Power-to-X technology is seen as a highly promising solution in the effort to achieve carbon neutrality as the process is used to produce hydrogen using renewable electricity. The resulting green hydrogen can be used as fuel, for example. Saxony-Anhalt is backing the use of this powerful environmentally friendly source of energy. An innovative strategy for bringing about an energy transformation at town level is being tested in the Energieregion Staßfurt (Energy Region of Staßfurt), the Hydrogen Factory of the Future is being developed in Magdeburg and the railroad technology alliance TRAINS is developing a green railcar in the region of Anhalt.
The town of Staßfurt in Saxony-Anhalt is pitching into the energy transformation by producing hydrogen in an electrolysis plant powered by electricity from a new wind farm. The hydrogen – the lightest gas in the world – is then added to natural gas and used to heat the town’s housing. Buses and cars in Staßfurt can now fill up with this mixture instead of diesel or gasoline at a fuel pump at the new rest area on the A 14 in Brumby.
Energieregion Staßfurt sets its sights on green mobility
The vision of a green Staßfurt is set to become reality from 2022/23. The wind farm and electrolysis plant for the production of hydrogen are due to be up and running by then. The partners of Energieregion Staßfurt agreed that the green gas would first be used for e-mobility and fed into the gas network. Energieregion Staßfurt is the name of an innovative new strategy in which various forms of renewable energy are brought together and integrated with the mobility sector. “The green electricity is generated locally and the hydrogen is produced, marketed and used locally, too. The hydrogen-power-to-x chain is provided from the region, for the region – a new approach in Germany,” says Dr. Torsten Birth from the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF. The IFF in Magdeburg developed the new, regional strategy for the use of renewable energy at town level on behalf of the Energieregion Staßfurt project partners. These include the town of Staßfurt, Stadtwerke Staßfurt GmbH (the town’s public utility company), Erdgas Mittelsachsen GmbH (a natural gas provider) and MVV Energie AG (an energy company based in Mannheim).
The municipality, which has a population 25,000, has engaged and is supporting the Energieregion Staßfurt project. “This is an important project that is helping to protect the climate and promote the energy and mobility transformation. It enables companies and private households to use green energy products. For example, citizens will be able to benefit financially from the Energieregion through savings bonds,” says Sven Wagner, Mayor of Staßfurt.
The municipality is of course hoping that this will lead to company location projects and jobs in the sustainable energy sector; in turn, green, regional energy products and new mobility strategies could then be made available to companies and private households. Talks are already underway with short-range transit providers on future possibilities such as introducing hydrogen-powered buses.
Hydrogen Factory of the Future supports e-mobility in the transit sector
The experiences gained as part of the regional energy strategy Energieregion Staßfurt have also been put to use by the researchers at the Magdeburg Fraunhofer IFF to help develop the Hydrogen Factory of the Future. “Wind farms and photovoltaic systems can’t be built just anywhere. We therefore opt for location-specific solutions and use biogas plants for production if necessary,” explains Dr. Birth. Together with MicroPro GmbH and Streicher Anlagenbau GmbH & Co. KG, the Fraunhofer IFF is developing a regenerative way to produce hydrogen using biomass. Once the project’s development phase has been successfully completed, the second stage will see a biogas plant near Magdeburg coupled to the production process. This will not only produce hydrogen that can be used on a decentralized basis, but will also increase the performance of the whole plant. “The fermentative production of biohydrogen will play a key role in the decentralized production of this energy source,” says Dr. Birth. As part of the implementation, a mobile filling facility for vehicles will be tested over several periods to refuel hydrogen vehicles with green hydrogen and to demonstrate the entire chain, from biological production through to its use in e-mobility.
In another project, researchers at the Fraunhofer IFF are working with Anleg GmbH to create a mobile, modular system to supply power to hydrogen-powered vehicles for short distances of 200 km or less. The small trailer carries extendable accumulators with compressors that can be refueled and can also function as a mobile gas station by providing hydrogen.
On the basis of the production of green hydrogen from volatile power sources and biomass systems, the Hydrogen Factory of the Future combines production with use in industry, commerce and housing, and provides targeted support to e-mobility in the transit sector, as well as providing heating, electricity and gas.
A model region for green hydrogen
Saxony-Anhalt is backing green hydrogen. That’s why there are many more development projects underway. For example, the railroad technology alliance TRAINS is working hard in the Anhalt region to advance the fight against climate change in the rail industry. The central project being carried out by the alliance, which comprises more than 50 regional partners, is the retrofitting of existing multiple units with clean gas engines that run on green hydrogen. Just over a year ago, TRAINS received 12.2 million euros of funding from the funding program Wandel durch Innovation in der Region – WIR! (Transformation Through Innovation in the Region) run by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The new, green mobility project based in Saxony-Anhalt came out on top alongside just 20 other projects out of 107 applications from across Germany.
In addition to this, salt caverns in the Bad Lauchstädt Energy Park are to be used as high-volume storage space for hydrogen. There are also projects in progress to exploit the great potential of hydrogen as an energy source, a means of energy storage and as a sustainable raw material for the chemical industry. For example, Saxony-Anhalt is supporting the construction of two unique pilot plants at the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes CBP at the Leuna Chemical Park with more than eight million euros provided by the EU and the state government. This is where the electrolysis technology will be further developed for use on an industrial scale and where green hydrogen will be used as a raw material.
Author: Michael Falgowski/IMG Saxony-Anhalt