German compatriots Wintershall Dea and VNG have agreed to cooperate more closely on hydrogen projects in the future and are planning to build one of the world's first turquoise hydrogen projects as a first step.

According to current plans, the pilot facility will go into operation in 2023 and have a nominal capacity of 400 kilograms of hydrogen per day — equivalent to an annual energy output of almost 5 gigawatt hours.

Wintershall Dea said the companies are already in talks with potential customers for the produced hydrogen, and about a possible location in eastern Germany, for what is claimed to be the first such facility in the European nation.

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The cooperation agreement announced on Wednesday follows the duo’s recent investment in European hydrogen start-up HiiROC.

The thermal methane pyrolysis process used by HiiROC will be utilised and further developed for a specific application together with the facility manufacturer.

In the methane pyrolysis process, natural gas is split into hydrogen and solid carbon at high temperatures. The hydrogen can then be used as a decarbonised energy source while the solid carbon can be used as a valuable raw material in industry, such as for road or building construction.

“In order to achieve German and European climate targets by 2050, it’s necessary to rapidly establish a functioning hydrogen market. We want to be part of the solution and are investing in future-focused projects," said Wintershall Dea chief technology officer Hugo Dijkgraaf.

"This cooperation with VNG will help realise the technology’s potential and establish a hydrogen market, because markets don't happen by themselves. They have to be built and organised — technology neutral," he said.

Access to end-users

VNG has extensive experience of the entire natural gas value chain and in particular access to end users, which is said to make the Leipzig-based company an invaluable partner for Wintershall Dea.

"In order to advance hydrogen as an energy source and establish it as an integral part of the energy mix, strong partnerships are needed, between companies as well as between industry and politics,” added Hans-Joachim Polk, executive board member for infrastructure and technology at VNG.

The two companies, which said they want to actively support the energy transition, have already anchored hydrogen and decarbonisation in their long-term corporate strategies.

Technology partner HiiROC, based in Hull in the UK, has further developed methane pyrolysis technology to accelerate cost-effective and climate-friendly hydrogen production.