Wintershall Dea, Europe’s leading independent gas and oil producer, plans a major new project to produce clean hydrogen in Germany and store CO2 underground in the North Sea.
Wintershall Dea’s project, BlueHyNow, will be developed on the German North Sea coast at Wilhelmshaven. Wilhelmshaven already boasts a strong, networked infrastructure: two nearby landing points for gas from Norway, the possibility of hydrogen storage in neighbouring facilities, and a direct link to the planned German hydrogen network. It has a deep-water port where large tankers can also dock. And CO2 can also be transported from Wilhelmshaven. Work on setting up the first LNG terminal in the coastal town in Northern Germany is now also beginning.
With the BlueHyNow project, Wintershall Dea aims to produce eco-friendly hydrogen from natural gas at the Wilhelmshaven energy hub. The project aims to produce over 200,000 cubic metres of hydrogen per hour. That equates to 5.6 TWh/year, around three times the energy consumption of the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, in 2019. The plant at Wilhelmshaven is to be operated using green wind power from the North Sea.
The produced hydrogen will be fed into the pipeline network and supplied to industrial customers, who by using the decarbonised fuel, will reduce their CO2 emissions. CO2 separated off during hydrogen production will be shipped by sea to offshore locations in Norway and Denmark and stored under the seabed in underground reservoirs. By setting up this CO2 storage infrastructure, the project will also enable the storage of unavoidable CO2 emissions from energy-intensive industries. It could even facilitate negative emissions if bioenergy is used with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
According to recent forecasts, the country’s hydrogen needs will rise from 55 TWh per annum to between 90 and 110 TWh by 2030. That projected demand could even rise further due to current European initiatives such as REPowerEU or the new gas package. The current plans in the German government’s coalition agreement will add around 28 TWh a year. If green hydrogen imports increase in the long term, BlueHyNow will be able to respond flexibly to production outages and secure hydrogen supply.
In studies by Germany’s Öko-Institut and Agora Energiewende, CCS is explicitly cited as a necessary technology if we want to meet climate policy targets. It has huge potential. It is believed that the North Sea could store 50 times more CO2 than was emitted in the entire EU in 2020.
However, there are also highly promising CO2 reservoirs off the German North Sea coast, outside Germany’s territorial waters but within its own exclusive economic zone. Studies put the total CO2 storage potential in the German North Sea at around 2.9 billion tonnes. Wintershall Dea is, therefore, in favour of modernising the legal framework so that offshore CCS can also be implemented in Germany.
Wintershall Dea has already identified suitable locations for establishing hydrogen production and with a view to links with the port in Wilhelmshaven so that CO2 can be shipped. The company is also involved in the Greensand project in the Danish North Sea. Up to 8 million tonnes of CO2/year are to be stored in geological formations below the North Sea’s bed.
The company is also very active in Norway and is moving forward with its first CO2 storage licence application. By undertaking these projects and through other measures, Wintershall Dea wants to achieve its goal of saving 20 to 30 million tonnes a year by 2040. That’s equivalent to the CO2 emitted by around 20 million midrange
Mario Mehren, Wintershall Dea’s CEO, said, “For Germany’s net zero emissions targets, for Germany’s industrial competitiveness, and for a safe, secure and flexible energy supply. With this project we will strengthen the existing Wilhelmshaven energy hub and take a major step towards a clean, climate friendly future.”
Klaus Langemann, Head of Carbon Management & Hydrogen at Wintershall Dea said, “Agora Energiewende estimates that in 2045, there will still be unavoidable CO2 emissions of 63 million tons in 2045. CCS is a feasible solution for these emissions.”