clean gas in its conventional business.

“Joint projects with our customers, such as the partnership with Uniper focusing on ‘brownfield transformation’ and the design of the green hydrogen value chain, are extremely important,” said Jochen Eickholt, Siemens Energy executive board member. “Here we can show that a CO2-free energy supply is possible and makes sense under real conditions and using existing plants.”


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