Mr Willig, you’re the Executive Director of the newly established en2x business association. What’s that abbreviation about, and what businesses do you represent?
The name – en2x – comes from “energy to x”, and refers to the transition from what today are still largely fossil energy sources to the greenhouse gas-neutral products of tomorrow. That’s what we’re all about. Our member companies come from today’s petroleum industry, and provide a large share of this country’s energy for mobility and heat. They also supply considerable quantities of basic products for chemicals. We’re going to need an all-round transformation now if we want a greenhouse gas-neutral future. Our association is about supporting and assisting that transformation.
At Hydrogen Dialogue, en2x is going to report in its own session about how today’s petroleum industry can contribute towards achieving climate goals by transforming. Could you briefly outline your ideas for us here?
Our industry can make important, key contributions with a wide variety of renewable energy sources, alternative fuels and raw materials, technologies and innovations. So far as climate protection is concerned, many solutions will lead to that goal. Our member companies are already deeply involved in the hydrogen sector, in everything from production at refineries, to industrial applications, to setting up a network of hydrogen filling stations. The important point is that hydrogen is usable with lots of technologies – so no application is automatically out of the question. After all, in addition to renewable electricity and hydrogen, alternative fuels will also be needed if we’re going to achieve our climate goals. They’ll be absolutely essential for aviation, marine shipping and heavy goods transport.
Climate activists are not alone in demanding that the business in fossil fuels should be halted immediately – including because of the war in Ukraine. Can we even do that?
Right after the war began, the petroleum companies in this country announced on their own initiative that they’d be cutting back their imports of Russian crude and other products like diesel. Our members are also supporting the oil embargo on Russia, even though that involves substantial challenges in areas like logistics. We also expect the current developments to have a major, long-lasting influence on the energy supply of the future. Our aim has to be to set up our energy supply on a broader base, and to rely more and more on greenhouse gas-neutral energy. But a complete changeover within the short term is simply not possible. We don’t have enough alternatives. It can only happen step by step.
The current situation also shows how important it is to tie protecting the climate more closely together with safeguarding the energy supply by using a diverse range of CO2-neutral products. That diversification will make our energy supply fundamentally more flexible and resilient, on the way towards achieving our climate goals. That’s why we need not just more renewable power generation, but also “green molecules”. The most significant factors for that in the medium term will be to massively expand renewable energy in Germany, ramp up an international hydrogen industry, and set up a more diverse procurement structure. And the en2x member companies will be a driving force here.
Your mission also relies very heavily on dialogue. What discussions need to be started, and with whom?
Well, by now there’s a broad consensus about climate goals. Even the petroleum industry in Germany has a desire to make crucial contributions towards those goals. The deciding factor will be just how we can achieve those ambitious goals. We’re talking with government, NGOs, business and consumers about the right track to take now. For instance, it’s right and important to boost the market for hydrogen and its reaction products. But a prerequisite for that will be a reliable investment environment. How can we achieve that? How should rules be designed so that companies can start investing? What measures should be expedited now? All that needs to be discussed so we can finally take action.
Under the heading of “Refineries – Hydrogen as a Driver of CO2-free Technologies”, en2x and partners from among its membership are introducing “HyPipe Bavaria: Hydrogen Cluster Ingolstadt”. What are this project’s ambitions?
The HyPipe Bavaria / H2 Cluster Ingolstadt project is a plan by a consortium to develop a hydrogen infrastructure in the Ingolstadt metropolitan region that would supply hydrogen to the participating industrial sites and the region as a whole. An important potential user, Audi, is also on board. The refineries at Bayernoil and Gunvor will also be able to use sustainable hydrogen in the near future, advancing the decarbonisation of their production processes. On top of that, other applications are conceivable in trades, transport and supplying heat to businesses and homes by way of the participating utility companies’ grids. Hydrogen might be procured interregionally by way of the future hydrogen carrying grid, and in some cases it could also be generated and distributed regionally.
The project shows very concretely how the transition from fossil energy to a renewable, climate-conserving energy supply can be done. It also shows things like how important it is to set up a national and international hydrogen pipeline infrastructure to which clusters like this one can be connected. It’s clear as well that there’s still room for improvement in the environment that government policy has set up. To step up the market for climate-conserving hydrogen, we indispensably need a sound investment environment. We need clear, reliable rules so that companies can finally launch the investments they intend, some of which they have even specifically planned out, to build hydrogen electrolysis or fuel production plants. We still need legislative action here.
How important do you think Hydrogen Dialogue is, and what would you like to take home with you from Nuremberg?
As I already mentioned, we believe dialogue is a key factor in advancing climate protection. Given the great challenges we face, we need to be together with each other more, and against each other less. Our association will be attending for the first time, and we’re looking forward to an intriguing line-up of presentations and good, constructive conversations to serve those goals.
Many thanks for talking with us