Official Opening of Helmholtz Hydrogen Cluster HC-H2 in Brainergy Park Jülich

The Helmholtz Hydrogen-Cluster HC-H2 is to provide essential impetus to develop the Rhenish mining area into a pioneering model region for hydrogen technologies. One year after its launch, Germany’s largest hydrogen infrastructure project, which is coordinated by Forschungszentrum Jülich, celebrated its official opening at Brainergy Park Jülich. Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Hendrik Wüst, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research Judith Pirscher, and North Rhine-Westphalia’s Science Minister Ina Brandes attended the event and learned about the current status and the next steps of the project.

HC-H2 wants to show the world what the role of hydrogen can be in the energy system of the future: that of an essential energy carrier that is as commonplace as petrol or diesel and, as a basic material for many industrial products, enables the coupling between energy supply and production, while having little impact on the climate. In addition, the cluster is to become a job engine in the Rhenish mining area and provide new jobs in an energy industry of the future where jobs are being lost due to the phase-out of lignite-based power generation. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding HC-H2 with around € 860 million until 2038. The federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is contributing another € 64 million to HC-H2 until 2038.

Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger: “I want to make Germany a hydrogen republic because green hydrogen stands for climate protection, energy security, and prosperity. For Germany, a quick take-off of the hydrogen economy offers a great opportunity we have to exploit. Especially in the regions affected by structural change, we want to use innovations to create new jobs and long-term prospects. That is why my ministry decided to fund the Helmholtz Cluster for a Sustainable and Infrastructure-Compatible Hydrogen Economy with a total of € 860 million. We aim to enable new, promising value creation in the Rhineland and strengthen the spirit of innovation throughout the entire region.”

Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research

This makes HC-H2 the largest structural change project in the Rhenish mining area as well as the biggest individual project in Germany dealing with hydrogen infrastructure.

The Helmholtz Hydrogen Cluster is growing continuously. A rapidly growing team around hydrogen researcher and founding director Professor Peter Wasserscheid is currently pushing ahead with the establishment of HC-H2. By 2025, the number of employees is expected to increase to around 400, and to continue to rise thereafter. Forschungszentrum Jülich’s Institute for a Sustainable Hydrogen Economy (INW) is at the heart of HC-H2. INW was established in 2021 and is located outside the Jülich campus in Brainergy Park – a technology and business park that is currently under construction in the northern part of the town of Jülich. Brainergy Park is intended as a space for business start-ups, new company locations, and technological advances, and will foster intensive networking among the region’s drivers of innovation in the field of hydrogen.

NRW Minister of Culture and Science Ina Brandes: “The Hydrogen Cluster HC-H2 is an outstanding example of how excellent research findings can be rapidly transferred to practical applications so that people can benefit from them. In order to further increase the innovative power of the cluster, we at the federal state government are strongly committed to the construction of a research building with a pilot plant that is specially designed to meet the requirements of HC-H2. This will make HC-H2 a key element in establishing a model region for hydrogen technologies in the Rhenish mining area.”

Ina Brandes, Minister of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia

In the future, new jobs for scientists and skilled workers will not only be created in Jülich. In cooperation with industry, other scientific institutions, and the local authorities, the construction and operation of large-scale demonstrators is planned at various locations in the Rhenish mining area: Currently, projects are being driven forward in the Aachen region, the districts of Düren and Heinsberg, Rhein-Kreis Neuss, Rhein-Erft-Kreis, and the city of Mönchengladbach. The start of construction for the first plant is planned for this year. The start of further projects is scheduled for the beginning of next year.

HC-H2’s technology demonstration depends on the participation of all relevant stakeholders from the Rhineland region. The BMBF is therefore calling for innovative demonstration projects for hydrogen technologies to be developed in cooperation with HC-H2 and implemented in the Rhenish Mining Area.

NRW Minister-President Hendrik Wüst: “In North Rhine-Westphalia, we are working on solutions to tackle the major challenges of our time, as are Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Helmholtz hydrogen cluster HC-H2. Together, we have the chance to make North Rhine-Westphalia the most modern and climate-smart industrial hub in Europe. We aim to link research and industry and create impetus for start-ups. Good jobs, social security, and the preservation of natural resources go hand in hand and lay the foundation for the transformation of our federal state.

Hendrik Wüst, Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia

HC-H2 focuses on technologies for transporting and storing hydrogen as simply, safely, and cost-effectively as possible. Usually, hydrogen is compressed at high pressure of up to 700 bar or liquefied at minus 250 degrees Celsius. This is precisely where HC-H2 comes into play. Its aim is to demonstrate new storage methods in Jülich and the Rhineland region that work without high pressures or low temperatures. Ideally, the innovative methods should be compatible with existing infrastructures such as pipelines, tanks, or transporters. This aspiration is also reflected in the name of the “Helmholtz Cluster for Sustainable and Infrastructure-Compatible Hydrogen Economy (HC-H2)”.

Prof. Wolfgang Marquardt: “With the Helmholtz Cluster for a Sustainable and Infrastructure-Compatible Hydrogen Economy, Forschungszentrum Jülich is actively contributing to the Rhenish Mining District and structural change. It is deliberately located in Jülich’s Brainergy Park – an innovation space outside the campus of Forschungszentrum Jülich – to establish a space of progress and successful structural change in a cooperative and technology-neutral way, and to serve the region as a central hub for an emerging hydrogen economy. Central to this will be the close collaboration between the project partners, which will lead to accelerated innovation processes through demonstrators in a real-world environment at various locations in the Rhenish mining area. As a result, new jobs and value chains will be created, which will contribute to successful structural change and serve as a model for other regions.”

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Marquardt, Chair of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich

NRW Minister President Hendrik Wüst (CDU), Judith Pirscher, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and NRW Science Minister Ina Brandes unveil the HC-H2 logo with the support of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich, Professor Wolfgang Marquardt, and Founding Director Professor Peter Wasserscheid.

More comments on the official opening:

State Secretary Judith Pirscher: “The Helmholtz Cluster for Sustainable and Infrastructure-Compatible Hydrogen Economy combines research with a strong impetus for structural change. That is why we want to encourage companies, research institutions, and other organizations to submit ideas for innovative hydrogen demonstration projects. Together, we can shape structural change and exploit the market opportunities for promising hydrogen technologies.”

Judith Pirscher, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Prof. Peter Wasserscheid: “HC-H2 will explore, develop, and implement innovative hydrogen technologies. The unique selling point is that HC-H2 focuses on transport and storage technologies that use existing or easy-to-install infrastructures for green hydrogen. HC-H2’s demonstration projects will serve as the nucleus for new entrepreneurial activities in the Rhineland region.”

Prof. Dr. Peter Wasserscheid, spokesperson for HC-H2

Alexander Peters: “NEUMAN & ESSER is an ‘enabler’ for a green H2 value chain – from decarbonization concepts and the development, construction, and servicing of electrolyzers to reciprocating compressor systems for transport and storage, hydrogen filling stations, and filling plants. Furthermore, we also develop fuel cell systems. With our digital platform for all components, “XPLORE”, we offer our customers a complete lifetime solution. In close cooperation between science, e. g. HC-H2, and industry, the opportunities associated with structural change can be realized.”

Alexander Peters, Managing Partner at NEUMAN & ESSER GROUP

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