Stefan Dohler (L), Chairman of the EWE Board of Management, and Dr Alexander Becker (R), CEO of the GMH Group. - © Marco Ophaus

Green steel from Georgsmarienhütte

The steel manufacturer Georgsmarienhütte and energy service provider EWE want to jointly implement hydrogen projects and thus advance the transformation of the region on the way to climate neutrality.

On 24 August, Dr Alexander Becker, CEO of the GMH Group, and EWE's Chairman of the Board of Management Stefan Dohler signed a declaration of intent to this effect in Georgsmarienhütte near Osnabrück. The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions in steel production. From 2039, steel from Georgsmarienhütte is to be produced in a completely climate-neutral way, among other things through the use of hydrogen. Partner EWE wants to supply green hydrogen from generation plants in northwest Germany for this purpose.

With a view to a climate-neutral energy future, green hydrogen is particularly suitable for industrial applications such as steel production, which until now has released considerable amounts of CO2 every year. "Without hydrogen, the energy transition will not succeed. I am convinced of that. Because only by converting fluctuating renewable energies into hydrogen will it be possible to provide green energy on demand. Hydrogen is therefore an indispensable component for achieving the climate goals we have set and for linking the three sectors of electricity, mobility and industry," says Stefan Dohler. Along the entire value chain, EWE is therefore planning projects together with partners and successively implementing them - from generation from renewables, through storage and transport, to application, especially in industry and heavy-duty transport. "With our infrastructure, especially in the area of cavern storage and the pipeline-based transport of hydrogen, we offer the basis for being able to safely supply an industrial consumer like GMH with green hydrogen on a large scale," says the EWE CEO.

Climate-neutral steel production from 2039

Dr Alexander Becker, CEO of the GMH Group, explains the reasons for the planned cooperation: "Our steel production is to be climate-neutral by 2039. As an intermediate step, we want to halve our emissions by 2030. With our lead technology electric steel and optimised processes as well as the use of hydrogen instead of natural gas, this is realistically feasible. It is not for nothing that we have been one of the pioneers in decarbonising the steel industry for over 25 years. We are therefore delighted to have found a strong partner close to our largest steelworks who will go down this road with us," says the GMH CEO.

At the time, Georgsmarienhütte was a pioneer in the use of electric arc furnaces, in which almost 100 per cent steel scrap is recycled - instead of processing primary raw materials. Compared to the usual blast furnace route, the electric steel plant produces five times fewer CO2 emissions. By using green electricity (Green Power), this value is significantly reduced again. In addition, the company has recently been able to use biogenic coal for steel production, which reduces this value by a further 25 percent (Green Power Premium). With further transformation projects, the GMH Group will achieve the targeted climate neutrality by 2039.

The Minister President of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, who had to cancel his participation, said in the run-up to the event: "I am very pleased that EWE and Georgsmarienhütte have agreed to significantly accelerate the development of the hydrogen industry. Large quantities of renewable energy and green hydrogen are needed for the new climate-friendly processes. Lower Saxony offers unique locational advantages in these areas in particular: a lot of wind energy on land and at sea, important seaports for importing and distributing green hydrogen, and large-volume underground formations for storing hydrogen. Georgsmarienhütte in particular is taking a big step towards sustainability. The steel industry forms the basis of many value chains and will secure jobs permanently with this lighthouse project. With this pioneering industrial transformation, EWE and the GMH Group will make a significant contribution to achieving Lower Saxony's and thus also Germany's and Europe's climate protection targets."


Clean Hydrogen Coastline" as the basis for the large-scale project

According to Stefan Dohler, the starting point for the large-scale production of green hydrogen by EWE is the large-scale "Clean Hydrogen Coastline" project. This brings together production, storage, transport and use in industry and heavy goods transport, thus implementing the political demands. With this large-scale project, EWE applied for funding under the European IPCEI programme (Important Project of Common European Interest) in February 2021 and reached the second stage of the procedure in May 2021. The funding is currently being reviewed at European level.

Funding approval at European level necessary

"We want to build up to 400 megawatts of electrolysis capacity at system-serving sites near the German North Sea coast," says Stefan Dohler, "from which we can produce up to 40,000 tonnes of green hydrogen annually from 2026, depending on the sales market." In addition, there is the possibility of expanding the production capacities over the next ten years to the gigawatt scale in line with demand. The green hydrogen will also be used at GMH. The hydrogen from the EWE plants is to be transported via newly built hydrogen pipelines, which are being constructed in the large-scale "Clean Hydrogen Coastline" project, among others, as well as in the planned "HyPerLink" project of the long-distance gas network operator Gasunie. Talks are already taking place with potential infrastructure operators. The pipelines could be used to ensure the infrastructural integration of the GMH plants. The positioning of the EWE production plants at important offshore connection points also makes it possible to integrate the import of green hydrogen. However, a speedy funding approval at the European level would be necessary for the projects.


Further joint hydrogen activities planned

In addition to the planned use of green hydrogen from EWE generation plants in the northwest, the partners are committed to further hydrogen projects. In October Georgsmarienhütte and EWE signed a declaration of intent with the companies KME Germany, Q1, EWE, Felix Schoeller and the logistics network KNI for joint hydrogen projects in the Osnabrück economic region. The plan is to build an electrolyser and a hydrogen filling station. Not only the partners involved should benefit from this, but the entire region. A feasibility study is currently underway to examine the size and design of the electrolysis plant in more detail. The consortium expects the results in late summer. At the same time, partner EWE has started to acquire funding for the electrolysis project, because without financial support hydrogen production plants cannot be financed economically. If the funding is approved, the next steps will be taken, including the signing of a cooperation agreement followed by concrete project planning.