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UK’s largest blue hydrogen production hub given initial go ahead

24/1/2024

The Stanlow manufacturing complex in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire Photo: EET Hydrogen
EET plans for its hydrogen hub at the Stanlow manufacturing complex in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, to have an overall capacity of some 4 GW by 2030, 40% of the UK government’s target – pictured a CGI rendering of HPP1

Photo: EET Hydrogen

The first phase of what will be the UK’s largest blue hydrogen production plant, located in Cheshire, north-west England, has been given the green light by the local planning authority. Meanwhile, the UK government has unveiled funding to develop a green hydrogen hub in the Tees Valley, north-east England.

Cheshire West & Chester Council has approved EET Hydrogen’s plans for the first large-scale, blue hydrogen production plant (HPP1) in the UK, located at the Stanlow manufacturing complex in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Planning approval was given despite protests from local environmental campaigners, warning of the methane emissions associated with fossil gas production. Blue hydrogen is produced when natural gas is split into hydrogen and CO2 either by steam methane reforming (SMR) or auto thermal reforming (ATR), and the CO2 is captured and then stored. As the greenhouse gases are captured, this mitigates the environmental impacts on the planet.

 

Preliminary approval was also secured for the second phase of the project.

 

The first phase of development of the hydrogen hub will have a capacity of 350 MW, while the second (HPP2) will have a capacity of 1 GW. The project will enable local industrial and power generation businesses to switch from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy, helping to reduce north-west England’s carbon emissions by 2.5mn t/y – the equivalent of taking 1.1 million cars off the roads, according to EET Hydrogen.

 

The hydrogen will be used locally by the Essar refinery and other major manufacturers in the region, including Tata Chemicals, Encirc and Pilkington, to create what is claimed will be the world’s first low-carbon refining operations, glass and chemicals manufacturing site.

 

EET plans an overall target capacity for the hydrogen hub of about 4 GW by 2030 – 40% of the UK government’s target.

 

The development is a key pillar of the HyNet hydrogen and carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) project – one of two UK government Track 1 clusters for industrial decarbonisation. Construction is anticipated to start on HPP1 in 2024 with low-carbon hydrogen produced at the site by 2027.

 

Green hydrogen plans for the Tees Valley

Meanwhile, Exolum is planning to build a green hydrogen production plant and refuelling station at its Riverside terminal in Stockton-on-Tees as part of the Tees Valley Hydrogen Vehicle Ecosystem project.

 

The project, which has secured £7mn of funding from the UK Department for Transport and will be delivered in partnership with Innovate UK, is expected to be fully operational in 2025. The green hydrogen (produced using renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to power the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis) produced will be supplied to both the refuelling station, with a capacity of 1.5 t/d, and other customers in the region using a ‘hub and spoke’ delivery model.

 

UK fuel cell electric vehicle manufacturer Electra Commercial Vehicles and German manufacturer Quantron, in partnership with Novuna Vehicle Solutions, will deploy at least 20 fuel cell electric trucks, ranging from 4.2 to 27 tonnes, under the initiative. The vehicles will be used by some of the region’s largest vehicle operators, who will replace existing diesel vehicles, thereby reducing local air pollution and carbon emissions.

 

‘The Tees Valley Hydrogen Vehicle Ecosystem is a vital first step towards the development of a nationwide network of hydrogen refuelling stations, serving as a model for other regions to deploy similar hydrogen mobility ecosystems,’ says Exolum. ‘This project will help accelerate the UK’s transition to zero-emission fuel cell vehicles and reduce carbon emissions in line with the UK’s net zero ambition.’

 

Earlier this month the UK government announced funding for two projects led by ULEMCo and Element 2, which will develop hydrogen-powered airport ground-based support vehicles and create new hydrogen refuelling stations in the Tees Valley.

 

Riverside Terminal

Exolum is planning to build a green hydrogen production plant and refuelling station at its Riverside terminal in Stockton-on-Tees, UK

Photo: Exolum

 

Turning ‘waste’ wind into clean hydrogen

In related news, a new report from Policy Exchange details the growing fiscal and economic ‘opportunity’ cost of the growing power grid congestion holding back development of the UK’s wind fleet, and calls for curtailed, ‘wasted’, wind generation to be used to produce clean hydrogen.

 

In the absence of sufficient transmission capacity, the UK is losing £1bn/y because of system constraints, suggests the study, which forecasts that by the time planned solutions are implemented next decade, the cost of curtailment will have increased to an annual £3.5bn.

 

The research finds that in 2022 the volume of wasted wind generation was sufficient to produce over 118,000 tonnes of green hydrogen, rising to 455,000 tonnes by 2029. In 2022, some £210mn of curtailment payments were made to renewable generators under contract.

 

The report calls on the UK government to ‘encourage electrolyser adoption in heavily curtailed areas to leverage this wasted energy and supercharge our nascent hydrogen economy’. Through modelling conducted with LCP Delta, the report determines that electrolysing the UK’s wasted renewable energy could create enough hydrogen to:

  • displace two-thirds of the 700,000 tonnes of the UK’s current, carbon-intensive grey hydrogen (produced from natural gas using steam methane reforming, but with no carbon capture), consumption annually;
  • decarbonise the entirety of the UK’s 7mn tonne annual steel manufacturing;
  • meet over 90% of the country’s national sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) target for 2030; or
  • deliver two thirds of the UK’s electrolyser production capacity target for 2030.