Germany: SPIE sets up a system to provide hydrogen for a pilot project for carbon-neutral cold steel strip production

Published on 31 October 2023

Hagen, 31 October 2023SPIE, the independent European leader in multi-technical services in the areas of energy and communications, developed and installed a hydrogen-based energy supply system for a pioneering project in cold steel strip production for the BILSTEIN GROUP in Hagen, Germany. This pilot project made it possible to apply a carbon-neutral heat treatment to around 100 tonnes of cold strip in a batch annealing plant. BILSTEIN GROUP, one of the world’s leading cold strip manufacturers, is working to replace natural gas with hydrogen for the energy-intensive processes, such as heat treatment, involved in the production of cold-rolled steel strip. 

The highest standards of safety are crucial

In a batch annealing plant, rolls of cold strip are heated to temperatures of between 500°C and 800 °C until they become ductile enough for downstream processing (e.g., for automotive applications). A switch from natural gas to hydrogen in these energy-intensive processes is extremely challenging, not least because the gases have different densities. Hydrogen, for example, requires substantially more fuel gas to offer the same performance as natural gas.

At the BILSTEIN GROUP’s site in Hagen, the CityNetworks & Grids operational division team at SPIE Deutschland & Zentraleuropa installed a hydrogen supply system for an entire heating mantle with eleven burners — a total heat output of 1,800 kilowatts – and zero compromise in performance. To achieve this, the multi-technical service provider developed and installed multiple pressure control systems and around 250 metres of piping. “The use of hydrogen, a highly explosive gas, means that we must apply the highest standards of safety. At peak operation levels, more than 600 cubic metres of hydrogen per hour will flow from a trailer straight into the plant, so we specially designed the equipment to withstand this high-volume flow,” says Heiko Prenger, a project manager at SPIE.

Custom solutions on a tight schedule

SPIE needed just two months to develop the equipment. “Implementing this very special project, which represents a massive leap forward for the industry on the road to carbon neutrality, in close and trusting collaboration with our client and other partners was a real source of motivation for us. We developed custom solutions quickly and with the necessary level of flexibility and kept to the deadline despite a very tight schedule,” says Heiko Prenger.

The only substance emitted via the chimney during the pilot run was steam, not CO2. Christian Hagenkord, who manages sustainability projects and energy supply at the BILSTEIN GROUP, was delighted with the result: “The project was a complete success. During the pilot run alone, we avoided emitting some 3,700 kilograms of CO2. So far, this kind of technology has only been tested on an experimental basis.

Acting together for climate-friendly industrial processes

SPIE has implemented several projects for the BILSTEIN GROUP over the course of their now ten-year partnership. “As a multi-technical service provider, we at SPIE are committed to a climate-friendly future. Carbon-neutral industrial processes are an important part of this, especially for energy-intensive industries in Germany. This project was an opportunity for us to both showcase and expand our expertise in this pioneering technology,” says Peter Pfannenstiel, General Manager of the CityNetworks & Grids operational division of SPIE Deutschland & Zentraleuropa.