News #16

Future Hydrogen Infrastructure: From early islands of hydrogen to a networked hydrogen economy

In the flagship hydrogen project “TransHyDE” of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF, important questions about the future hydrogen infrastructure will be answered: Where, when, and how will hydrogen and its derivatives be produced, used, stored, and transported in order to reach the appropriate application at the right time and under economical conditions? Within the consortium of research institutes and industrial companies, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE is responsible for the techno-economic modeling of potential hydrogen ecosystems, which will form the basis for further investment decisions, as well as for sustainability assessments of the technology options considered in the project.

Green (sustainably produced) hydrogen and its applications are one of the keys to achieving Germany’s climate targets. There is a consensus that hydrogen’s diverse uses as energy storage and fuel will make is possible to link the energy sector – electricity and heat supply – with the transport and industrial sectors. However, it is still unclear exactly how the future sustainable energy system and its required infrastructure should be designed in Germany.

In one of Fraunhofer ISE’s two work packages, so-called model regions are being examined. These are the early – currently still isolated from each other – nuclei of a future hydrogen infrastructure in Germany. To analyze these model regions, researchers are creating a geo-techno-economic system model. »Local renewable energy sources for hydrogen production as well as supply chains for imported hydrogen will be linked in a cost-optimal way with storage and transport options to enable the development of local hydrogen applications,« explains Friedrich Weise, who is in charge of this work package.

The results form the basis for a transformation of the model regions into a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure. Different transformation paths up to the years 2030, 2040, and 2050 are being modeled, including the market ramp-up and development of the infrastructure. »The goal is to prepare for the simplest possible connection to the grid in the later development of the model regions and to evaluate the impact of such a connection on these regions in order to avoid bad investments or premature decommissioning,« Weise added. The researchers are also looking at potential uses for the oxygen produced during electrolysis and the potentials and transport options for hydrogen produced offshore. 

A further work package is concerned with evaluating the sustainability of the technology options being created in the overall TransHyDE project. The aim is to link those aspects relevant on a societal level, with regard to ecological criteria, with economic and social aspects.

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