Converting liquefied gas stations into hydrogen centers .. 3 difficult choices for Germany - Energy

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  • Germany’s heavy dependence on Russian gas makes it difficult to get away from it.
  • Germany is working to build liquefied gas stations to dispense with Russia’s imports.
  • Strengthening gas infrastructure threatens Germany’s plans to cut emissions.
  • The utilization of LNG plants in hydrogen transportation faces obstacles.
  • Relying on synthetic liquefied gas may be a solution for Germany.

Between the construction of liquefied gas stations and the goals of getting rid of fossil fuels, Germany found itself in a difficult dilemma, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Berlin relies on Russian natural gas to provide two-thirds of its imports, which amounted to 142 billion cubic meters during 2021, and is currently planning to abandon imports of fossil fuels from Russia by strengthening the liquefied gas infrastructure, but these plans collide with pledges to reduce emissions.

In the face of this, it is possible to exploit some of the infrastructure planned for LNG plants in the transport of green hydrogen in the future without turning into stranded assets, but these plans are still theoretical, amid many obstacles, as a recent Bloomberg report explains.

liquefied gas stations

Germany plans to end its reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation by 2035, but the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could jeopardize those plans.

Instead of shutting down natural gas infrastructure; Germany is currently working on building new LNG terminals, in order to move away from Russian gas.

To this end, Germany, earlier this month, leased 4 floating gas regasification and storage units, in order to secure gas supplies through liquefied gas imports, without waiting for the construction of new permanent stations that may take time; This is hampering its plans to end its dependence on Moscow supplies by the summer of 2024.

Such plans would derail Germany’s goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050; Therefore, Berlin wants to adapt the currently proposed and necessary liquefied gas stations to address the current energy crisis, so that it can be used in the future to import green hydrogen.

natural gas - Germany

Some infrastructure for LNG plants may be used in the future; To deal with green hydrogen, making this conversion is still largely theoretical plans for now.

Conversion to green hydrogen

notwithstanding the foregoing; These plans are on the radar of investors in the new German terminals; The CEO of the Dutch gas network operator “Gazioni”, Han Venema, explained that the very short-term measure is to reduce dependence on Russian gas, but the second phase will be faster than expected using green hydrogen.

According to Bloomberg, None of the equipment used in LNG plants is suitable for handling green hydrogen, which is difficult to store and transport; Because its molecules are much smaller than methane, which makes up a large part of natural gas.

Even if hydrogen is transported as a liquid in ships; It must be cooled to a temperature below minus 250 ° C; This requires completely different pipes, compared to natural gas, which requires cooling to minus 160 degrees Celsius to become a liquid.

In addition, Storage tanks, the most expensive component of any LNG plant, are not good at holding small hydrogen molecules, and not all pipelines can handle pure hydrogen; It weakens metal structures and causes leaks.

For his part, Flexis chief commercial officer, Arnaud Buicks, said that converting the LNG plant to liquid hydrogen is a technical challenge, noting that it is an economically viable model, but not in the near term, Bloomberg reported.

liquefied gas stations
A proposal for a liquefied gas plant in Germany – Photo courtesy of Bloomberg

Conversion to ammonia

in front of it; The easiest way to transport hydrogen is to convert it into ammonia, which liquefies easily at minus 33 degrees Celsius and can be used as a fuel or in the manufacture of fertilizers, as well as being converted back into hydrogen fuel.

And Boyks explains – according to what was reported by Bloomberg Agency – that the same tanks and pipes used in LNG plants can be exploited in ammonia, pointing out that the costs of modification in an existing plant represent only 15% of what is required to build a new facility.

However; The process of modifying liquefied gas stations for use in the transportation of ammonia brings a new set of obstacles. The plant’s coolant pumps to handle the ammonia will have to be replaced.

Converting ammonia to hydrogen is also an energy-intensive process, with 13% to 34% of hydrogen energy potentially lost, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

A third option for Germany

A third option suggested by most of the planned LNG stations in Germany is to import a fuel known as synthetic LNG.

This fuel can be manufactured by combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide – either by capturing it from factory stacks or from decomposing biological waste – to form methane; What gives it a chemical composition similar to natural gas.

At this point, the methane can be easily transported, or converted back into green hydrogen and used for decarbonization in sectors such as steel production and transportation.

Although this process produces carbon dioxide, it can be captured and transported back to the source, to be combined again with hydrogen to produce more synthetic LNG; What creates a closed loop that does not release carbon into the air.

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