Hydrogen in all its variants as a key technology on the road to climate neutrality
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Efforts to expand a sustainable and renewable energy supply system are in full swing as RWE joins forces with partners from the fields of policy, industry and science. There is an increasing focus on battery storage systems, hydrogen projects and gas power to cover the transition. In the industrial port city of Brunsbüttel, known for being a centre for technology, two projects with a national ambit are now running in parallel: With input from RWE and other partners, Brunsbüttel is becoming a leading German port for the importation of liquefied natural gas (LNG). For the longer term, the system must also be made ready for the prospect of conversion from LNG to hydrogen.
In parallel, an ammonia terminal is taking shape at the same location, in this case a project exclusive to RWE. With its direct access to the North Sea and the Baltic, and its connection to Europe’s inland waterways, Brunsbüttel meets the ideal logistical criteria. Brunsbüttel Ports GmbH is offering support for this construction project by making space available, in addition to acting as a logistical partner with port infrastructure for discharging tankers.
A terminal for green energy imports: From as early as 2026, an annual total of some 300,000 tonnes of green ammonia is expected to arrive in Germany for distribution to customers. The terminal is thus at one end of a green import infrastructure, with climate-friendly production processes at the other.
RWE aims to incorporate the entire value chain into this flagship project, from the import process to conversion, transportation and then utilisation by industrial customers.
In the next stage, the plan is to set up a large industrial-scale cracking unit at the terminal, to convert the ammonia back into green hydrogen on-site. The hydrogen will then be transported to industrial customers via a dedicated H2 pipeline. This expansion stage is expected to coincide with an increase in the ammonia volume to two million tonnes per year. RWE assumes the investment volume will run to several hundred million euros.
Ammonia is the second most commonly produced raw material in the chemical industry, and is shipped worldwide. More than 125 million tonnes are used each year for purposes such as fertiliser manufacture and utilisation in chemical processes. Compared to the universal molecular use of hydrogen, ammonia offers clear advantages: It is not only easier, more efficient and cheaper to store and transport, but it can also be converted back into hydrogen via a cracking process. That makes ammonia an ideal carrier for importing hydrogen from countries where green electricity can be produced cheaply and in large volumes.
To ensure the use of ammonia as a hydrogen derivate is climate-neutral, the generation plants must run on electricity from renewables. RWE classes green ammonia, in its function as a carrier, as the most competitive and most technologically mature hydrogen derivate. Demand for green molecules will grow dramatically in the future in order to achieve climate targets. This is where the green ammonia terminal will provide a vital point of contact in facilitating access to green molecules from other parts of the world in addition to in-house hydrogen generation.
Gas, LNG in particular, plays a key role in the transition from a fossil-based to a climate-neutral energy supply system. Establishing Germany’s first terminal for the import of LNG at Brunsbüttel will provide an important example of the form this transition could take. With an annual capacity of eight billion cubic metres, the terminal will make a crucial contribution towards security of supply, while making Germany less dependent on energy imports from Russia.
This project is a joint venture between the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), Dutch gas network operator Gasunie, and RWE.
The prospect of conversion and compatibility for using the terminal for ammonia must be taken into account right at the construction stage. For RWE as a shareholder, this underlines its intention to focus in particular on the green conversion of the LNG terminal. The adjacent ammonia import terminal will thus provide important empirical reference values for the subsequent conversion from LNG to hydrogen.