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Construction starts at the world’s largest hydrogen pilot plant

An EU-funded flagship project, the H2FUTURE project consortium, has officially given the go-ahead for construction of the world’s largest pilot plant for the production of “green” hydrogen at the Voestalpine site in Linz, Austria.

With a capacity of 6 megawatts, this is the most effective and advanced plant of its type. It is scheduled to be fully operational by spring 2019.

The partners,  consisting of Voestalpine, Siemens, Verbund, and Austrian Power Grid, together with the research partners K1-MET and ECN, will use this facility to research into future breakthrough technologies which are needed for a CO2-reduced energy future and the decarbonization of steel production to meet global climate goals over the long-term.

Reducing CO2 emissions by around 80 percent to 2050 is the central climate goal, and requires both energy suppliers and industry to prepare themselves and explore new pathways together.

This is the role of the H2FUTURE research project. More than 600 billion cubic meters of hydrogen are used annually worldwide, more than 95 percent of which is produced via a CO2-intensive process.

The plant will be the world’s largest and most advanced plant of its type for generating “green”, i.e. CO2-free hydrogen. In future, the EU-funded EUR 18 million project will be used to test the potential applications for green hydrogen in the various process stages of steel production, and integration into the power reserve markets for the power grid.

For the industry, transport, and energy sectors, CO2-free hydrogen is an important source of energy and can significantly contribute to achieving the climate goals.

After the launch of the project at the beginning of 2017, construction of the pilot facility at the Voestalpine site in Linz has now accelerated. The foundations are in place and construction of the hall is currently underway.

The core electrolysis components will be delivered during the summer, with the plant going live within a year. The start of the comprehensive two-year test program is planned for spring 2019.

“Construction of the new pilot plant for the production of CO2-free hydrogen is taking us a step further towards the long-term realization of a technology transformation in the steel industry. The goal is to research real breakthrough technologies which will be applicable on an industrial scale in the next couple of decades,” says Wolfgang Eder, Chairman of the Management Board of Voestalpine AG.

“At the core of the plant beats a high-tech heart from Siemens. Using green electrons we split water into its constituent parts, hydrogen and oxygen,” explains Wolfgang Hesoun, Chairman of the Managing Board of Siemens AG Österreich (Siemens Austria).

Siemens has developed what is currently the world’s largest PEM (proton exchange membrane) electrolyser module for the research facility in Linz.

With a capacity of 6 megawatts, the plant will be able to produce 1,200 cubic meters of “green” hydrogen an hour.

Global demand for hydrogen is expected to increase tenfold by 2050, to around 6 trillion cubic meters. Plants such as the one in Linz are the prerequisite for meeting this growing demand in an almost CO2-neutral manner.

“It’s also possible for energy-intensive industries to be climate neutral. This outstanding project takes us one step closer to the goal of global decarbonization,” says Roland Busch, Chief Technology Officer and member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG.