Something’s moving: The Hydrogen Hub Aachen has set itself the task of bringing hydrogen more widely onto the market.
Photo: IHK Aachen

How hydrogen is moving the region

The Hydrogen Hub Aachen gets into gear

The Düren, Euskirchen, and Heinsberg districts plus Aachen city and its wider conurbation combine forces on the matter of hydrogen. Supported by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) for Aachen, the shared Hydrogen Hub Aachen network has been initiated. ‘We want to make our region a pioneer in the hydrogen industry’, says Michael F. Bayer, managing director of IHK Aachen. ‘The conditions for doing this are ideal – there are brilliant minds here who make hydrogen usable as an energy source. Innovative industrial companies are working on bringing hydrogen-based applications and products to market. The Hydrogen Hub Aachen aims to create jobs and generate job opportunities and boost value creation in this futuristic sector.’

The background: At both national and European levels, the use of hydrogen technology is expected to be a central pillar of the energy transition. The initiators of the Hydrogen Hub Aachen – the mayor of Aachen, Sibylle Keupen, city region council member Dr. Tim Grüttemeier, district commissioners Wolfgang Spelthahn (Düren), Stephan Pusch (Heinsberg), and Markus Ramers (Euskirchen) and IHK managing director Michael F. Bayer – are certain that hydrogen as an energy source is an important element for structural change.

‘We want to make our region a pioneer in the hydrogen industry.’

Network of partners from business and science

To coordinate the activities, the Hydrogen Hub Aachen is supported by a joint project office, located on the premises of IHK Aachen. Since the Hydrogen Hub was launched, it has succeeded in building a partner network of more than 300 players in the business and scientific sectors. A first milestone that has already been reached: The Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMVI) is supporting the initiative by creating an overall concept for the hydrogen economy in the region with a grant of up to 400,000 euros. This was preceded by the competition ‘HyLand – Hydrogen regions in Germany’ organized by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMVI), in which the Hydrogen Hub Aachen reached the second round. Solutions for a successful energy and mobility transition will come from the Aachen region: this was the key message of representatives from business, policy-making and society who were present for the ‘Hydrogen mobility in the Aachen border region’ event organized by the Hydrogen Hub Aachen in Jülich. During the event, Pedro Guedes de Campos, deputy director of the Clean Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, gave a presentation of the European Union’s hydrogen strategy. Next, Dr. Martin Robinius from umlaut SE in Aachen, Anne Schüssler representing the district of Düren and Armin Offermann from Toyota and others demonstrated how hydrogen can be used efficiently and practically in the mobility sector, for example in fuel cells. Examples shown included vehicles with emissions-free drive systems.

The event was a great success, as could also be gleaned from the statements of the protagonists: Dr. Tim Grüttemeier, Aachen city region council member, said: ‘21,000 people work in energy-intensive industries in the Aachen economic area. To maintain these jobs for the long term and to remain attractive as a location for industry, we as the Aachen region are setting out to become the model region for generating, storing, and distributing sustainable green energy. This demands courage, as has been demonstrated by the Saint Gobain company in Herzogenrath. In the first climate-neutral glass production facility in Europe, the use of hydrogen should allow 100,000 tonnes of CO2 to be saved each year in future. Normally, to compensate for emissions this large, some 8 million trees would have to be planted.’

Stephan Pusch, district commissioner for Heinsberg, emphasized: ‘The importance of hydrogen technology for sustainable energy production in the future is exceptionally high. I am therefore delighted that we have such strongly-positioned medium- sized enterprises here in the Heinsberg district that have come together in this consortium and in effect can cover the entire hydrogen value creation chain.’

Achim Blindert, representing structural and business development in the Euskirchen district, said: ‘With the Hydrogen Hub we positioned ourselves last year in the hydrogen sector. The event in Jülich, with such a full and prestigious program, shows that we are now becoming well recognized as a regional network. Hydrogen mobility in public transport and commercial transport will form a central element of our public transportation strategy in the coming years.’

Anne Schüssler, head of the district development and mobility section of the Düren district, stressed: ‘By converting all our road and rail-based public transport to hydrogen power, we want to make the use of hydrogen technology visible while making a significant contribution to CO2 reduction.’

Sibylle Keupen, mayor of the City of Aachen, said: ‘Aachen has already established itself throughout Germany as a research hotspot for hydrogen. We owe this to the outstanding researchers who have joined forces here, including as part of the Clusters4Future Hydrogen. And now, as municipalities of the Hydrogen Hub, we are urged to move forward bravely, setting an example, in becoming an application hotspot and in implementing the solutions right here. As the City of Aachen we are already engaged, actively converting the urban mobility and promoting hydrogen production in the urban area. Additionally we would like to engage in the hydrogen theme in cooperation with our neighboring countries in the “EMR (Meuse-Rhine Euroregion) Hydrogen Booster” project.’

‘Aachen has already established itself throughout Germany as a research hotspot for hydrogen. We owe this to the outstanding researchers who have joined forces here, including as part of the Clusters4Future Hydrogen.’

Green hydrogen in the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion

The keyword is Euroregion. In an alliance of nine German, Dutch, and Belgian partners, the Aachen Chamber for Industry and Commerce (IHK) is accelerating the development of green hydrogen in the Meuse- Rhine Euroregion. Using the designation ‘EMR H2 Booster’ the initiators have set themselves the objective of establishing a sustainable hydrogen economy together with businesses located in the border triangle region.

The hydrogen initiative is devoted to a number of tasks. One of these is to create an online platform in which the research and development activities and the competences of the various companies in the hydrogen economy can be displayed, among other information. These companies should be networked to enable hydrogen projects and applications to be progressed. The network is open for companies that wish to engage in the hydrogen sector but are still at an early stage of development. In this way a strong, innovative and competitive hydrogen economy is expected to form in the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion.

The following have joined to form the Hydrogen Hub Aachen and wish to jointly promote the theme of hydrogen in the region: Dr. Tim Grüttemeier (Aachen city region council member), Dr. Stephan Kranz (director, Saint-Gobain Glass in Germany, Herzogenrath), Stefanie Peters (managing director, Neuman & Esser Group, Übach-Palenberg, and member of the National Hydrogen Council of the German Government), Wolfgang Spelthahn (district commissioner for the Düren district), Sibylle Keupen (mayor of the City of Aachen), Markus Ramers (district commissioner for the Euskirchen district), Michael F. Bayer (managing director IHK Aachen), Stephan Pusch (district commissioner for Heinsberg district), Georg Schmiedel (director, F&S solar concept GmbH, Euskirchen), and Prof. Dr. Ing. Stefan Pischinger (director, Institute for Thermodynamics and head of the Chair for Internal Combustion Machines at RWTH, director of the FEV Group GmbH and spokesman for the ‘Clusters4Future Hydrogen’, Aachen).
Photo: IHK Aachen

‘Hydrogen offers our regional companies an immense potential: companies can make their products increasingly CO2-neutrally and at the same time generate more sustainable value creation locally.’

‘Hydrogen offers an immense potential for our regional businesses. Companies can make their products increasingly CO2-neutrally and at the same time generate more sustainable value creation locally’, says Michael F. Bayer. ‘We are pleased to be driving this economic and ecological transformation forward together with our partners in the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion.’

From the viewpoint of IHK Aachen, the establishing of a sustainable hydrogen economy is of key importance so that we can master the structural transformation and the associated energy transformation. Additionally, it offers the possibility for us to become independent of Russian natural gas in the medium term.

The hydrogen initiative now started is complementary to the activities of the Hydrogen Hub Aachen at the Euroregion level. ‘EMR H2 Booster’ is financed with funding from the European Interreg program for the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion, the North Rhine-Westphalia federal region, and regional governments, including those of the Dutch provinces of Limburg and Nordbrabant, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, and the Government of Wallonia.

– Christoph Claßen