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H&R GmbH & Co. KGaA inaugurates world’s largest dynamic hydrogen electrolysis plant

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



Larger, more efficient main plants will reduce clean H2 price by 2020 or shortly thereafter.

Small combined (e-energy + H2) plants will produce low cost distributed H2 and e-energy in sunny places.


I'm all in on Hydrogen created from surplus green energy; but, not from fossil fuels.


5 MW isn't even the rated output of 2 wind turbines any more.  To be a serious buffer it would need to be rated at a large fraction of the full output of an entire wind farm.

The article tells us how much power must be curtailed and where, but not where the plant is.  If it's in the south, presumably surpluses are so rare as to be non-existent.  In the north, we're told 15% is curtailed but not the fraction of time or the peak-to-average ratio of the curtailment.  The spikier the profile the more capital you have to put into electrolyzers to capture it all; otherwise you still dump production, just less of it.

If we allow a 15% duty cycle for the electrolyzer, its capital cost per unit of production is 6.7 times as much as a continuous-duty unit.  The output is given as "several hundred tons", not the almost 900 tons you'd get per year at 5 MW continuous and 50 kWh/kg.  That's going to be some mighty expensive hydrogen.


The point here is that it's as a first example of a system designed for indeterminacy and so a one off. The costs $10- 12m do not represent series production costs or the cost savings from design economies that can be realised.

Proof of concept comes before cost consideration in the early versions and it will be sometime before cost reductions could lead to low cost H2.

We can also expect that increasing percentage of renewable generation will see more regular oversupplies as well as higher o/s peaks. So the same plant will likely have access to more continuous supplies that would make the plant not only more economical but also more capable if it were used for grid storage and backup.
In this instance it may be that the cost of the H2 for the purpose intended at the location is not as big a factor and that convenience will be more important than the cost of I.E. electricity generated via this plant.

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