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On its way to being a worldwide leader: building a green hydrogen economy

The consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, and the transition to a sustainable economy is shaping up as a global Herculean task. This challenge requires above all new knowledge and intelligent technologies. Thanks in part to its centuries-long tradition as a port and industrial location, the Hanseatic City of Hamburg has the far-sighted entrepreneurial spirit needed for this successful transformation.

More than a thousand years after the port was founded, Hamburg is now the most important trade and economic centre in Northern Europe. For a sustainable and future-proof transformation of the economy, the metropolis on the Elbe, together with its partners, is striving to decarbonise the port, industry, logistics, and air transport and to build a competitive green hydrogen economy. Firmly embedded in the North German Hydrogen Strategy and within the guard rails of the Climate Plan, the aim is to facilitate an almost complete supply to all buyers interested in green hydrogen. In order to drive the issue forward, the well-established Renewable Energies Hamburg (EEHH) cluster was expanded in 2021 to include the focal topic of hydrogen. Thanks to the large number of stakeholders, this creates meaningful synergies for the development of a hydrogen economy. Within its cluster strategy, Hamburg consistently promotes innovation, growth, and employment in sustainable economic sectors. Hamburg's clusters are strategic fields of specialisation that give the location a clear competence profile, radiating far beyond the state's borders and attracting mobile capital, talent, expertise as well as companies and skilled workers of all qualifications.

The conditions for a green hydrogen economy are excellent. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), for example, attests that Northern Germany and the metropolis of Hamburg with its millions of inhabitants as its industrial centre are promising future locations for renewable energies and green hydrogen. 

This has also been confirmed by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and the Federal Ministry of Transport, which in May 2021 assessed twelve large-scale hydrogen projects in the Hamburg metropolitan region as worthy of funding under the so-called IPCEI Hydrogen (Important Projects of Common European Interest). Eight of these are within the city limits and another four in the metropolitan region. This makes Hamburg not only the most powerful cluster for green hydrogen in Germany - but also one of the most powerful in Europe.


This document shows the 12 major hydrogen projects in the metropolitan region of Hamburg within the so called IPCEI Hydrogen (Important Projects of Common European Interest). 8 of them are based within the boundaries of the City of Hamburg, 4 in the metropolitan region. 

The most important IPCEI hydrogen projects in the Hamburg region at a glance.

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Here you can find out more about Hamburg’s hydrogen ecosystem:
HG Wasserstoff Navi

Optimum support: cooperating, financing, developing, testing


Also beyond the IPCEI projects, there are numerous lighthouse projects in the region. 
These include, for example, the ITZ Nord or the H2Global Foundation. Green hydrogen is still scarce. Developments on a future hydrogen market, its legal framework and the prices for green hydrogen are difficult to calculate. For this reason, the H2Global-Stiftung was established in 2021 to promote the worldwide market ramp-up for hydrogen. The German government is providing a total of 900 million euros for this purpose. A so-called "double auction model" is bridging the difference between the high world market prices for hydrogen and the lower prices at which it is marketed regionally and used economically so that both suppliers and buyers have planning security. 

The ITZ Nord, in turn, is intended to provide a new type of development, research and test environment in aviation and shipping, especially for start-ups, founders and SMEs at its Hamburg, Bremen/Bremerhaven and Stade locations. The ITZ Nord is considered an important milestone in Northern Germany's development into a hydrogen stronghold and being funded by the federal government with up to 70 million euros.

And yet another project relies on the networking of start-ups to further advance the development of innovations and future technologies. To this end, the "H2 StartUp Accelerator", one of the world's first programmes of its kind dedicated to hydrogen, was launched in Hamburg in June 2022. The global innovation platform Plug and Play wants to build an international ecosystem for innovative young companies and connect start-ups with leading businesses worldwide. In this way, early-stage ventures will be given the opportunity to use already established infrastructures for tests and pilot projects along the entire hydrogen value chain. The goal is to accelerate hydrogen innovations by having the Accelerator act as an interface between startups, research, industry and other institutions.

Green Hydrogen Initiative Northern Germany

The five northern German states of Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Hamburg and Bremen have joined forces to form the HY-5 initiative for green hydrogen. The initiative, which is headed by the five economic development agencies of the states, strives to make Northern Germany the strongest future region for green hydrogen in Europe. To this end, the states are developing solutions along the entire value-added chain for green hydrogen.

Hamburg‘s hydrogen ecosystem: major players in close. 

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Sustainable energy for the future

The northern German states are pursuing a rapid expansion and greater promotion of renewable energies and the green hydrogen economy along the entire value chain. The selected projects in this field cover different areas and interlock seamlessly at important points. Thanks to the regional concentration of industry, the proximity of possible production and import locations and hydrogen users, as well as the central connection to trans-European transport networks, Hamburg offers ideal conditions for making the best possible use of the subsidies. The aim is to create a powerful network into which more and more projects can be integrated. A cross-border series of pilot projects shows how an economically viable hydrogen economy can be successfully implemented.

Find future locations here from the areas of:

Local industry as the main driver of demand 

More than 90 percent of today's hydrogen demand comes from industry, making it the main driver for an increase in demand for hydrogen. Around the port of Hamburg as a central hub for future development, reaching right into the metropolitan region, a variety of innovation-driven industrial partners have established themselves. 

The Port of Hamburg is the most powerful harbour in Germany and one of the three largest in Europe. However, it is not only an efficient logistics hub but also the largest contiguous industrial area in northern Europe. The port with its proven infrastructure creates the best conditions for importing, storing and distributing hydrogen in large volumes, whether liquid, gaseous or chemically bound. A high degree of digitalisation ensures efficient processes. Here, transnational waterways, roads and railways in the European interconnected grid meet high-performance electricity lines and gas pipelines. Hardly any other location in Europe offers such conditions. 

With the import strategy for hydrogen passed in March 2022, which is intended to further solidify the city's pioneering position as a hydrogen location, Hamburg has defined further cornerstones. It includes an action plan to pave the way for the large-scale import of hydrogen on land by pipeline and by sea. The strategy envisages using imports to meet not only regional needs but also parts of the national and European hydrogen demand. To this end, Hamburg is to be integrated into a European hydrogen network as an international hub. 

In addition, the construction of the planned import terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Brunsbüttel is another important building block in the hydrogen strategy, as it can also contribute to the development of an infrastructure for hydrogen and green gases in the future. A study by the Technical University of Hamburg (TUHH) recently concluded that the location is very well suited as an import hub for Northern Germany.

Here you can find out more about Hamburg’s hydrogen ecosystem:


Jobs and a market worth billions 

Hydrogen technologies involve aspects of climate policy, sustainable jobs, new value-added potential and a global market worth billions.

More than five million jobs and an annual turnover of EUR 800 billion in Europe have been forecast in the sector by 2050. 

Concentrated hydrogen power for Hamburg


In April 2021, the companies receiving IPCEI funding teamed up to form the Hydrogen Network Hamburg (Wasserstoffverbund Hamburg) in order to make even better use of synergies. These include Airbus, ArcelorMittal, Gasnetz Hamburg, GreenPlug, Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG, Hamburg Port Authority, HADAG Seetouristik und Fährdienst, Stadtreinigung and the Hamburg Green Hydrogen Hub. Their joint projects for the production, distribution and use of hydrogen contribute significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gases and can reduce CO2 emissions in Hamburg by 170,000 tonnes annually as early as 2026. By utilising hydrogen through on-site electrolysis, seaborne imports and connection to the European hydrogen grid, the collaborative project offers the potential to save more than one million tonnes per year of the current approximately 16 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in Hamburg by 2030.

The IPCEI projects in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region at a glance:


Hydrogen production: 


Green Hydrogen Hub Hamburg – Shell, Vattenfall, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kommunale Wärme Hamburg GmbH
Shell, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Vattenfall and the municipal company Wärme Hamburg have issued a letter of intent to jointly produce hydrogen from wind and solar energy at the Hamburg-Moorburg power plant site. This hydrogen will be used primarily by local industry. At the heart of the project is a scalable large-scale electrolyser with an initial output of 100 KW. In addition, the further development of the site into a so-called "Green Energy Hub" is planned to ensure the permanent generation of electricity with hydrogen, thus decarbonising Hamburg's energy supply in the long term. 

HH-WIN: Hamburg gas grid
As part of the Hamburg Hydrogen Industry Grid (HH-WIN) project which aims to ensure a supply-secure infrastructure for green hydrogen, the Hamburg gas grid will be significantly expanded from the current 45 to 60 km by 2030. This will not only make it the vital lifeline for the planned regional hydrogen projects but will also connect it to nationwide and European grids. The project will be developed and implemented in a demand-oriented and step-by-step manner. In the long term, around 570 million cubic metres of natural gas are to be replaced annually, resulting in a saving of 1.2 million tonnes of CO2. 

AquaVentus: RWE Renewables and GASCADE (Hydrogen infrastructure) - Helgoland
AquaVentus is blazing a trail with climate-friendly hydrogen technologies and projects at sea. Its visionary project is to generate 10 gigawatts of green hydrogen from offshore wind energy by 2035, situated close to the island of Helgoland. As part of this initiative, the AquaDuctus transport pipeline will transport green hydrogen from the North Sea directly to the mainland. 

Hydrogen applications in industry:


H2H: ArcelorMittal
Steel is a key raw material for many industries, but its production is extremely CO2-intensive. That is why ArcelorMittal wants to build a plant for steel manufacturing with green hydrogen in Hamburg. With the "H2 for Hamburg" (H2H) project, the company helps to enable a significant reduction of CO2 emissions in the supply chain. To this end, the ArcelorMittal plant in Hamburg is to be converted to climate-neutral steel production in four steps by 2030. The project includes the construction of a hydrogen-powered demonstration plant for the direct reduction of iron ore (H2First) as well as the technological conversion of the existing direct reduction plant (H2Ready), intending to replace the use of natural gas with green hydrogen in the long term.

e-Methanol Project: DOW Stade
The chemical park in Stade located in the Hamburg metropolitan region is Germany's largest electricity consumer after Deutsche Bahn. With its Green MeOH project, the company wants to transform itself into a climate-neutral location - and relies on green hydrogen and green methanol, among other things. As part of the project, CO2 is filtered out of the exhaust gases from the gas-fired power plant in Stade and converted into methanol by adding hydrogen. The goal is to produce 200,000 tonnes of methanol per year, which will be used in other chemical processes as well as in shipping and heavy-duty transport. For this purpose, more green hydrogen is to be produced on the plant site.

Hyscale 100: Holcim (district of Dithmarschen)
The HySCALE100 project, led by Hynamics and its partners Holcim Germany, Ørsted and Raffinerie Heide GmbH, is about the commercial production of hydrogen and e-methanol to decarbonise two important industries in the Heide region: petrochemicals and cement. It pursues the goal of drastically reducing carbon emissions on a European level. 

Hydrogen for mobility: 


WIPLiN: Airbus
Aviation accounts for around 3 per cent of global CO2 emissions. In order to make a fundamental contribution to the global climate goals, Airbus - one of the largest employers and industrial companies in the region - has launched its ZEROe aircraft concept, with the aim of significantly reducing emissions. The enterprise is focusing on hydrogen as an energy carrier for propulsion systems and has developed three different prototypes for medium-haul aircraft for this purpose, one of which is to be implemented. There are also plans for a hybrid model with hydrogen and electric propulsion. In addition, as part of the project "Hydrogen for Aviation Infrastructure and Production in Northern Germany" (WIPLiN), work is being done to advance the expansion of the hydrogen infrastructure at the plant itself. 

H2Load: Hamburger Hafen und Logistik
As part of the "Hydrogen Logistics Applications & Distribution" (H2LOAD) project, the Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) which operates the port intends to put various types of heavy-duty equipment (such as straddle carriers, trucks, tractors, forklifts, empty container stackers, reach stackers as well as a shunting locomotive) with fuel cell drive into service. In the first step, the metropolitan region in particular will benefit from the resulting reduction in CO2 emissions, but if the pilot project is successful, the experience gained in Hamburg can be applied to other German and European locations - and thus contribute to sustainable decarbonisation. 

HyPA – Hamburg Port Authority
The Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) is the infrastructure provider for roads, railways and waterways in the Port of Hamburg. With the Hydrogen Port Applications (HyPA) venture, two projects are being implemented at the same time. On the one hand, the focus is on the provision of hydrogen filling stations for locomotives, ships and trucks. On the other hand, it involves the construction and use of innovative hydrogen-powered ships. The goal: to make traffic in the heavily frequented Hamburg port area as emission-free as possible, thereby taking an important step towards decarbonisation.
H2 HADAG: HADAG Seetouristik und Fährdienst
The public enterprise operates the public transport passenger ferries in the Port of Hamburg and has plans for a gradual conversion of the fleet to low-emission propulsion systems. Within the H2HADAG project, the conversion of three ships from diesel-hybrid to hydrogen-hybrid and the new construction of two more ships (designed as hydrogen-hybrid) will be implemented. This will make public transport in the port an integral part of the value chain in the Hamburg hydrogen network.

H2SB: Green Plug
The Port of Hamburg is the central hub for green hydrogen - and wants to become more climate-neutral itself. With the "H2 Push Boat" (H2SB) project, GreenPlug has designed an emission-free fuel cell push boat with a capacity of 2,400 tonnes at a speed of 10 knots. In the first project step, one boat will be manufactured and tested, then nine more will be built and chartered out to operators. As soon as it is available, they will be powered by green hydrogen generated in Hamburg. 


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