20 billion normal cubic meters of hydrogen are produced annually in Germany alone, worldwide there are 500 billion. Most of it is obtained from natural gas by means of steam reforming. A lot of CO2 is released during the production of the “gray” hydrogen – with the known consequences for the global climate. The oil companies are among the largest industrial users today. Every refinery uses several tons of hydrogen an hour to desulfurize kerosene, diesel and gasoline. In a pilot project in 2018, BP already demonstrated that gray hydrogen from natural gas can be replaced with green hydrogen from green electricity without any technical problems demonstrated. In the refinery in Lingen, 130,000 cubic meters of the climate-neutral hydrogen were used for over a month. A real first, but it only covered a few percent of the total amount required.
Even if all of the hydrogen in the refineries were to come from electrolysers one day, gasoline and diesel would of course not be environmentally friendly at one stroke. However, their production would at least have a little less impact on the climate. After all, the production of one ton of gray hydrogen produces ten tons of CO2. BP now wants to install its first electrolysis system in Lingen . The electricity for this is provided by the Danish company Ørsted’s offshore wind farms in the North Sea. The plant is scheduled to go into operation in 2024 and initially generate 50 megawatts (MW) of power. Enough to replace 20 percent of conventional hydrogen, according to BP. In a second phase, the electrolysers in Lingen are to be expanded to 150 MW.
Competitor Shell is already one step further: in 2020 the group put an electrolyser into operation in its Rhineland refinery in Wesseling near Cologne. With an output of ten megawatts, it is currently the largest in the world, according to the company. However, at 1,300 tons per year, it produces less than one percent of the hydrogen that the refinery in Wesseling needs. In the next phase of the project, a 100 MW system is to be developed, which could then cover around ten percent of the demand.