Hamburg power plant to be converted into mega-electrolyser for green hydrogen

Source: press release, 22 January 2021

Hamburg Green Hydrogen Hub
Hamburg Green Hydrogen Hub (illustration: Hamburg Wärme)

The companies Vattenfall, Shell, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Hamburg’s municipal heat supplier Hamburg Wärme are planning to build one of the world’s largest electrolysers in the Port of Hamburg. The new electrolyser is to have a capacity of 100 megawatts and be built on the site of the former Moorburg coal-fired power plant. The four companies have now signed a Letter of Intent to this end.

The Hamburg metropolitan region thus continues to position itself to take a leading position in the European green hydrogen economy and, according to the OECD, brings excellent prerequisites to the table. The region and the surrounding northern German states already score with a high share of renewable energies and are planning the rapid expansion of the green hydrogen economy along the entire value chain. In this, Northern Germany wants to lead the way on an international scale and further strengthen its position.

As home to Europe’s third-largest port and a strong ecosystem of business, politics and application-oriented research, Hamburg plays a key role in this. A new milestone has now been set with the Letter of Intent to convert the Moorburg coal-fired power plant into one of the most powerful electrolysers in the world. In the coming years, Germany will be investing nine billion euros in the development of a green hydrogen economy. Forecasts predict that the hydrogen economy in Europe will generate 5.4 million jobs and 800 billion euros in annual sales by 2050.

The companies Shell, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Vattenfall and municipal company Wärme Hamburg are planning how they can jointly produce hydrogen from wind and solar power at the Hamburg-Moorburg power plant site and utilise it in its vicinity. To this end, the four companies have now signed a letter of intent. In addition to the construction of a scalable electrolyser with an initial output of 100 megawatts, the further development of the site into a so-called “Green Energy Hub” is planned. This includes the exploration of the extent to which the existing infrastructure of the Moorburg location can be used for the production of energy from renewable sources.

In this context, concepts for the necessary logistics chains and storage options for hydrogen will also be considered. Subject to final investment decision and according to the current state of planning, once the site has been cleared, the production of green hydrogen is anticipated in the course of 2025 – making the electrolyser one of the largest plants in Europe.

The partners intend to apply for funding under the EU program “Important Projects of Common European Interest” (IPCEI). This should take place in the first quarter of 2021 with the submission of a first outline of the project. The four partner companies view the energy location as having ideal conditions for further use. It is connected to both the national 380,000 volt transmission network and the 110,000 volt network of the City of Hamburg. In addition, overseas ships can call at the location directly and use the quay and port facilities as an import terminal. The municipal gas network company also intends to expand a hydrogen network in the port within 10 years and is already working on the necessary distribution infrastructure. Numerous potential customers for green hydrogen are located near the site, thus enabling the project to cover the entire hydrogen value chain – from generation to storage, transport and utilisation in various sectors. With these prerequisites, the Moorburg location is optimal for the German federal state of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and Northern Germany and can become a potential starting point for the development of a hydrogen economy.

For many years, Moorburg was the site of a gas-fired power plant operated by Hamburgische Electricitäts-Werke, and Vattenfall had been operating a coal-fired power plant here since 2015. Its commercial operation was terminated after the power plant won a bid in the auction for the nationwide coal phase-out in December 2020. A decision by the transmission system operator on the system relevance of the plant is expected in March 2021. The City of Hamburg and Vattenfall are striving to clear [partial] areas of the site as soon as possible for the project to produce green hydrogen and the development of a Green Energy Hub.

In their efforts to form a consortium, the four companies can also count on the support of the City of Hamburg’s government. In their coalition agreement, the governing parties agreed to examine and support the feasibility of sector coupling and the establishment of hydrogen production in the city-state.