Air Products and Mabanaft Build German Ammonia Terminal

21.11.2022 - Germany has tapped US industrial gases producer Air Products and Oiltanking Deutschland, part of the Mabanaft group, to realise the country’s first large-scale, green energy project as it transitions toward making hydrogen the backbone of its renewable energy strategy.

The two companies have signed a joint development agreement to build an ammonia import terminal at Mabanaft’s existing tank terminal in the Port of Hamburg. Operated by Oiltanking, the facility is planned to be operational by 2026.

The formal presentation of the project at a ceremony in Hamburg follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Air Products and the Hamburg Port Authority in February this year. In it, both parties committed to accelerate production, supply chain and consumption of renewable hydrogen in northern Germany.

As part of its national strategy, Germany has committed to investing at least €9 billion to scale up the hydrogen economy, said Robert Herrmann, CEO of the investment promotion agency Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI).

For its green ammonia needs, Germany at present is looking principally to the Middle East, in particular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but also Egypt. In 2020, Air Products signed a $5 billion deal with Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power and Neom to produce ammonia for export.

In the Initial stage of the German project, the ammonia made as a byproduct in Air Products’ green hydrogen processing facilities worldwide will be shipped to Hamburg and converted to green hydrogen by the gases producer on-site. The end-product is to be distributed to buyers in northern Germany.

As the world’s largest producer of hydrogen, Air Products’ chairman, president and CEO Seifi Ghasemi said at the announcement ceremony the Pennsylvania-headquartered US company “is in an excellent position to meet Germany’s demand, having committed billions of dollars to produce renewable energy at locations around the world.”

Volker Ebeling, senior vice president New Energy, Chemicals & Gas at Mabanaft, commented that the German project addresses the urgent task of decarbonizing components of the mobility sector and industrial processes while in particular paving a climate-conscious way for Mabanaft and Air Products’ respective customers.

In his remarks, German economics minister Robert Habeck, a Green party member who also has responsibility for climate affairs, said that in the transition away from Russian gas, the country needs hydrogen. And while setting up its own production, it needs imports.

Market watchers commenting on Germany’s first steps into hydrogen said it is more or less starting from scratch. Up to now, there is no existing infrastructure to transport hydrogen from the state's borders, in particular from ports, to the customers who depend on it for their transition to green technologies.

This is not only Germany’s problem but one involving the entire European Union, said German energy group Eon, which has been planning its own hydrogen network. The lack of clarity in the EU’s definitions of green hydrogen has hampered investment decisions.

Eon said earlier this year that it was partnering with Tree Energy Solutions on renewable hydrogen imports to Germany. Together with Fortescue Future Industries, it reported planning to supply 5 million t/y of renewable hydrogen to Europe from Australia by 2030.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist