Is hydrogen the future? Interview with Klaus Keysberg

Green hydrogen is considered the energy carrier of the future and Germany wants to play a leading role in this. Within the framework of the National Hydrogen Strategy, the German government plans to support the industry with around nine billion euros in the transformation to a hydrogen economy. The beneficiaries will be plant constructors, hydrogen producers and hydrogen users. thyssenkrupp will also profit, says board member Dr. Klaus Keysberg.

Dr. Keysberg, why is the National Hydrogen Strategy so important for thyssenkrupp?

On the one hand, because we will need large quantities of affordable hydrogen in the future, for example for climate-neutral steel production. On the other hand, in plant construction we are currently a supplier of production plants for green hydrogen, the so-called water electrolysis plants. We also have other technologies for the production of green chemicals in our portfolio. Examples are ammonia and methanol. We are making a significant contribution to the development of the infrastructure the strategy relies on. Additional impetus and funding for a green hydrogen economy is therefore good for us.

The Group plans to switch its steel production completely to hydrogen. This is going to be completed by 2050. How are we making progress there?

We are putting steel production on a completely new foundation. It is about replacing the blast furnace route with the hydrogen route. The first steps in this major task are encouraging: Last year we already successfully used hydrogen in the current blast furnace operation. In addition, we recently reached an agreement with the energy producer RWE to work together on a longer-term partnership for the supply of hydrogen, which we will need in large quantities in the future.

thyssenkrupp recently significantly expanded its production capacities for water electrolysis. Do you see a profitable market for this technology?

We can now build electrolysis plants with an annual capacity of one gigawatt. That is about the same amount as the capacity of all wind farms operating in the Baltic Sea. And we will expand our capacities even further. Green hydrogen is considered to be the key to a successful energy turnaround because it can be used to store and transport energy from renewable sources. Green hydrogen will play a central role in achieving greenhouse gas neutrality in all energy-consuming sectors, especially transport and industry. Research institutes such as Fraunhofer assume a demand of 50 to 80 gigawatts for the year 2050 - for Germany alone. Green hydrogen is clearly a future market.

thyssenkrupp's Carbon2Chem project also aimsat future markets. Where do we stand with Carbon2Chem?

Carbon2Chem is supported by the German government with 60 million euros. This alone underlines the importance of the project in national industrial and climate policy. Here the Group is developing a technology to convert industrial emissions into valuable chemicals - including the carbon dioxide they contain. Hydrogen also plays an important role here, because it is needed to neutralize CO2.

We are currently in the process of developing the technology to industrial maturity in a pilot plant directly at the Duisburg steel mill. We have already succeeded in producing ammonia and methanol from steel mill gases. The green hydrogen for this is produced by a thyssenkrupp plant. Carbon2Chem is not only suitable for steel production, but also for chemical and waste incineration plants. We see great interest in Carbon2Chem worldwide. In a few years the technology will be ready for industrial use.

The Carbon2Chem project aims at turning steel mill emissions into valuable chemicals. In the gas purification plant, the emissions are cleansed and processed.