German company swaps coal-fired plants with hydrogen


GermanyUniper, an energy company based in Düsseldorf, is working intensively decarbonize its portfolio.

For example, the Wilhelmshaven coal-fired power station (757 megawatts) is already set to cease electricity generation and to be shut down for good until 8 December 2021. This is provided for in the schedule set out by the German Law on the Reduction and Termination of Coal-Fired Power Generation for the power plants that were awarded closure by the German Federal Network Agency in the second round of auctions.

Closing coal-fired power plants

Uniper presented a plan for closing its coal-fired power plants in Germany in January last year. This plan aims to save up to 18 million metric tons of CO2 per year. Uniper also intends to close the coal-fired power plant blocks at the Gelsenkirchen Scholven, Heyden, Staudinger and Wilhelmshaven sites by the end of 2025 at the latest. These power plants have a combined total output of around 2900 megawatts.

New hydrogen infrastructure

The Wilhelmshaven power plant was commissioned in 1976 and is one of the pioneers of flue gas purification. Germany’s first desulfurization plant went into operation here in 1978. Wilhelmshaven is set to remain an energy hub even after the end of coal-fired power generation, which is why a comprehensive hydrogen infrastructure is currently being constructed.

Uniper is working in collaboration with Rhenus and Salzgitter on a feasibility study to plan and implement a plant for direct reduction using hydrogen during the production of iron ore. The nearby port provides the opportunity to import hydrogen or other forms of gas on a large scale. Other options include joining the neighboring Huntorf compressed air storage power plant and connecting to the gas storage system.

Transferring workforce

A reconciliation of interests is currently being prepared for the approximately 116 employees at the Wilhelmshaven power plant. The intention is to transfer as much of the workforce as possible to the new projects. In a partial reconciliation of interests, the formation of a residual organization for the operation of the Wilhelmshaven power plant group after the closure of the hard coal unit has already been agreed. In addition to the hard coal-fired power plant, the Wilhelmshaven power plant group includes the compressed air storage power plant in Huntorf and the fully automated Audorf and Itzehoe gas turbine power plants in Schleswig-Holstein.

Last coal-fired power plant

The last coal-fired power plant in Germany owned by Uniper will be the Datteln 4 power plant. It is one of the most modern power plants of its kind in the world and forms part of the Uniper strategy to reduce the company’s CO2 emissions. Uniper is aiming to once again reduce its CO2 emissions in Germany by up to 40 percent over the next five years through the planned voluntary closure of old and inefficient plants, while at the same time maintaining the security of supply for the customers and municipalities it serves.

Closing bids until 2026

The German Federal Network Agency will be accepting bids for the closure of further coal plants on fixed dates until 2026. Participants in the auction offer to close a power plant at the time set out in their bid, in return for a payment of the bid value submitted by the participant. In the first auction, which began on September 1, 2020, a capacity of four gigawatts was tendered; in the second auction on January 4, 2021, 1.5 gigawatts were tendered. The third auction for around 2.5 gigawatts of capacity is scheduled for April 30.

Wim Raaijen
I am a creative publisher, editor in chief, writer, vlogger and moderator with a journalistic and philosophic based view. Trying to re-invent the concept of publishing, based on platforms and partners, instead of separated media and advertisements. I am interested in industrial subjects like transition, sustainability, safety, energy efficiency, innovation and responsibility.