Energy heavyweights plan green H2 at old German coal plant

Vattenfall, Shell, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the municipal Wärme Hamburg utility plan to house a 100MW wind and solar-powered electrolyser at a former coal plant in Hamburg

The Moorburg CHP Plant and the Hamburg Container Terminal Altenwerder in the background
The Moorburg CHP Plant and the Hamburg Container Terminal Altenwerder in the background

Energy giants Vattenfall and Shell have signalled their desire to develop what could be one of the largest electrolyser plants in Europe over the next four years.

Alongside Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the municipal utility Wärme Hamburg, they have today (22 January) signed a letter of intent to explore options for building a 100MW hydrogen project at Vattenfall’s Moorburg coal power site in Hamburg.

The new consortium hopes to see the production of green hydrogen by 2025.

Up until last month, Vattenfall had been operating the coal-fired power plant until its commercial operation was terminated as part of a national auction for a nationwide coal phase-out.

The amount of power supplied by wind and solar power to the new 100MW electrolyser plant is not specified but its location would allow for electricity to be delivered via the 380kV national grid connection and the 110kV network connection from the city of Hamburg to Brunsbüttel, according to Vattenfall.

This allows the site “direct access” to electricity from wind and solar power, according to Hamburg’s minister for economy and innovation, Michael Westhagemann.

In its initial design, the construction of the scalable electrolyser is expected to have an initial output of 100MW. However, the further development of the site into a so-called “green energy hub” is planned, according to Vattenfall.

This includes designing storage options and logistics chains for the green hydrogen fuel to decarbonise the city, subject to future investment decisions and planning options. 

Hamburg’s climate goal is to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 in comparison to 1990 levels – this would set the city on course for cutting 7 million tons of C02 emissions by 2030. In the long-term, the city aims to reduce emissions by at least 95% in order to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. 

Jens Kerstan, chairman of the supervisory boards of Wärme Hamburg said that by producing green hydrogen on a large scale with the four companies, the city would be able to use the plant as “a major lever for reaching our climate goals”. 

He said: “The gas pipeline networks in the port and around Moorburg are now being expanded to accommodate hydrogen and to facilitate supplies to industry and large businesses. Our hydrogen future is now taking shape, and Hamburg intends to be at the forefront here.”

The municipal gas network company intends to expand a hydrogen network in the port within ten years and is working on the necessary distribution infrastructure to kickstart Germany’s hydrogen economy.

Andreas Regnell, senior vice president and head of strategic development of Vattenfall, agreed that the plant would help Hamburg city implement their “ambitious” climate goals. 

In the next couple of months, the consortium will submit an application for funding for an undisclosed sum under the EU's Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) programme. 

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