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Our insights and perspectives on the future hydrogen economy in a blog

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“Hydrogen: game-changer for a sustainable energy future”

At OMNIA we understand the relevance of hydrogen to creating sustainable energy, and over the coming weeks we will share our knowledge and experience in a blog series. Our blog articles will include topics ranging from the importance of hydrogen within the global decarbonisation endeavour, to hydrogen’s current legal situation in Germany, the EU, and the UN. To learn more, follow our blog ‘Hydrogen: game-changer for our sustainable energy future’, and have a look at our blog posts below.

Even though there are several challenges facing the integration of hydrogen into Germany’s market, nonetheless there are many innovative pilot-projects that have been planned, revised, and implemented within the framework of Germany’s National Hydrogen strategy. These hydrogen projects originate from different private companies, state owned enterprises, and academic institutions, but are all approved and subsidised by the German state. This article presents details about two of these state sponsored projects below.

‘Green Wilhelmshaven’ by Uniper

The Swedish energy company Uniper was recently the focus of media attention due to its complete takeover by the state of Germany. Uniper was nationalised because it suffered from high financial losses. These losses resulted from increasing energy costs after natural gas exports from the Russian Federation to multiple European countries were stopped. However, Uniper’s recent actions to participate in the green energy transition within Europe are noteworthy. In particular, Uniper has made hydrogen play a vital role in its strategy for a sustainable world, and the company is running pilot-projects that apply use of the element within the industry and energy sectors.

One of these projects is the ‘Green Wilhelmshaven’ in Northern Germany. This planned hub consists of an offshore wind-park, an import terminal for green ammonia, facilities for the reconversion of ammonia to green hydrogen, and hydrogen storing facilities (Uniper, 2022). Ammonia’s high volumetric energy density, low production costs, and good storability make it one of the most attractive means of transporting hydrogen (Uniper, 2022). The ‘Green Wilhelmshaven’ project makes good use of these benefits; a centrepiece of the project includes the construction of an installation for the treatment of ammonia, which would be the first large-scale plant of its kind. For storing hydrogen produced at the plant, Uniper will rely on the existing infrastructure in Krummhörn near the town of Wilhelmshaven (The Maritime Executive, 2022). There, Uniper will oversee the construction and operation of a new salt cavern specifically built for hydrogen storage at the already existing natural gas storage facility, which has not been operational since 2017 (The Maritime Executive, 2022). The commissioning of this plant with a storage volume of up to 250,000 cubic meters of hydrogen is planned for 2024. In general, the whole hub would be capable of supplying around 295,000 metric tons or 10% of the hydrogen demand expected for the whole of Germany in 2030 (Uniper, 2022).

Figure: Germany: Pilot Projects as the backbone of the National Hydrogen Strategy, Source: Uniper, 2022 & Westküste 100, 2022

‘Westküste 100’

In 2019, a joint consortium consisting of among others, the University of FH Westküste, the French energy company of the EDF Group, and the German industrial company Thyssen Krupp submitted a project concept for the application of green hydrogen called ‘Westküste 100’ to the German Federal Ministry of Economics (Westküste 100, 2022).

The Project is located in the northern German region of Schleswig Holstein and is a ‘real-laboratory’, meaning that it is a project aiming for constant development and real-time optimization (NDR, 2021). The first step of the project plan is to install a hydrogen-producing electrolysis power plant with a capacity of thirty megawatts. This first facility will provide insight into the operation, maintenance, control, and grid serviceability of such plants and will serve as a model for the construction of further, larger facilities of a similar kind. The project envisages that in the future all these electrolysis plants will be powered by wind energy and produce green hydrogen. The long-term goal of ‘Westküste 100’ is to scale-up the output of green hydrogen so that it can be used in the heavy industry, energy, and transportation sectors of the region, and eventually throughout Germany (Westküste 100, 2022).


The Maritime Executive. 2022. Uniper Proceeding with Pilot Hydrogen Storage Project in Germany​,

Westküste 100. 2022. Complete sector coupling: Green hydrogen and decarbonisation on an industrial scale,

Despite the high decarbonisation potential of hydrogen, expansion of hydrogen technologies is inhibited by several factors that have a negative impact on the economic viability of projects.

First, hydrogen technologies tend to be far more costly in terms of upfront investment costs when compared to existing native technologies. This is due to the early-stage production processes and limited production quantity. However, just as the cost of wind and solar technologies have come down as those technologies have developed, so too is the price of hydrogen technologies expected to fall rapidly over the coming years. The decline in price will result from technical development, learning rates, and economies of scale. Yet, this does not change the fact that there is still a significant hurdle to overcome today, as the development of hydrogen projects is currently only possible through state funding, subsidisation, or implementation by energy majors.

Furthermore, storing and transporting hydrogen is energy and cost intensive due to the properties of the element. According to Andersson et al. 2019, it has a remarkably high gravimetric energy density of 33,33 kWh/kg (referring to the lower heating value) and therefore contains almost three times as much energy per weight compared to petrol or diesel (Andersson et al., 2019). However, hydrogen is the lightest element and for that reason it has an extremely low volumetric energy density, meaning that stored under standard conditions it has 3,000 to 4,000 times less energy than petrol and diesel per litre (Andersson et al., 2019). To overcome this issue, hydrogen is either stored and transported under very high pressure (usually 200 – 700 bar) or liquified, which is achieved through cooling it down to roughly -253 °C (Andersson et al., 2019). Both methods are fairly energy intensive. Compressing the hydrogen can use up to 10 – 15% of the contained energy, and liquification uses even more energy (20 – 30% of the total energetic content) (Andersson et al., 2019). Other ways of storing hydrogen, such as chemical and physical carriers like liquified organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC) and metal hydride storages, only run with process heat, which is needed to charge or discharge the carrier medium. While these can be more efficient in certain sets of use cases, so far, they have been rarely used in the transport and storing sector.

Finally, in developing markets it is either the case that supply follows demand or vice versa. However, innovative technologies often suffer from a ‘chicken and egg’ problem, which also occurs with regards to hydrogen technologies. The best example for this is the expansion of hydrogen refuelling stations and the growth of fuel cell vehicle sales: if more refuelling stations were available, then more hydrogen vehicles would be used. However, if more fuel cell vehicles were on the road, then more refuelling stations would be under construction to supply the demand. This same issue affects many steps in the hydrogen supply chain. Therefore, it is important to kickstart either supply or demand, so that the two sides of the market have a positive effect on each other. Germany is dealing with this issue through the ‘H2 Mobility Initiative’, which is committed to establishing a large network of hydrogen fuelling stations throughout Germany. Currently 100 of these stations are active, and the initiative is planning to construct 300 more in the coming years with funding by the German State (H2Mobility, 2022).

Figure: Challenges of the hydrogen market integration in Germany, Source: Andersson et al., 2019

All these factors have combined to prevent a dynamic, free market for hydrogen from forming, and thus hydrogen development remains centrally planned. Hydrogen projects are driven by bilateral contracts, in which suppliers and consumers commit to a certain amount of hydrogen generation or offtake respectively, and exchange promises to perform. This kind of contract gives both sides enormous security and the business case can be calculated very precisely for both participants. However, if supply and demand are not planned together, then hydrogen can only be bought from major players in the gas and energy business, who as a result are close to forming an oligopoly and charging extremely high costs. In turn, smaller market players have been discouraged from taking part, as they must either incur prohibitive costs or put significant effort into adopting hydrogen technologies.

On its way to its goal of climate neutrality by 2045, Germany needs to amend its regulations to promote the application of hydrogen technologies to a key element of its decarbonisation effort. One Step would be the forming of an open market where both suppliers and consumers, irrespective of their production or purchase quantities, can participate to enable the full potential of hydrogen technologies and accelerate market growth. This would have positive effects on trading–including transparency, investment signals, and scarcity pricing.


Andersson, Joakim; Grönkvist, Stefan. 2016. Large-scale storage of hydrogen. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 44(23), 11901-11919.

H2Mobility. 2022. Keep on rolling – Weiterfahren mit Wasserstoff,

International Energy Agency. 2019. The Future of Hydrogen,

As the impacts of climate change intensify, there is an increasing focus on the sources and carriers of alternative, renewable, and sustainable energy. Next to a vast expansion of renewable energy sources, the storage of this volatile energy will be a major challenge but is crucial to the target of climate neutrality. To this end, hydrogen can and will play a major role, as it allows long-term storage next to a diverse range of applications, which enables the coupling of different sectors. These characteristics mean there will be an increasing need for this element in the future. According to the International Energy Agency, the global demand for hydrogen is expected to rise from ninety-four megatons (MT) per year in 2021 to approximately 180 MT in 2030 (IEA, 2022).

Figure: Expected global hydrogen demand, Source: IEA, 2022

In addition to processes that already use hydrogen, the expected amplitude of future demand mirrors the diversity of further application possibilities for hydrogen, which will drastically scale-up in the medium- and long-term. Currently, the largest share of hydrogen is still applied to producing ammonia and the refinery process. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), hydrogen is generated through emission-intensive steam methane reforming (SMR) and accounts for about 6 % of the global natural gas use (IEA, 2019). However, hydrogen can be generated without emissions, through for example, water electrolysis that relies on renewable energy as a source. Applications for this ‘green hydrogen’ include everything from fuel cell vehicles, which run on hydrogen and solely emit water steam, to heavy industry applications, such as heat production or iron direct reduction in the steel industry, to the generation of heat and electricity in the household sector. These diverse applications of green hydrogen in the transportation, heavy industry, and energy sectors will make a lasting contribution to the global decarbonisation effort in the coming years.

Hydrogen will not only play an important role in decarbonising many sectors of the economy, but also in compensating the volatility of renewable energy sources. Wind and solar energy do not generate a constant energy flow as they are dependent on the current weather conditions, nor does the supply of these energy sources always match the demand. With an increasing share of renewable energy sources in the power sector, balancing activities will become more crucial, and hydrogen has the potential to play a key role in these activities. Through electrolysis, storage, and re-electrification via fuel cells, hydrogen can be used as a buffer. This is extremely important to guarantee a secure and stable grid, and makes it possible to overcome seasonal, as well as geographical differences in energy supply and demand.

In conclusion, the technical applications of hydrogen are diverse and sustainable when producing green hydrogen. These diverse and sustainable applications will inevitably promote the development of technology around hydrogen, making it a leading element in our global effort towards decarbonisation.


Hydrogen Council. 2017. How hydrogen empowers the energy transition,

International Energy Agency. 2019. The Future of Hydrogen,

International Energy Agency. 2022. Hydrogen,

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