Two of Germany's biggest polluters, power company RWE and steelmaker ThyssenKrupp, are planning to join forces with a view to reducing carbon emissions by relying upon hydrogen.

According to an announcement by ThyssenKrupp, the two giants have agreed to work together towards 'a longer-term hydrogen partnership' to reduce CO2 emissions from steel production.

The news comes with a change in German law that allows RWE to enter the hydrogen business.

So-called 'green hydrogen' from an RWE Generation electrolyser could help thyssenkrupp Steel Europe sustainably reduce CO2emissions from steel production in the future. The two companies have agreed to work together towards a longer-term hydrogen partnership, with the first hydrogen set to flow towards the Duisburg steel mill by the middle of the decade.

ThyssenKrupp (tkSE) says that hydrogen required for iron production is to be produced by electrolysis, in which water is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen. The two companies agree that only electricity from renewable sources should be used to operate the electrolysers.

At its power plant site in Lingen, RWE is planning to build electrolysis capacities that could supply green hydrogen for the iron production of Germany’s biggest steelmaker. A 100 MW electrolyser could produce 1.7 tons of gaseous hydrogen per hour, corresponding to around 70% of the quantity required by tkSE’s Duisburg blast furnace, which has been earmarked for hydrogen use. This would translate theoretically into around 50,000 tons of climate-neutral steel. The conversion of the blast furnace is to be carried out by 2022 – the first important stage of a fundamental transformation process at the end of which the company’s entire steel production will be carbon-neutral.

One of the prerequisites for such a collaboration between RWE and tkSE is the development of a dedicated hydrogen network to transport the gaseous hydrogen from Lingen to tkSE’s steel mill site in Duisburg. Pipeline transport of the hydrogen is the most economical delivery option, it is claimed. In dialogue with gas network operators and the authorities, RWE and tkSE want to drive solutions for a timely network connection. They believe hydrogen pipeline transport will be possible on the basis of regulations corresponding largely to those currently applied to natural gas delivery. The GETH2 initiative, in which RWE is involved, is already promoting corresponding solutions. The gas network development plan published on 4 May this year, in its 'green gas variant', for the first time includes calculations for initial hydrogen sections parallel to the natural gas network.

Roger Miesen, CEO of RWE Generation, commented: “Hydrogen is of central importance for greenhouse gas abatement in Germany. The National Hydrogen Strategy and the €9 billion funding to be made available will give this future technology the necessary kick-start. In order for a hydrogen infrastructure in Germany to really pick up speed, rapid implementation is now needed, because investment decisions for green hydrogen projects need planning certainty.”

Bernhard Osburg, chairman of thyssenkrupp Steel, added: “The planned co-operation with RWE is an important step on our path to climate neutrality. The aimed-for supply quantity would be largely sufficient to supply a blast furnace with green hydrogen and allow the production of climate-neutral steel for around 50,000 cars per year. This shows that climate-neutral steel is possible and we are pressing ahead with the conversion of our production. Nowhere else than in the steel industry can hydrogen be used with a comparable climate protection effect. We therefore expressly welcome the adoption of the National Hydrogen Strategy.”