International experts, including specialists from Steinbeis, offer insights into the future of green hydrogen
The Green Hydrogen Conference, an international convention on green hydrogen, took place on June 12 and 13, 2023 as part of Digisustain, a wider conference and trade fair staged in Frankfurt, Germany. The event was jointly organized by Steinbeis Global Institute Tübingen, a Steinbeis Transfer Institute, Export-Akademie Baden-Württemberg, and DSE Green Technologies Holding, which implements major green hydrogen projects worldwide. Subjects discussed at the conference included key factors affecting the future of green hydrogen production and its benefits to the global economy. These related to topics such as supply chains, green hydrogen hubs, carbon markets, research and development, staff education, and training. The event was an opportunity for stakeholders involved in sustainable industrialization and global decarbonization to present to others and forge networks.
Steinbeis Entrepreneur Dr. Bertram Lohmüller and his team at Steinbeis Global Institute Tübingen, a Steinbeis Transfer Institute, joined forces with Export-Akademie Baden-Württemberg to pull together a varied two-day program for the conference participants. In addition to facilitating the event, giving a keynote speech, and participating in a panel discussion, Lohmüller was joined by a number of international Steinbeis experts, who also shared and discussed their views on the future of green hydrogen.
Which technologies are needed for green hydrogen?
The first day of the conference focused on different technologies and the green hydrogen value chain. A panel of experts offered insights into the latest photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies. Their conclusion was that the only way to produce green hydrogen is to use high-performance panels in combination with solar heat that has been generated according to high efficiency standards. It is therefore crucial to ensure PV and CSP panels incorporate the very latest technology and achieve ultimate efficiency. According to Dr. Joachim Krüger, CEO of Solarlite, to safeguard 24/7 supplies of energy, one of the most economical solutions is to set up hybrid PV/CSP plants on a large scale.
In a further panel discussion, the focus lay in technologies and applications used for proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis, alkaline electrolysis, electrolyzer systems, and the integrated, optimized processes required to produce green hydrogen. Dr. Johann Steinhauer, a hydrogen electrolysis project manager at automotive supplier EBZ, explained that future demand for electrolysis equipment will require automated production processes. To set up green hydrogen plants on a large scale, the entire value chain will need to be mobilized. One component of this value chain is water offering a high degree of purity, which is why water desalination and H2O air separation are irreplaceable as technologies in this process. Commenting on this, Rudolf Edlinger, CEO of Aqua Engineering, said: “The combination of reverse osmosis and thermal desalination with heat from concentrated solar power can reduce the energy costs. The use of chemicals in the overall process can be reduced as well.”
Involving regional stakeholders
François van Schalkwyk, executive director of investments and new ventures at the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB), emphasized the importance of localizing component and equipment manufacturing and involving regional stakeholders in the planning of hydrogen projects. Similarly, it will be important to prepare a regional development concept with the involvement of neighboring cities, ports, and airports, he said. How to make a success of this process was explained by Steinbeis Entrepreneur Vineet Goyal of Steinbeis Centre for Technology Transfer India, who together with Steinbeis Global Institute Tübingen and Export-Akademie Baden-Württemberg is supporting the Indian regional government of Maharashtra in setting up a manufacturing hub for green hydrogen equipment.
The (hydrogen) market perspective
The second day of the Green Hydrogen Conference revolved around networking. Jens Deutschendorf, State Secretary of the Hessian Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport, and Housing, gave a speech full of interesting insights into the hydrogen strategy not only of the State of Hesse but also of Germany overall. Markets and the acceptance of green hydrogen with regard to offtake and distribution were also discussed. With gaseous hydrogen (GH2), transporting green energy is no longer restricted to the infrastructures of local grids; it can now be transported over long distances by pipeline, boat, or truck.
A number of insights were provided into China’s green hydrogen strategy, not only by the Chinese experts at the event but also by those who joined the conference via video link. Due to its innovative power and its ability to introduce products and services quickly, China is currently considered a key stakeholder for the future not only of hydrogen production, but also when it comes to developing plant technology and travel solutions. Africa was also the focus of a panel discussion, since it is on this continent that the Kinshasa Process is now underway with the so-called Just Transition, offering a new pathway to certify raw materials for use in the hydrogen value chain. Professor James Bindenagel, former US Ambassador to Germany and an architect of the Kimberley Process, concluded that, “The establishment of a green hydrogen economy offers the potential for a significant economic return for African countries. However, the key to success is to increase economic output by applying effective regulatory compliance practices. They provide ethical methods and guidance for the clean and fair trade of natural resources.”
It will be knowledge that shapes green transformation in the value chains of industry. The final panel of the Green Hydrogen Conference offered a number of insights into the project-integrated master’s program run by Steinbeis University as part of its Project Competence Degree (PCD), which in addition to developing specialist skills also delivers both quantitative and qualitative value to companies and society. The panel members were joined by Dr.-Ing. Walter Beck, Steinbeis Entrepreneur at the School of Management and Technology, also a Steinbeis Transfer Institute. Summarizing the panel discussion, it was concluded that in order to safeguard the global transformation into a green hydrogen economy, it is important to join forces with leading universities and research centers worldwide.
Dr. Bertram Lohmüller (author)
Steinbeis Transfer Institute Steinbeis Global Institute Tübingen