‘Huge investments are required to generate relevant quantities of green electricity’

What is imperative to enable hydrogen trade between countries and more use of hydrogen in various economic sectors? In this interview series, we talk to experts about how the market is developing and the hurdles that need to be overcome to speed up the transition. Dr. Joachim Hoffmann is Senior Product Manager for innovative energy topics at Siemens Energy Marine. Siemens Energy is a member of The German-Norwegian Working Group on Ocean Technologies. 

Which role will hydrogen play for Siemens Energy in the years to come? 

There is a clear commitment from Siemens Energy to engage in the reduction of greenhouse-relevant carbon emissions. For example, Siemens Energy drives the production of green hydrogen and synthetic fuels in large quantities. Wind generators and electrolyzers contribute significantly to the portfolio of the company. Our compressor and turbine technology will support the distribution and re-electrification of green hydrogen on land sites.  

In maritime applications, Siemens Energy Marine is in a strong partnership with the fuel cell manufacturer PowerCell. Together we offer a hydrogen-based Advanced Energy Solution, where marinized fuel cell modules from PowerCell are integrated into Siemens Energy’s Power-Management Solutions of the BlueDrive family and hybridized with its BlueVault Batteries. The power string is completed by Siemens Energy propulsion systems. We provide an advanced energy solution from tank to propellor.  

What do you see as hurdles to bring more projects to life? 

The readiness of the technology is not limiting the introduction into the market. But the supply chain for green fuels, both hydrogen and synthetics, is lacking. Huge investments are required to generate relevant quantities of green electricity via wind, photovoltaic, water or geothermal generators. On this basis, the electrical energy can be either stored in batteries or converted into storable fuels, such as hydrogen. The green fuels shall be transported via existing pipelines or transport vessels and distributed to local suppliers. Existing supply channels need an update regarding the specific requirements of green fuels. 

Are there any policy instruments or regulatory issues that need to be solved? 

On the one hand, there is a big gap between the cost of today’s fossil fuels and tomorrow’s green fuels, as well as between the cost of the existing combustion technology and green, emission-free fuel converters. The total cost of ownership evaluations of green and conventional technologies suffers from the low production costs of fossil fuels and combustion technologies. Hopefully, the reduction of emission limits for combustion by-products, such as NOx or particles, and the growing taxation or limitation of CO2 emissions, will help to level out this difference. It is expected that higher efforts for filtering these by-products shall rise the costs and the taxation. CO2 emission limitation makes fossil fuels less attractive. At a certain point operating green technologies will be an advantage. 

What kinds of projects are you looking for, especially in the maritime sector? 

Siemens Energy offers the complete energy string from tank to propeller. On the generator side, this includes turbine and combustion technology, being ready for H2 and green syn-fuel operation, and fuel cells, provided by our partner PowerCell. The electrical energy management system of the BlueDrive family is well established and, together with our batteries of the BlueVault family, already integrated into all-electric operated vessels. Siemens Energy’s drives will provide the vessel’s powerful propulsion. These and more portfolio elements are already in maritime operation in different combinations. All-electric propulsion has a long tradition at Siemens, and we are proud of being among the pioneers of electric propulsion since its early beginnings in the 1880s. We are ready to integrate this green and Advanced Energy Solution into vessels, either as the main energy source for the propulsion or for emission-free energy supply in environmentally protected areas and harbors.  

Which role does Norway have as a test market for your technology?  

Norway is a global pioneer with its greenhouse policy. Therefore, it is rather encouraging to follow the proposed milestones. In the position of a front-runner, Norway already started investing significantly into its hydrogen infrastructure to bypass the hen-and-egg problem during the introduction of green energies. This supports the slowly growing number of test opportunities and pilots. Some of them, especially in the maritime sector, caught our interest and we are now deeply involved in the discussions about the designs and realization of the first maritime pilots.  

Our electrical energy management competencies made huge progress some years ago as Siemens Energy’s equipment was the basis for the first all-electric ferry in Norway. This platform, consisting of our own battery system assembly (BlueVault) and energy management concepts (BlueDrive) in different voltage levels, can now easily be extended by integrating H2-converting technologies, such as fuel cells from our close partner PowerCell. With our common Advanced Energy Solution, we intend to contribute to the reduction or even complete avoidance of greenhouse-relevant emissions. We are ready for integrating the technology into the Norwegian market and would like to present our solutions and concepts to shipyards, designers, and owners.  

German-Norwegian Energy Dialogue 

The discussion on developing a hydrogen value chain continues at the German-Norwegian Energy Dialogue 2021, which takes place as a webinar series in May and June. 

The Working Group on Ocean Technology works to unlock potential for bilateral cooperation between Germany and Norway on ocean technology, ranging from digitalization of marine industries to energy production and shipping.