Let’s assume petrol or diesel were banned. Traditional refineries would then no longer be able to guarantee supplies of these energy sources. With hydrogen, there is the option of further chemical refining being used to turn it into petrol or diesel. However, this does entail major endeavours and conversion work. At pilot plants in Norway and Germany, for example, hydrogen is already being used to produce virtually climate-neutral synthetic diesel. This involves CO2 being extracted from flue gas and, in the future, also the air and being synthesized into long-chain hydrocarbon compounds together with hydrogen under high pressure and high temperatures. These carbon chains (blue crude) can then be refined into diesel. According to the automobile manufacturer Audi, this process already boasts energy conversion efficiency of 70 per cent. Consequently, when green energy is used, this process can reduce carbon emissions by up to 65 per cent.
Another example of industrial conversion is smelting works. Traditionally, iron is produced in blast furnaces in a continuous reduction and smelting process. If hydrogen is now to be used to produce pig iron instead of coke or coal dust, this will call for entirely different furnace constructions, with the infrastructures modified accordingly. The cost of converting German steel production to hydrogen-based iron production alone is estimated at around 28 billion euros. The value of having a highly qualified engineering and consulting team is therefore self-evident.
Ready when you are – hydrogen and the DMT GROUP
‘Our consulting expertise all along the value chain is both broad and specific,’ explains Andreas Ziolek, Managing Director of Energy Engineers. ‘Starting with the process of applying for funding – an area in which, to put it modestly, we are highly accomplished – we assume responsibility for the entire engineering and consulting performance of such projects in close cooperation with the operators, handling everything from the initial idea through to operation/realisation.’
Such conversion processes should ideally be implemented step by step, i.e. with hydrogen complementing fossil fuels only partially at the beginning of such a process, then gradually being used more and more until H2 ultimately entirely replaces all fossil fuels. DMT offers solutions which are already tweaking the parameters in order to guarantee a safe conversion when needed. At gas-fired power stations and all other places which have been supplied with natural gas until now, methane produced with green hydrogen can even be used carbon-neutrally. Examples here include glass producers and the cement industry. What are known as power-to-X syntheses allow petrol, kerosene, diesel, methanol, ethylene, propylene or ammonia to be produced carbon-neutrally on the basis of electricity and hydrogen in combination with CO2 from the atmosphere and to then be fed to sectors that have the necessary set-up, such as electricity grids, the transport sector and industrial plants. The process of achieving this is the exciting challenge and the key to competitiveness.
‘Even in the case of manageable projects such as electricity generation at waste-to-energy plants, it is worth using a small electrolyser, for example, to boost the plants’ efficiency. As an EPC contractor, we can help with portfolio expansion in such cases,’ pledges Dr Frank Sowa, Head of Plant and Process Engineering at the DMT GROUP. Our services founded on hydrogen usage concepts are highly diverse and extend all the way to assisting companies with practising their operator obligations in accordance with the law. (A brief overview of our service standards can be found below.)
Overall, however, there first needs to be considerable political emphasis in relation to all of these topics. Green hydrogen is still too expensive and the framework conditions are not yet clear enough. Changeover incentives are currently lacking due to regulation which is in part not yet adequately evolved or is otherwise too extreme, as well as due to the electricity tax, the EEG levies, a lack of infrastructure and low carbon pricing. All types of hydrogen, be it grey, blue, turquoise or green, therefore need to be used in the initial stages in particular in order to trigger an economically prudent changeover early on.
By the time the electricity tax and a modified legal situation take effect, it will be too late to act because investment cycles dictate that the right time to secure or even expand one’s market position is right now.
The DMT GROUP supports the business world with pooled expertise with regard to all H2 matters, from the initial idea and consulting to engineering and the activation of turnkey systems. It additionally has permanent access to the entire TÜV NORD GROUP’s specialised hydrogen expertise. Whatever the challenges that need to be overcome, we put together coherent and scalable concepts. And when the right framework conditions are in place, we can manage the transformation process together with our clients.