Two Unique Pilot Plants at the Chemical Park Leuna

The model hydrogen region in central Germany: Willingmann presents a grant of 8.1 million euros to Fraunhofer researchers

Saxony-Anhalt is investing in the fuel of the future. The state’s Minister for the Economy Prof. Dr. Armin Willingmann has presented two grants totaling 8.1 million euros from EU and state funds to the Fraunhofer Executive Vice President, Technology Marketing and spokesperson for the Fraunhofer hydrogen network, Prof. Dr. Ralf B. Wehrspohn, and the director of the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes CBP in Leuna, Gerd Unkelbach. The aim is to establish two unique pilot plants to bring about a breakthrough in the production, storage and use of carbon-neutral hydrogen on an industrial scale.

As Willingmann said: “We want central Germany to become a model region for green hydrogen during the course of the energy transition and the phase-out of coal. Hydrogen produced using excess solar and wind electricity is highly versatile. It not only makes it possible to store renewable energy, but also offers huge potential as a sustainable raw material for our chemical industry.”

However, the production of green hydrogen by means of electrolysis (using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen) is not yet cost-effective on an industrial scale. This is what the researchers at the Fraunhofer CBP in Leuna (west of Leipzig) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS in Halle plan to change. In the future they will be able to make use of two pioneering pilot plants that are being funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The electrolysis test and trial platform (ELP, total costs: 9.25 million euros, of which 50% is EU funding for the state of Saxony-Anhalt and 25% each is provided by the German federal government and the state government) will allow electrolysis technology to be developed up to an industrial scale, so that the green hydrogen produced in this way can also be used on a large scale in the scaling platform Hy2Chem (total costs: 2.085 million euros, of which 1.12 million euros is EU funding for the state of Saxony-Anhalt and 965,000 euros comes from the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and businesses) to manufacture basic chemicals and fuels.

As Willingmann explained: “The expertise and the infrastructure available in Leuna put it in a strong position to become the nucleus of a German hydrogen economy and open up worldwide export opportunities for our businesses. To achieve this, we need to succeed in producing and using green hydrogen on a large scale. The establishment of the two pilot plants, which has been funded by the state of Saxony-Anhalt and by businesses, lays the foundations for this. This flagship project for structural change in the brown coal mining region will also pave the way for a low-carbon and, ultimately, a carbon-neutral chemical industry.”

Saxony-Anhalt and the Chemical Park Leuna in particular have many advantages with regard to green hydrogen. These include:

  • The significant potential for generating renewable energy in the state
  • The well-developed hydrogen infrastructure that can be used for green hydrogen (central Germany has the second largest hydrogen pipeline network in Germany and salt caverns for use as large-volume hydrogen storage facilities)
  • Companies with extensive experience of producing hydrogen and using it for industrial purposes
  • A high-performance research infrastructure consisting, among others, of the Fraunhofer CBP, the HYPOS network with more than 100 members, including businesses, universities and research institutions, and the two living labs for the energy transition selected by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi): GreenHydroChem in Leuna and the Energiepark Bad Lauchstädt.

One of the goals of the draft National Hydrogen Strategy produced by the BMWi is that by 2030 around 20 percent of the hydrogen used in Germany will be carbon-neutral. Technological advances throughout the entire value chain, from generation and storage through to distribution and use, will be crucial to achieving this goal. The foundations for this are already being laid in Leuna.