RWE and BASF are planning a mega wind farm in the North Sea

The energy supplier and the chemical company are cooperating on the construction of a two gigawatt offshore wind farm. The energy obtained is intended to promote the market ramp-up of green hydrogen.

There are numerous wind turbines in the offshore wind farm

FFor RWE CEO Markus Krebber, it is a “lighthouse project” for climate protection in industry: the Essen-based energy supplier is teaming up with BASF to build a huge new wind farm in the North Sea, which will in future use green electricity for the chemical plant in Ludwigshafen and to produce “green” hydrogen. The system with a capacity of two gigawatts would be one of the largest offshore wind farms in the whole world. From 2030, it is expected to provide clean electricity for the production of basic chemicals to replace natural gas and electricity from fossil fuels.

RWE puts the total cost of the project at just over four billion euros. BASF wants to take a 49 percent stake in the wind farm. The remaining 51 percent will stay with RWE, which will develop, build and operate the plant. Coupling a new offshore wind farm to an industrial customer such as BASF at the planning stage “would be a novelty for Germany,” said the RWE boss. Other companies could use this example as a guide, said Krebber at a joint press conference with BASF CEO Martin Brudermüller and the chairman of the IG BCE union, Michael Vassiliadis.

Four fifths of the electricity is to be supplied directly to the BASF headquarters in Ludwigshafen, the world’s largest production site for chemicals. In order to achieve the goal of climate neutrality, BASF needs a lot of green electricity – especially for the planned conversion of the large “Cracker” plants to electrical operation. Brudermüller said the electricity requirement for climate-friendly production in Ludwigshafen will at least triple to 20 terawatt hours by 2035. That is around 15 percent of the wind power produced in Germany today. The wind farm planned with RWE is expected to contribute around a quarter of future requirements. “We want to push the tube and make an offer on how the transformation will work,” he said with a view to politics.

300 megawatts of water electrolysis

RWE intends to use around a fifth of the output to produce hydrogen for other industrial customers. To this end, a new electrolysis site is to be built in north-west Germany. The exact location planning depends on where the electricity can best be fed in. With a capacity of around 300 megawatts, RWE is planning one of the largest electrolysers in Germany, said Krebber. CO2-free hydrogen – obtained from water not from methane – also plays an important role in the climate-neutral conversion of chemical production. However, Brudermüller pointed out that water electrolysis consumes five times more electricity than conventional production from methane.

BASF has set itself the goal of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by a quarter by 2030. In Ludwigshalfen alone, the largest chemical site in the world, around eight million tons of the greenhouse gas are produced every year. The joint project with RWE aims to save almost three million tons there. Another million tons of CO2 should be saved through the use of green hydrogen.

At the presentation of the electrification plans in March, BASF announced that it would start producing renewable energy itself. The group is already producing its own energy, and three gas and steam turbine power plants are currently in operation in Ludwigshafen.

The project with RWE is, however, still subject to the proviso that politicians play along. According to their own admission, both groups do not expect any subsidies for the construction of the wind farm. However, your project assumes that further areas are released in the North Sea which, according to current planning, will only be considered for the construction of new offshore parks after 2030. In addition, they demand that green electricity be relieved of the EEG surcharge to promote renewable energies and that the “market ramp-up” for green hydrogen be given greater support. “We need competitive electricity costs, otherwise the transformation will not succeed,” said Brudermüller.

Krebber also urged a hurry. The expansion of renewables takes years of lead time. “That is why the decisions that are made today will determine success in the second half of the 2020s”. Another bottleneck are the lines that are supposed to bring the electricity south. The planning covers around 7,800 kilometers. However, many projects are considerably behind schedule. As IG BCE chairman Vassiliadis criticized, seventy percent of the lines have not even been finally approved. Vassiliadis praised the RWE and BASF project as a “symbol of the innovative strength of industry and its employees”. The union is behind the major project because it helps to secure competitiveness and jobs.