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Hydrogen – back to the future 

We spoke with our CEO Dr. Jörg Bergmann about climate protection, the importance of gas and the future of the OGE.

Dr. Jörg Bergmann

Was 2019 a good year for the gas industry in terms of energy policy?

Bergmann: The clear result of the Gasdialog 2030 process initiated by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs speaks for itself: Gaseous energy carriers and the gas infrastructure are set to remain firm components of energy supply for the long term.

Natural gas is likely to continue to play an important role. Are you expecting an increase in demand?

Bergmann: With the shift away from nuclear energy and coal-based power generation, the importance of gas-fired power plants and their demand for natural gas is set to increase. How else are we going to guarantee output? On top of this, the demand for natural gas in southern Germany also continues to rise.

One way to reach the climate protection goals agreed in Paris could be green gases such as hydrogen. Where do gas network operators come in here?

Bergmann: The gas network operators have to do their homework, as do politicians. We have to make sure our pipelines and compressor stations are ready for green gases, particularly hydrogen. In return, politicians need to expand the statutory and regulatory framework, which has thus far taken account of natural gas only, to include hydrogen.

What exactly do you mean when you say “the pipelines have to be ready”?

Bergmann: We are currently reviewing the suitability of natural gas pipelines and valves for hydrogen. We are assuming that we can adapt large parts of them to make them suitable for hydrogen at a reasonable cost and can therefore potentially use these pipelines as the basis for a hydrogen network. For the compressor systems, the manufacturers still need to do some development work.

Are you in favour of admixing hydrogen or an immediate full conversion?

Bergmann: Customers have different requirements that we need and want to address. Hence any notable admixing of hydrogen, particularly where this fluctuates over time, would cause frequent problems for major industrial customers. It is therefore likely that at the transmission level, some of the pipelines will be converted to pure hydrogen. At the distribution level, admixing might be a suitable option and thus make hydrogen available for the heating market too. Hydrogen injection is another topic to take into account for European gas transmission. 

Different customers, different hydrogen. Where will the hydrogen come from in future and what colour will it be?

Bergmann: The idea is to start with blue and green and work towards green only.

Do you foresee problems with acceptance?

Bergmann: We have to work on acceptance and be guided by the achievement of climate protection goals. This we can only do through dialogue and transparency, but also by calling for solutions from those who want to do things differently.

Who actually wants hydrogen?

Bergmann: The primary area of application is undoubtedly industry, i.e. steel works, refineries and the chemical industry, which intends to use hydrogen to replace fossil feedstocks. Hydrogen could also serve as a fuel for fuel cell buses or trains in public transport services or for heavy goods vehicles. Once the infrastructure is there, the hydrogen will also find its way into the heating market.