Hydrogen Technologies - Projects 2022

World’s largest climate-neutral inland port

Im Duisburger Hafen entsteht bis 2023 der erste Containerterminal, der mit Wasserstoff und Photovoltaik vollkommen klimaneutral betrieben wird.
© duisport / Fraunhofer UMSICHT
Visualization of the planned terminal
Status: March 2019

By 2023, the Port of Duisburg will be home to the first container terminal to be operated on a completely climate-neutral basis using hydrogen and photovoltaics, intelligently networked and capable of supplying nearby neighborhoods with energy. On the site of the former “coal island”, duisport is constructing the trimodal Duisburg Gateway Terminal (DGT), in collaboration with international partners. 

With the aim of completely converting the energy supply of the world's largest inland port, duisport and the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT have researched forward-looking technologies and developed practical models. As part of the “enerPort II” follow-up project, a sustainable energy system is now being installed at the DGT. It will bring together renewable energy sources, energy storage systems, consumers and various hydrogen technologies. Key components for this are fuel cell systems and hydrogen engines for power generation, and battery storage.

With its modular structure, enerPort II paves the way for a steady continuation of the transformation process. This should allow electrolyzers and hydrogen-powered locomotives to be connected to it by way of satellite projects, for instance. The ultimate goal of the DGT is to revolutionize the distribution of traffic, with 40 percent of transportation being by rail, 40 percent by inland waterway and only 20 percent by truck on the roads. To this end, “clean” shunting locomotives are to be used in future and a shore power connection is to be provided at the quay for each inland waterway vessel in order to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. All goods movements are to be managed digitally.

Other partners involved in enerPort II are Westenergie Netzservice GmbH, the Rolls-Royce Power Systems business unit, Netze Duisburg GmbH, Stadtwerke Duisburg and Stadtwerke Duisburg Energiehandel GmbH. The project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) until 2025 as part of the “Hydrogen Technology Campaign”.


Press release: "Efficient energy concept for the Port of Duisburg"


Producing hydrogen from methanol to power shipping

Die eingebauten Membranen im Modul für einen Reaktor trennen den Wasserstoff vom Kohlenstoffdioxid
© Fraunhofer IKTS
The integrated membranes in the module for a reactor separate the hydrogen from the carbon dioxide

Shipping is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gases, and this is leading shipbuilders and operators on a search for environmentally friendly alternative propulsion systems. Researchers at Fraunhofer have joined forces with partners in an EU-funded project to develop the HyMethShip concept, in which hydrogen is obtained from methanol. The energy density of methanol is twice as high as liquid hydrogen, so the on-board methanol tanks would only need to be half the size. Not only that, but transporting methanol is significantly safer than transporting hydrogen. As a result of the provisions of the European Green Deal, cruise ship operators may also be interested in this propulsion system.

Methanol acts as a liquid hydrogen carrier that can be pumped into the ship at port. On board, hydrogen is obtained from the methanol through a steam reforming process and is used for ship propulsion. The system’s technical centerpiece is the reactor. The methanol is mixed with water, then evaporated by applying heat and fed into the preheated reactor, where the mix of methanol and water is converted into hydrogen and CO2. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS have developed a carbon-coated ceramic membrane that can be used to separate the hydrogen from the other gases and in constructing the reactor. The hydrogen molecules escape through the extremely fine pores of the membrane, while the larger carbon dioxide gas molecules are retained. The researchers managed to scale the membrane from its original length of just 105 millimeters up to 500 millimeters. Thanks to the membrane, the hydrogen that is fed into the engine has a purity level of over 90 percent. The engine in question is a classic combustion model; however, it does not produce emissions that harm the climate. The developers have also employed some other construction tricks to optimize the prospective process, such as using waste heat from the engine to heat the reactor. What’s more, after the reactor process, the remaining CO2 is liquefied and fed into the empty methanol tanks. When the ship arrives at port, it is fed into tanks and can then be used for the next methanol synthesis process.

Press release »Powering ships with hydrogen from methanol« 

Recovering hydrogen from biomass waste

Aus Holzabfällen sollen im Projekt H2Wood – BlackForest Biowasserstoff und biobasierte Koppelprodukte entstehen.
© Leins Aktenvernichtungs GmbH / Jochen Weiblen / Fraunhofer IPA
Green hydrogen and bio-based by-products from wood waste will be produced as part of the H2Wood – BlackForest project.

Up to now, green waste and sewage sludge have mostly been composted or incinerated. According to the German Environment Agency (UBA), 4.6 million tons of biowaste were collected from brown garbage cans in 2021 alone. This does not include waste from public parks and gardens, agriculture and food production, as well as sewage sludge and leftovers from canteens — all in all, this comes to a good 15 million tons. Recovering the hydrogen, a valuable source of energy, from this waste would make more sense than the current recycling process. The CO2 can also be separated out from the waste and used as a raw material in the chemical industry, for example.


A research team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA is developing technical procedures for the economical conversion of biomass into hydrogen. For example, the researchers assisted with a project carried out at a company in the metal industry. The project involved converting waste from local fruit and wine growers, cardboard boxes and waste wood as well as canteen leftovers into hydrogen. This hydrogen is then directly put to use in metal processing. Fruit scraps and canteen leftovers, for example, are first fermented with the help of bacteria, producing hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The remaining fermented mass can then be converted to methane through another fermentation process at a conventional biogas plant. The methane is then in turn converted to hydrogen and CO2


The study, entitled “Industrial Hydrogen Hubs in Baden-Württemberg” (“I-H2-Hub-BW” for short), conducted by Fraunhofer IPA also demonstrates that green hydrogen has the potential to meet the energy needs of industry and heavy traffic on a regional basis. The profitability of decentralized hydrogen production and utilization depends on the strategic placement of the distribution centers, with the electrolyzers there being powered by green electricity. For the state of Baden-Württemberg, the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region and the Karlsruhe metropolitan area have been identified as promising locations.

Press relrase: »Green hydrogen from plant residue«



Using natural gas networks for hydrogen transport

Vorwiegend bestehende Erdgasleitungen sollen für die Wasserstoffwirtschaft umgewidmet werden
© iStock
The hydrogen economy will primarily use existing, repurposed natural gas pipelines

The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Energy Infrastructures and Geothermal Systems IEG and other research partners are collaborating with a number of transmission system operators to prepare for the conversion of natural gas networks to a hydrogen transportation system. The new hydrogen network infrastructure will mostly consist of repurposed natural gas pipelines. That is why more than 20 partners are studying the transportation infrastructure within the TransHyDE-Sys research project. This is part of the larger TransHyDE lighthouse project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). For example the research groups are conducting detailed simulations of the behavior of key facilities within future hydrogen networks and how they can be integrated into power grids. One area that the researchers are focusing on is the creation of detailed physical-chemical models for all of the mechatronic facilities in the network — including electrolysers, existing compressor stations and natural gas network regulators and, potentially, converted gas and steam power plants. The simulations of the future hydrogen network also cover fuel cell power plants, although these do not yet exist in Germany. The researchers simulate different scenarios so that the behavior of hydrogen can be described in detail. The simulations answer questions such as: How much hydrogen is needed at what time, and where? Where is it generated? How much heat is generated during electrolysis? What is the quality of the hydrogen that is sent through the pipelines? Are there any impurities in the gas that is transported in the network? How does the composition of the gas affect the equipment and drops in pressure? The researchers are also using the simulations to create software modules that will serve as a foundation for further research by the project partners.

By 2050, the projected power demand of over 1,000 terawatt hours must be met by means of a 50:50 mix of hydrogen and synthetic methane or biomethane, in order to achieve the planned defossilization of the gas industry. The experts’ investigations have shown that this will make it necessary to split up the transmission system. However, converting the pipeline networks during operation — as is currently taking place in parts of western Germany to allow for a switch from low-calorific natural gas from the Netherlands to high-calorific natural gas from Norway — will not work for hydrogen.

Press release »Stop of Russian gas supplies: Simulation of the European pipeline grid highlights deficits in the infrastructure«