Uniper Swaps LNG Import Plans for Ammonia

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Uniper has announced plans to build an ammonia import terminal as part of a massive project to produce green hydrogen in northern Germany. The project will take place at Wilhelmshaven, the site for a proposed floating LNG terminal, which did not garner enough market interest to go past the planning stage last year (LNGI Nov.6'20). The new import terminal will have an ammonia cracker, which separates the gas into hydrogen and nitrogen without producing carbon. The new terminal will be commissioned in the second half of the decade depending on “national import demand and export opportunities,” Uniper said (LNGI Mar.10'21). The EU is looking to move away from fossil-based natural gas and LNG in order to meet its 2050 net-zero carbon goals and its new target to reduce its carbon emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030. Natural gas will play only a marginal role in the EU’s energy mix by 2050, with hydrogen and other green gases becoming the “new mainstream,” the European Commission's Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said last month. Germany, Europe’s largest natural gas market, was expecting a short-term boost in gas demand as it faces next year’s phaseout of nuclear power and the shutdown of coal and lignite power plants by 2038 at the latest. But the expansion of renewable capacity coupled with EU policy pressure could make the boost relatively short lived. Also, there is the increasing chance that the Green Party will be part of a governing coalition after September’s federal elections, accelerating the country’s path toward decarbonization. The ammonia import terminal is part of Uniper’s Green Wilhelmshaven project, which will also include a 410-megawatt electrolysis plant to supply local industry and the German national grid with carbon-neutral hydrogen. Uniper says the hydrogen producing hub will be able to supply around 295,000 metric tons of green hydrogen, equivalent to 10% of green gas demand in Germany by 2030. Hydrogen demand in Europe’s largest natural gas market is expected to be 90 to 100 terawatt hours (8.5 billion-9.5 billion cubic meters) by 2030 but the country’s production capacity will only be some 14 TWh by that date, forcing it to rely on imports to make up the difference. “We need to get hydrogen out of the laboratory and start using it in large-scale applications and marketable industrial solutions -- we should make it into a commodity and exploit its wide variety of uses,” Uniper’s COO David Bryson said. Uniper is also looking into possibly building a direct reduction plant with upstream hydrogen electrolysis on the site of the Wilhelmshaven coal-fired power plant. The utility announced earlier this month it would close the 757 MW plant by Dec. 8 as part of its decarbonization plans and intentions to focus on hydrogen. Germany is still planning to go ahead with its plans to build two large-scale LNG import terminals despite the environmental obstacles. In February, the Stade LNG terminal drew enough market interest to justify its 12 Bcm/yr import capacity and is moving ahead with permitting (LNGI Mar.3'21). The operator of the 5.5 million ton/yr Brunsbuttel LNG terminal said last month it was finalizing supply contracts to move ahead with the project, with most of its capacity provisionally booked by German utility RWE and Swiss trader Axpo (LNGI Mar.29'21). Both German LNG projects are located on the Elbe river and close to Hamburg, in northern Germany. Stade LNG is said to be planned to be a zero-emissions terminal, using excess heat from local industry for its regasification process. Jaime Concha, Copenhagen

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