The North German Real Laboratory (NRL) was set up just over a year ago to demonstrate how hydrogen (H2) could be best utilised in the region’s energy transition, with a focus on decarbonising industrial processes. Since April 2021, 25 sub-projects have been launched, of which 22 are demonstration plants due to go into operation between 2023 and 2025.
Under the leadership of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, no less than 17 partners from business, science and politics hailing from Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, have combined efforts to support the switch to green electricity, not just in industry but also for neighbourhood heat and mobility solutions.
So far, eight electrolysers with a total output of 42 MW have been commissioned to generate green hydrogen with renewable energy. The largest electrolysis plant (25 MW) will be operated by HanseWerk in the port of Hamburg. Several partners have begun trials to replace fossil-fuel-heavy processes with green electricity, including the copper producer Aurubis.
Three sub-projects demonstrate how sector coupling can decarbonise the heating sector. For example, the utilities company Hamburger Energiewerke is capturing waste heat generated by Aurubis for direct use in the summer and for storing in an underground reservoir over the winter months. Furthermore, 200 H2-powered vehicles are being mobilised – from waste collection trucks to the baggage vehicles of Hamburg Airport.
"The current crisis shows us that we need to be even more ambitious in phasing out fossil fuels and switching to climate-neutral technologies,” says NRL coordinator Professor Werner Beba in a on BMWK’s energy research website. “However, companies need a stable foundation for this: incentive systems, security for private investments, an adequate market framework... and the creation of social support."
The NRL, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, aims to save more than 500,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.