Wintershall Dea and VNG jointly invest in hydrogen pilot project

Source: press release, 18 August 2021

illustration: Wintershall Dea
illustration: Wintershall Dea

Wintershall Dea and VNG AG will cooperate more closely in the field of hydrogen in the future, and are planning to build a facility to produce climate-friendly “turquoise” hydrogen as a first step. The two Germany-based energy companies have signed a cooperation agreement to this effect.

The thermal methane pyrolysis process used by HiiROC, in which both companies recently invested, is to be used and further developed for a specific application together with the facility manufacturer. According to current plans, the pilot facility will go into operation in 2023 and have a nominal capacity of 400 kg of hydrogen per day (equivalent to an annual energy output of almost 5 GWh). This will make the facility the first of its kind to produce so-called turquoise hydrogen in Germany. The companies are already in talks with potential customers for the produced hydrogen, and about a possible location in eastern Germany.

In the methane pyrolysis process, the natural gas is split into hydrogen and solid carbon at high temperatures. The hydrogen can then be used as a decarbonised energy source. The solid carbon, on the other hand, can be used as a valuable raw material in industry, for example in road or building construction.

“In order to achieve German and European climate targets by 2050, it’s necessary to rapidly establish a functioning hydrogen market. We want to be part of the solution and are investing in future-focused projects,” says Hugo Dijkgraaf, Chief Technology Officer at Wintershall Dea, Europe’s leading independent gas and oil company. Both project partners see great potential in the production of hydrogen through methane pyrolysis. “This cooperation with VNG will help realise the technology’s potential and establish a hydrogen market, because markets don’t happen by themselves. They have to be built and organised – technology neutral,” says Dijkgraaf. VNG has extensive experience of the entire natural gas value chain and in particular access to end users. This makes the Leipzig-based company an invaluable partner for Wintershall Dea in this area.

“In order to advance hydrogen as an energy source and establish it as an integral part of the energy mix, strong partnerships are needed, between companies as well as between industry and politics. It is a great development for us that we are now working more closely with a leading international player like Wintershall Dea,” adds Hans-Joachim Polk, Member of the Executive Board for Infrastructure/Technology at VNG. Wintershall Dea and VNG want to actively support the energy transition and have already anchored the topics of hydrogen and decarbonisation in their long-term corporate strategies.

Wintershall Dea and VNG are already involved in various hydrogen projects. As part of their co-operation, the two companies have already made an initial investment in a technology partner, HiiROC. Based in Hull in England, this European start-up has further developed methane pyrolysis technology, to accelerate cost-effective and climate-friendly hydrogen production.