e.on hydrogen
Image credit: E.ON

German multinational utility E.ON is converting its natural gas distribution pipeline in Germany to transport pure hydrogen.

The initiative is part of the research and development project H2HoWi in which E.ON is partnering with gas distribution network operator Westnetz GmbH.

The two companies are investing €1 million ($1.1 million) under efforts to make a public supply to the community of Holzwickede sustainable.

The entire project will be executed by Westnetz and will be managed and operated until the end of 2023. Construction work will start in November 2020.

Four commercial customers will be supplied from here. The hydrogen is to be used to generate the required space heat. In addition to the conversion of the pipeline, this also requires adjustments to the existing customer installations. For this reason, hydrogen-compatible condensing boilers from Remeha are being installed at their premises.

Accelerating the deployment and use of hydrogen is expected to help Germany and Europe to achieve their climate targets and reduce carbon emissions.

The project is the first of its kind in Germany and will be backed by scientific monitoring to confirm, among other things, that hydrogen has no influence on the properties of the pipe material or the tightness of the existing infrastructure.

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There is a technical standard in Germany that limits the hydrogen concentration in natural gas networks to a maximum of 10%, but a number of trials have already explored higher admixture rates.

The project will help determine whether the existing infrastructure could even be used for pure hydrogen.

E.ON has set itself the goal of adding green gases to natural gas in the distribution networks and, if required, offering a supply of 100% hydrogen, said Thomas König, E.ON’s COO responsible for the company’s network business.

Katherina Reiche, the CEO of Westenergie AG, adds: “It is not technically feasible or economically viable to electrify all applications. Therefore, hydrogen will be indispensable as an energy carrier for applications where the direct use of green electricity is either not feasible or sensible for technical or commercial reasons. This is why we need to connect the different sectors of energy consumption. Given its carbon-neutral nature, pure hydrogen is a future-oriented solution, for example when it comes to supplying heat or for industrial production processes.”