Hydrogen is currently one of the key feedstocks used in industry and as such is crucial to various processes and high-grade products: hydrogen is used, for instance, for metal processing, hardening fats, manufacturing fertilisers (or ammonia) and in the desulphurisation of fuels.
A climate-neutral raw materials industry, in particular, is inconceivable from today’s perspective without the use of hydrogen. Primary steel production, for instance, can be made largely carbon neutral by using hydrogen. In the chemical industry, too, hydrogen can make a significant contribution towards climate protection. Converting ammonia production to green hydrogen, for example, allows a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as several million tonnes of hydrogen per year are used in this area. Moreover, in the future hydrogen will be needed as a feedstock to produce primary materials containing carbon to avoid using fossil-based raw materials. This is possible if the carbon required for the hydrocarbons is extracted, for instance, from biomass, waste or CO2. Hydrogen can also be used to produce process heat at high temperature levels for energy-intensive industries that cannot be electrified, or not completely electrified, such as the metalworking and glass industries.
Numerous companies, who are committed to a climate-neutral industrial sector as part of the IN4climate.NRW initiative, are already researching and testing hydrogen technologies that will facilitate a future where hydrogen is the main source of energy. Projects focus on areas such as carbon-free steel production, generating hydrogen by electrolysis on an industrial scale, establishing a transport infrastructure by repurposing natural gas pipelines, using green hydrogen in refineries or for glass smelting and promoting sector-coupling.
Despite all the activities by the federal and state governments, industry still faces a series of regulatory and economic obstacles on its path towards the hydrogen economy of the future. As part of the IN4climate.NRW initiative, a discussion paper has been compiled which summarises the central requirements for a climate-neutral industrial sector based on hydrogen and addresses decision-makers with specific demands.