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"We want to make our contribution to a high-performance hydrogen network" - Interview with Hans Jonk, Gasunie Energy Development (H2CAST partner)

Technical articles / Interviews Partners

Hanover (energate) - In January, Gasunie gave the go-ahead for the 'HyPerLink' hydrogen project. The transmission system operator is converting the first lines from the existing natural gas grid between Bremen and Hamburg to hydrogen (energate reported). The newly founded Gasunie Energy Development GmbH is responsible for the project. energate spoke to managing director Hans Jonk about the company's plans.


energate: Mr Jonk, what exactly are you planning with the Hyperlink pipeline project?

Jonk: With Hyperlink we are creating a cross-border hydrogen infrastructure that extends from the Netherlands via Bremen to Hamburg and from Hanover to the Salzgitter area. These are the first two sections of Hyperlink. In the third section, we connect Denmark with Hamburg. In the other sections we will link Wilhelmshaven and the Ruhr region. By doing so, we want to make our contribution to a high-performance hydrogen network and thus significantly advance the decarbonisation of industry and transport. The regions, which will be linked by hyperlink, will put the hydrogen ramp-up in Germany on a resilient footing. We have the necessary industrial policy backing here. In addition, we are also working on other hydrogen topics, such as storage, offshore and import.

energate: Although politicians are calling for hydrogen projects and want to promote them, you are making advance payments for the time being. Where are the problems?

Jonk: We want things to move forward. In the current situation - on the one hand an uncertain market ramp-up, on the other hand necessary investments in the billions - de-risking plays an important role in reaching investment decisions. This includes international support programmes such as IPCEI and PCI funds as well as binding contracts with transport customers.

Regarding IPCEI, we're waiting for notification. The year 2023 is crucial if we want to successfully realise the first two project phases in 2026. That is why we are now making advance payments of around 10 million euros for Hyperlink and starting the first measures ahead of schedule. We are also doing this because we have the confidence that we are on the right track with our IPCEI application. The talks with potential customers show us that we can also achieve the necessary market commitments this year.

energate: With Hyperlink, you mainly want to use existing gas pipelines. What are the advantages?

Jonk: Hyperlink is based 80 per cent on existing gas infrastructure, which will be converted. Only 20 per cent of the hydrogen infrastructure has to be built from scratch. And that creates speed, because conversion is faster than new construction - and also much cheaper. In addition to the economically sensible reuse of existing assets, there is also an idealistic aspect. After all, behind every connection point are customers with whom we have built up a partnership over the past decades - a quality that cannot be neglected in times of system change. The conversion of existing infrastructure from methane to hydrogen is an established process, secured by the technical regulations. Once we have identified infrastructure that we want to use in hydrogen, we examine which parts are H2-compatible and which need to be replaced or adapted.

energate: Against this background, what do you think about the idea of a national grid company for the hydrogen grid?

Jonk: Germany is running out of time on the subject of hydrogen ramp-up. The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology's target structure is reminiscent of that in the Netherlands. But the federal TSO landscape that has grown up in Germany is different - but Germany is also bigger. Our ambition is to initiate the complex change processes that are now necessary ourselves - we want to implement Hyperlink together with our partners.

energate: You head the newly founded Gasunie Energy Development GmbH. What will be the task of the new company and how are you positioned?

Jonk: With our hydrogen organisation in Germany, we want to establish ourselves as the driving force of the new hydrogen economy. A total of 60 colleagues in Groningen and Hanover are promoting the topic in a closely networked way - and we are continuing to grow. In the Netherlands, the government has commissioned us to build the national hydrogen infrastructure in summer 2021. Our main strategic goal is to also build such a hydrogen infrastructure in northern Germany, along the North Sea coast, and to link the Dutch, North German and Danish hydrogen networks.

The conditions for this are very good, because we have an excellently developed infrastructure for methane. In addition, the new German LNG locations of Brunsbüttel, Stade and Wilhelmshaven will be future hydrogen import hubs. With this infrastructure, we are acting as an innovation driver for the energy transition. We are developing and implementing an attractive project portfolio in the hydrogen sector, including H2-Cast, our project for the large-volume underground storage of hydrogen in Etzel.

The questions were asked by Thorsten Czechanowsky. Source: energate messenger, 30.01.2023, www.energate.de