* Uniper is creating a new value chain around the port

* Pieces include ammonia landing terminal, electrolysis

* Gas storage facilities to be re-purposed, new ones to go up

* Has won key customer in nearby steelmaker Salzgitter

ESSEN, Germany, June 13 (Reuters) - German utility Uniper will focus on talks with a big customer and early steps to develop hydrogen storage facilities this year after winning EU backing for two clean energy projects at the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven, its operations head said.

The state-owned company wants to turn the deep water port into a reception point for ammonia carrying imported hydrogen, and store and transport the hydrogen as part of its decarbonisation strategy.

"This year, we want to make concrete progress with (steelmaker) Salzgitter and ... intensively push forward our hydrogen storage projects," Chief Operating Officer Holger Kreetz said in an interview at a Handelsblatt conference published on Friday.

Uniper's ammonia terminal and a plan for a 1 gigawatt (GW) electrolysis plant to produce hydrogen from local renewable power were selected by the European Commission as Projects of Common Interest (PCI) last month.

"Being on the PCI list brings advantages for planning and speed of our projects," Kreetz said.

Uniper's long-term strategy includes turning all its natural gas activities to hydrogen to reach climate goals and supply customers. Its former focus, Russian gas, dried up in 2022 and the company had to be bailed out by the German government.

Seeking to cut emissions from steelmaking, Salzgitter and Uniper in April said they would cooperate on delivering up to 20,000 metric tons of green hydrogen per year to Salzgitter's plant, for which a pipeline from Wilhelmshaven has yet to be built. Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy.

Salzgitter's hydrogen will come from Uniper's electrolysis plant, a 200 megawatt section of which should be commissioned in 2028, Kreetz said.

Uniper's hydrogen storage strategy aims to offer 600 gigawatt hours (GWh) of capacity by the end of 2030, with the company re-purposing some of its gas storage caverns as well as building new sites. (Reporting by Vera Eckert and Tom Kaeckenhoff; Editing by Friederike Heine and Mark Potter)