Hydrogen Roadmap for North Rhine-Westphalia

Scientific Basis of the Hydrogen Roadmap of North Rhine Westphalia

The aim of German federal climate policy is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 95% against 1990 levels by the year 2050, and thereby achieve greenhouse gas neutrality as much as possible. In order to achieve a near greenhouse gas-neutral energy supply, hydrogen will play a key role. At the national level, the German federal government formulated a hydrogen strategy by which the necessary technical and economic developments can be advanced. This strategy must now be resolved and specified on a state-specific basis.

Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Economics, Innovation, Digitization and Energy (MWIDE) of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) commissioned the Forschungszentrum Jülich to conduct a scientific companion study that would then be used as the basis for decision-making and as an orientation aid for the formulation of a state-focused, North Rhine-Westphalia hydrogen roadmap.

The following key questions were addressed in this study:

  • What role will the state of North Rhine-Westphalia play in a future climate-neutral energy supply system in Germany?
  • Which transformational pathways and fields of action can be identified for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, by which the greenhouse gas reduction targets can be achieved? Which ‘no-regret measures’ can be identified?
  • What form of hydrogen production and demand can be identified and quantified for NRW? How must a viable hydrogen infrastructure be designed?
  • What significance does domestic hydrogen distribution and international hydrogen importation have for a hydrogen supply in North Rhine-Westphalia?

In order to answer these questions, the following procedure was taken: In an initial step, a cost-optimal transformation strategy was developed which, from a national perspective, reveals a pathway to a greenhouse gas-neutral energy supply and future hydrogen supply by 2050. This overall picture was then employed in a second step to further detail and demonstrate the fundamental structure and core elements of a hydrogen supply in NRW.

Hydrogen demand in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2045 (Copyright: IEK-3)

The key findings of this study are as follows:

1.    The national greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030 and 2040 must be more ambitious.

Greenhouse gas reduction targets are key drivers of the restructuring of the energy supply. The interim targets currently set for the years 2030 and 2040 do not sufficiently compel the necessary development dynamics. Instead, they may result in measures being started too late and thereby preside over very strong structural changes in the period from 2040 to 2050. A tightening of the intermediate national targets for the reduction of greenhouse emissions is therefore vital.

2.    A national hydrogen supply is a ‘no-regret measure’

The analyses demonstrate that hydrogen will be an indispensable component of a future, virtually greenhouse gas-neutral, energy supply. Depending on the design thereof, national hydrogen demand in 2050 will be between 9 and 13 million t. Compared to current demand, this is an increase by a factor of more than 5. These boundary conditions should be taken into account during the necessary development and expansion of a hydrogen infrastructure.

3.    Today and tomorrow: Highest hydrogen consumption level in NRW

A large portion of the hydrogen produced in Germany is already used in NRW for industrial applications. This trend will continue in the future, and around a third of national hydrogen demand in 2050 will be in NRW. NRW has the highest hydrogen demand of any federal state.

4.    The industrial state of NRW: Diverse hydrogen applications

The scenarios indicate increasing industrial hydrogen demand in the future. On the one hand, it is important to replace ‘gray’ hydrogen with green. On the other hand, the conversion of industrial processes (e.g., steel production) as part of this process will create additional hydrogen demand. Around half of the hydrogen currently in demand in NRW will be used in industrial settings in the future.

5.    Transportation in NRW: Hydrogen – an important component of a climate-friendly transportation strategy

Today, NRW has an excellent energy infrastructure (i.e., electricity and natural gas networks and gas storage facilities) that could also serve as the backbone of its future energy supply system. In order to maximize the cost-reduction potential for the successive conversion of natural gas pipelines and existing salt caverns as hydrogen storage facilities, use of the existing infrastructure should be prioritized while the hydrogen supply network is built up. The coupling of the infrastructures for electricity, natural gas and hydrogen can be seen as integrated and planned accordingly.

8.    NRW: Making use of the existing energy infrastructure in a forward-looking manner

Around one third of future national hydrogen demand will emanate from NRW. The state therefore occupies a central position in the context of Germany’s future national hydrogen supply. Against this backdrop and due to its geographical location, a link to production and importation sites along the North Sea coast and in the Netherlands could create additional added value for the regions in southwest Germany, via NRW. In order to for NRW to realize its key role as a hub of the future national hydrogen supply, the architecture and design of a viable hydrogen infrastructure should be conceived and laid out beyond its state borders.

7.    NRW: Central hub for a national hydrogen supply

For many decades, the coal reserves of NRW made it an important electricity exporter in Germany. Because of the decision to phase out coal-fired power generation, NRW will soon lose this status. NRW does not have enough sufficient locations for renewable electricity generation to meet its own needs. In 2050, only around 10% of the hydrogen demanded in NRW will also be produced in the state. The results suggest that, in addition to the pipeline transport of hydrogen produced within Germany, pipeline connections to the Netherlands and possible port locations for importing hydrogen into northern Germany will be key to NRW’s energy future.

6.    NRW: From exporter to importer

The analyses make it clear that hydrogen applications in the transportation sector will also make a substantial contribution to achieving greenhouse gas neutrality in that domain. The use of hydrogen in buses and trains will play an important role during the introductory phase. Subsequently, the use of hydrogen in trucks and cars will become ever more important. Around half of hydrogen demand in NRW in 2050 will be accounted for by the transportation sector.

Further details and results:

Last Modified: 02.06.2022