Climate Port Gelsenkirchen: Decarbonisation of Industrial Process Heat in Energy-Intensive SMEs

  • Project no.152854
  • Duration 05/2022 - 11/2022

In the "Climate Port Gelsenkirchen" initiative, companies from various sectors – supported by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of North Rhine-Westphalia, the city of Gelsenkirchen and the Science Park Gelsenkirchen – have joined forces with the aim of developing the city port of Gelsenkirchen into a climate-neutral industrial and logistics location.

The pilot project of the initiative is the decarbonisation of the process heat supply, which is the focus of this short study. With the companies Arsol Aromatics (production of aromatics), Avangard Malz (malting), Ball Beverage (production of beverage cans), Thyssen Krupp Electrical Steel (production of electrical steel), TRIMET (aluminium recycling) and ZINQ (galvanising), the climate port is home to a cluster of medium-sized, energy-intensive industrial companies with a total heat demand of around 500,000 MWh/a at various temperature levels.
To date, this process heat has mainly been obtained from natural gas. These internationally competitive companies are under increasing pressure to decarbonise their production and to choose the most economical and sustainable technology path. In the short study, two basic options were investigated: the conversion of existing plant technology to a climate-neutral fuel gas (e.g. green hydrogen) and the conversion to direct electrical processes based on green electricity (e.g. high temperature heat pump (up to 180 degrees Celsius) or induction heating). Transformation pathways have been identified according to the four-step model of climate-neutral process heat supply. The first step is to increase efficiency, followed by the development of renewable heat sources, electrical heat generation and finally the use of alternative energy sources. The resulting transformation path needs to be considered individually for each company.
As a result, the future energy demand in the climate port is roughly divided into electricity, hydrogen and a transitional area where electricity and hydrogen are equally valid options. In contrast to studies with a more systemic structure, the analysis in the short study was carried out from the bottom up, looking at the actual needs and conceivable transformations in the companies considered. The results agree well with more top-down considerations, such as long-term energy scenarios.

In a further step, electricity and hydrogen demand was matched with specific supply costs (including hydrogen import options, production and transport costs) for the years 2030 and 2050. The electrification scenario – under the assumptions made in the study – shows lower operating costs in 2050 than the hydrogen scenario. However, due to expected economies of scale and technological innovations (e.g. increasing efficiency of electrolysis), hydrogen imports are expected to have cost advantages also in the long term. For both the connection and the expansion of the electricity and hydrogen infrastructure, the specific situation of the company to be connected is highly relevant. Therefore, the brief study also addresses the implications of the calculated scenarios for infrastructure expansion. The best solution in each case depends on a number of factors, including the reinvestment cycles of the companies, the technical feasibility, the economic and environmental perspective and the connection costs. As a result, it is recommended that a dual expansion of the energy infrastructure (electricity and hydrogen) be promoted as a basis for entrepreneurial freedom of choice. This will also contribute to a faster overall implementation of the climate-neutral transformation.

The project was carried out in cooperation with Fraunhofer UMSICHT on behalf of the Science Park Gelsenkirchen with support from the German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt; DBU).

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