H&R Ölwerke Schindler, a subsidiary of H&R GmbH & Co. KGaA, has inaugurated the world’s largest dynamic hydrogen electrolysis plant based on PEM technology. “Dynamic” means that the hydrogen electrolysis plant can take advantage of last-minute surges in electricity production, i.e. from wind turbines, to produce hydrogen. The centerpiece of the €10-million plant is a Siemens-built electrolyzer with 5 MW of electric capacity. The plant will produce several hundred tons of hydrogen per year, which will be used as a resource in refinery processes.
The Hamburg Environmental Agency procured €2.5 million of the total investment amount from the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
H&R currently uses hydrogen in its production processes to extract specialty products, such as paraffins, white oils and process oils that are then further refined into cheese rinds, lipsticks, printing inks or car tires.
But actually, producing hydrogen from water and electricity is only the first step in our long-term plan. Long term, we want to further develop our existing plants and sites. Today, we mainly use fossil fuels as our raw materials; in the future, these will be supplemented—first from renewable sources, then long term with synthesized products manufactured in CO2-neutral processes using sustainable energy. We will use our existing plants, but at the same time we recognize our environmental responsibility and are therefore successfully reorienting the company toward sustainable solutions.—Niels H. Hansen, Managing Director of H&R KGaA
Currently, 2% of potential electric power is lost, because Germany occasionally produces more electricity than it consumes. As a result, solar facilities and wind turbines are shut down. In northern Germany, around 15% of potential energy is lost.
Hydrogen-generation plants can be used as buffer storage facilities to stabilize grids in periods of high alternative electricity generation. At the same time, the hydrogen produced can be used as raw material for refining processes.
H&R still relies on mineral oil as a basic raw material. “Far too precious to burn,” says Detlev Wösten, Managing Director of K&R KGaA, who is also in charge of the company's refinery technologies. As a result, in recent years, H&R has managed—by continuously working to further develop its refinery processes, such as distillation, refining and deparaffinization—to reduce to just under 25% the percentage of residual materials left over from production. These residuals are burned, for example as heating oil. The propane-deasphalting plant opened in 2011 following around €45 million of investment has made a big contribution toward this goal.
But development never stops. By 2020, we will use 90% of our mineral oil for high-value applications.—Detlev Wösten