Cross-border hydrogen project in the Saar region seeking IPCEI funding
Saarbrücken/Völklingen/Dillingen/Homburg/Essen/Munich. The energy company STEAG, the plant manufacturer Siemens Energy, the grid operator Creos Deutschland, the Saarbahn public transport company, and the SHS steel companies (Stahl-Holding-Saar with its companies Dillinger and Saarstahl) have developed a joint project idea aimed at establishing a cross-border and prospectively green hydrogen economy through the production, use and transport of hydrogen. This concept has now been jointly submitted in response to the current call from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy for expressions of interest to identify important hydrogen projects of pan-European interest – IPCEI for short.
Hydrogen is an energy carrier and fuel both for low-carbon production of steel and for emission-free mobility in the region. Its benefits can be exploited to create value if the production and use of preferably green hydrogen and its transport through a fully functioning infrastructure are dovetailed with each other. The hydrogen projects “HydroHub Fenne” (STEAG), “H2SYNgas” (SHS - Stahl-Holding-Saar) and “TraficHdeux” (Saarbahn) in the Saarland, and the Saarland-French hydrogen project “mosaHYc” (Creos Deutschland) form part of the alliance of projects applying jointly for funding. With the funding as an “Important Project of Common European Interest” (IPCEI), the companies hope to secure the necessary capital to implement their projects.
Tailwind for the hydrogen model region Saarland
Due to the structural conditions of industry and energy suppliers as well as a high volume of commuters in the Saarland and the greater region, the IPCEI projects can spark the development of a sustainable hydrogen economy in the region – fully in line with the planning objective of establishing the Saarland as a hydrogen model region. In the context of the national climate protection plan and the European Green Deal, the project alliance will make a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. Collectively, the various sub-projects will also trigger a sustainable transformation process in industry and the mobility sector. This will create emission-free technologies in the border region that will help drive structural change.
Backing of the Saarland state government
Accordingly, these plans also enjoy the express support of the Saarland state government: “We need effective hydrogen lighthouse projects with a strong signal effect both for the economy and for the public at large. To this end, the Saarland has proclaimed the hydrogen model region, in which we – together with highly dedicated companies – are breaking new ground. I therefore expressly support this joint, cross-border project application for IPCEI funding. It is an opportunity for the Saarland to put the industrial core and mobility of the state on a new and sustainable footing," says Anke Rehlinger, Minister for Economic Affairs, Labor, Energy and Transport and Deputy Minister-President of the Saarland.
The projects in detail
mosaHYc – Transport of hydrogen
The mosaHYc project, jointly undertaken by the distribution grid operators Creos and GRTgaz, aims to use an existing gas infrastructure to develop a cross-border high-pressure grid for the transport of hydrogen. The aim is to create a 100-kilometer-long infrastructure that will enable hydrogen producers and consumers in the “Grande Région” to develop business models in industry, the heat market and the transport sector. Account has to be taken here of the interplay between the various pipeline sections in the Völklingen (Germany), Carling (France), Bouzonville (France) and Perl (Germany) area in the Saarland and in France, as well as safety aspects. In the context of a feasibility study, the existing pipelines are being examined and prepared for conversion to hydrogen. In addition, it is being examined to what extent an existing pipeline route between Völklingen and Saarbrücken can be used for the transport of hydrogen.
The HydroHub Fenne project (2 x 17.3 MWel or 664 kg H2 per hour, equivalent to approx. 5,800 t H2 per year) pursued by STEAG and Siemens Energy, which has already been selected as a “Living lab for the energy transition”, is to be the first PEM (proton exchange membrane) electrolysis plant of significant scale. The plant is to be built in Völklingen in the Saarland on the site of an existing STEAG power plant, taking a brownfield approach and making continued use of existing structures without any far-reaching changes or environmental impact. The plant will use electricity from renewable sources (“green electricity”) for electrolysis, producing green oxygen and green hydrogen. The green electricity will be partly generated by STEAG in its own plants, e.g. by STEAG New Energies and STEAG Solar Energy Solutions, or procured on the market via green power purchase agreements (“green PPAs”).
TraficHdeux – Public transport with fuel cell vehicles
The “TraficHdeux” project initiated by Saarbahn aims to build up the infrastructure for operating cross-border public transport with hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains and buses. The core of this project is the reactivation of non-electrified or only partially electrified rail lines across national borders. In addition, the construction of a filling station infrastructure at the STEAG power plant site in Völklingen is planned. The bus fleet is also to be converted to zero-emission operation as quickly as possible. By 2030, Saarbahn will have to replace around 85 solo and articulated buses. The majority of these are to be procured as zero-emission vehicles. In addition, a small-scale electrolyzer is to be installed to ensure supply until the connection to the mosaHYc pipeline is completed. In order to make optimum use of the excess capacity available during the start-up phase, the filling station is therefore also to be made accessible to other municipal companies and commercial users. H2SYNgas (SHS – Stahl-Holding-Saar) The Saarland steel industry, with the companies Dillinger and Saarstahl, plays a key role as an industrial consumer in the strategic development of the regional cross-border hydrogen value chain. Use of hydrogen is required to reduce emissions from processes in the steel industry. Within the scope of the “H2SYNgas” innovation project, a technology is being developed at a blast furnace operated by ROGESA Roheisengesellschaft Saar mbH, a joint subsidiary of Dillinger and Saarstahl, which will enable the use of the company’s own process gases and, in addition, substantial quantities of hydrogen for the blast furnace process. The synthesis gas generated from the company's own process gases will be enriched with hydrogen. This hydrogen-rich mixed gas will then be used as a reducing agent for the reduction of iron ore, replacing coke in the blast furnace process and thus avoiding CO2 emissions. Following the coke-oven gas injection system already installed at the blast furnaces in Dillingen in 2020, SHS – Stahl-Holding-Saar is set to take the next step on the road to CO2-neutral steel production in the Saar region by implementing this new innovative technology.