Ready when you are – hydrogen

Hydrogen, in particular the green variety, is becoming one of our best ways of further combating global warming. This is now stated with conviction everywhere and has become the political consensus at the highest levels. National and European promotion strategies involving sums in the billions indicate how earnest this developmental will is.

But what exactly does this mean for our industry and for society? Maik Tiedemann, Managing Director of the DMT GROUP, puts it as follows: ‘Many activities and initiatives are currently successfully focusing both on production and the comprehensive distribution of hydrogen. But where the pipelines end and there are sufficient supplies of hydrogen available for the users, questions are now beginning to arise which still need to be answered.’

Transformation quality becoming a competitive factor

For a substantial market ramp-up of the new energy carrier, there needs to be a far-reaching transformation of the industry and other areas of application. In addition to the development of new technologies, significant investments will need to be made in converting systems, production processes and mobility – something which is anything but mundane. While investors are speculating about a modern-day gold rush, entire industries all along the value chain are concerned about their ability to compete before, during and after the necessary transformation endeavours. These cannot be handled on the basis of government funding alone.

The DMT GROUP is already developing innovative concepts to make a success of the changeover from fossil fuels to hydrogen. It is a question of making realistic solutions available to individual users and entire industry segments that will facilitate as seamless a transition as possible to hydrogen technologies, while also securing investments and profitability as well as maintaining the ability to compete. Because one thing is for sure, namely that the price of future carbon emissions will explode in the next few years.

Playing the waiting game not a viable strategy

The current carbon levies and other legal provisions are evidently not serving as a changeover incentive. However, addressing the topic of H2 in good time – in other words, now – can be worthwhile in terms of profitability alone. At least in the areas of funding procurement, concept development and engineering, tackling the changeover early on will reduce the pressure involved in a process which is now inescapable in the medium term. This will put companies in a good position when the topic of corporate responsibility hinges on hydrogen and market shares are being claimed. With its comprehensive consulting services, today DMT GROUP can already help develop intelligent plans for future challenges, reduce the costs involved with the right promotion funds, safeguard the deployability of auxiliary units on the basis of balance-of-plant engineering as well as independently assist industrial enterprises and municipalities with everything else leading up to the H2-based operation of their systems.

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.

Some of the DMT GROUP’s services in the area of hydrogen

Strategy and technology consulting

Energy supply and resource conservation

  • Operational energy and resource conservation concepts
  • Hydrogen usage strategies and concepts
  • Fleet optimisation and conversion of vehicle fleets to climate-friendly drive technologies (incl. hydrogen)
  • Sustainability reports in accordance with the GRI Standard

Project initiation, support and management

  • Initiation of, concept development for and management of energy research projects and networks
  • Funding acquisition and application management (North Rhine-Westphalia, German federal government, EU)

Engineering

  • Engineering of high-pressure hydrogenation plants
  • Engineering of hydrogen purification/gas scrubbing plants
  • Feasibility studies for refineries
  • Gas transfer station
  • High-pressure coke oven gas scrubbing plant
  • Forecasting the impacts of a cavern field
  • Hydrogen feed concepts
  • Development of storage solutions
  • Exploration of H2 storage sites
  • Research and development projects

Information, suggestions or questions to the topic? We welcome your feedback.

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