H₂Mare - Gamechanger in the energy crisis?

forschung leben – the magazine of the University of Stuttgart (Issue Oktober 2022)

Green energy sources on the high seas. For the H₂Mare project, two institutes at the university are researching how hydrogen could be produced on the high seas and thus solve future energy problems.

Both the research community and society at large are concerned with alternative green energy sources and the concomitant independence from fossil fuels and external suppliers. Researchers in the H2Mare project, who are investigating the production of green hydrogen on the high seas, could make a significant contribution to the desired energy transition. Two University of Stuttgart Institutes are participating in the project.

Two marine technologies considered to be very promising for the future are the production of green hydrogen and its direct processing into so-called Power-to-X (PtX) products.The Flagship Project H2Mare is one of the three flagship hydrogen projects being run by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to implement the National Hydrogen Strategy. Researchers in the PtX-Wind project are investigating new production processes for hydrogen and its derivative products. The purpose of this development initiative is to provide a vital boost to Germany's entry into the hydrogen economy and represents a beacon of hope in the struggle against climate change.

The University of Stuttgart Institutes are working on one of the central challenges of this research project, which is about finding the best possible way for all the system modules and stakeholders on the planned research platform to work together. One of the tools the researchers are using in their search for answers to these questions is a so-called digital twin, the purpose of which is to provide a detailed picture of offshore operations. Specifically, researchers at the University of Stuttgart's Institute of Energy Economics and Rational Energy Use (IER) and the Institute of Industrial Automation and Software Engineering (IAS) are collaborating on an application that will ensure that the planned offshore platforms operate at optimal efficiency. This is why researchers at the IAS are collaborating with their project partners to develop the digital twin, which will model all plant modules used offshore throughout their entire lifecycles.

A groundbreaking undertaking: the objective of the H2Mare project is to produce green hydrogen on the open ocean as well as socalled power-to-X by-products.

A digital twin analyzing system moduls

The research focuses on the various containers used by the project partners from science and industry to house the plant modules for the planned offshore platform, which include everything from the seawater desalination plant and the electrolyzer to the PtX product synthesis systems. The purpose of the digital twin is to perform so-called "hardware in the loop" (HiL) tests on important system modules both before and during real offshore operations. Examples of the tests include different platform configurations and the interaction between dynamic operational behavior and the volatile energy supply from the wind farm. The first of the challenges involved in creating a simulation using the digital twin is the data acquisition process: "One of the first things we often find,” Nikola Mößner explains, “is that we request certain parameters from the project partners, but they are not yet available, which means that we sometimes have to use default parameters that can later be replaced by research results.”

But even exchanging data can sometimes be difficult: "Some of the data and also the models in which it is used are subject to special data protection regulations," says Daniel Dittler, who works on digital twins at the IAS. The researchers have to develop special concepts to be able to use the information while protecting it at the same time; because no simulation experiments can be carried out in the digital twin without this data exchange. "The exciting part," as Dittler explains, "is that whereas the whole purpose of the digital twin is to represent reality, we don't yet know what that reality will look like." Many of the things that the research offshore platform will have to withstand are known from offshore wind farms and the oil and gas industry, but developing the system configuration will involve stepping into terra incognita.

Consequently, the digital twin has to be able to adapt to any changes that occur in the facility during the research project. "The models themselves must be adaptable, just like the digital twin, in order to develop as things unfold so that new elements could be added later, just like a construction kit,” Mößner explains. To ensure that this is possible, the processes have to be described as realistically as possible under changing conditions.

Pascal Häbig

"The ultimate project objective is to prove the basic feasibility of this novel production concept."

Pascal Häbig

Laying the Foundation for large Offshore-Plattforms

The objective of the PtX-Wind research project is to create a platform that will draw electrical power directly from an offshore wind farm to produce synthetically generated material energy carriers such as hydrogen in addition to easily transportable so-called PtX downstream byproducts. Carbon dioxide and nitrogen will be needed to produce energy carriers, such as methane, hydrocarbons, green methanol, and green ammonia and the plan is to extract both from the atmosphere and seawater. "The ultimate project objective is to prove the basic feasibility of this novel production concept," as Pascal Häbig of the IER explains. "This will give us the basic wherewithal to create off-grid and large-scale offshore platforms in the future.” Häbig is convinced that the H2Mare pilot project will contribute towards climate protection while simultaneously reducing dependency on energy exporting countries.

Nikola Mößner

"The models themselves must be adaptable, just like the digital twin, in order to develop as things unfold."

Nikola Mößner

Potential Beacon of hope for a sustainable energie system

The two Institute Directors, Prof. Michael Weyrich and Prof. Kai Hufendiek, are convinced that it is justified to place our hopes in green hydrogen and its green PtX by-products as a future energy source for important tasks in a sustainable global energy system. Germany will also benefit greatly from the transfer of knowledge and technology through the three pilot hydrogen projects, which involve over 240 project partners from the scientific and industrial communities, not least through the boost they will give to the country as a business location. If the research endeavors being carried out in the H2Mare project prove successful, it could pave the way for the global scalability of such offshore wind farm island systems and thus for the off-grid exploitation of suitable potential resources marking an important milestone on the road towards the desired energy transition.

Daniel Dittler

"The exciting part is that whereas the whole purpose of the digital twin is to represent reality, we don't yet know what that reality will look like."

Daniel Dittler

Editor: Claudia Zöller-Fuß 

  • Daniel Dittler, e-mail phone: +49 711 685 67321
  • Pascal Häbig, e-mail, phone: +49 711 685 60901

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