What are our goals?

The Helmholtz Cluster for Sustainable and Infrastructure-Compatible Hydrogen Economy HC-H2 has two major goals: Firstly, we want to make a contribution to stop global warming. We want to show how important and suitable for everyday use hydrogen can be as a climate-neutral energy carrier so that the world can do without burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil or gas.

Secondly, we want to be an important part of the solution for structural change in the Rhenish mining area. The structural change is already underway because the companies have started to reduce the amount of electricity they generate from lignite. This means a loss of jobs. That’s why new jobs have to be created. We want to do that in cooperation with our partners from business, industry and science, among others in our cluster in the Rhenish mining area.

We haven’t reached our goal yet: hydrogen is usually made available either as a gas compressed at high pressure (up to 700 bar) or as a deep-frozen liquid (approx. -250 degrees). This is precisely where the Helmholtz Cluster for Sustainable and Infrastructure-Compatible Hydrogen Economy (HC-H2) comes in. The goal in Jülich and the Rhenish mining area is to conduct basic research and then show the world storage methods that make hydrogen an everyday energy carrier or fuel that can be provided without high pressure or low temperatures.

The HC-H2 is therefore planning, among other things, demonstration projects that show that the research results work in practice and on a large scale. The basic research is being conducted by the Institute for Sustainable Hydrogen Economy (INW) of Forschungszentrum Jülich. A hydrogen demonstration region is being created around the INW in cooperation with partners from industry, business and research. It is important that existing infrastructures such as pipelines, filling stations or tanks can continue to be used.

With the topic of infrastructure compatibility, we are aiming at the speed of implementation. In most cases, the development of new infrastructures is more time-consuming than the actual technology development. If we succeed with our new technologies in handling green hydrogen in existing gas pipelines, but especially also in the existing infrastructure for liquid energy carriers, i.e. tankers, tank trucks, tank farms, – where we do not want to have any more fossil mineral oil products in the future – then we can significantly accelerate the energy transition here in North Rhine-Westphalia, but also in Europe and the world.

Where do new jobs arise?

Alongside climate protection, creating jobs with a technology of the future is the central theme at INW and HC-H2. On the one hand, new jobs are created with the growth of the INW. From this and from the success of the demonstration projects that we are setting up and running with our partners in the HC-H2, we hope for a kind of pull effect that will lead to the founding of new companies or growth in our partner companies.

In the long run, qualified skilled workers will have to play an important role in the HC-H2 alongside academics. Because if we want to bring technologies to market maturity, we have to successfully build and operate the demonstration plants so that we can then export them. Later on, this will not only be done by us, but also by companies that have ideally already been doing projects with us beforehand. In short, we can say that we are creating new jobs with the climate-neutral and decentralised energy carrier hydrogen where jobs are being lost because of the phase-out of lignite.

When do we want to achieve what?

Currently, 20 people work at the Institute for Sustainable Hydrogen Economy (INW) at Forschungszentrum Jülich; at the beginning of next year, the number is to be doubled. A total of 100 new jobs are planned by the end of 2023, and 400 by 2025. The INW will consist of four institute departments by the end of 2023, and a director will be appointed for each department by then. By the end of 2023, a technical centre hall and laboratory modules will be built next to the office containers that have already been erected. Scientific work will then begin in the hall. By the end of the decade, the HC-H2 should have grown into a campus landscape with a new research building at its centre.

Two demonstration projects are to start soon: one will focus on supplying electricity and heat to a larger building complex using hydrogen as an energy carrier. The other project is to show how hydrogen can be made available after electrolysis in as logistically optimised a manner as possible, decentrally and in small margins. Here it already becomes clear how close to everyday life the technologies we are working on are. Ultimately, it’s about neighbourhood solutions and the provision for the end consumer.