North west low carbon hydrogen projects win £13 million government backing

Pilkington UK is part of a consortium in the north west to receive £13 million from the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to conduct live trials of hydrogen fueling.

The two world-first hydrogen projects include: the UK’s leading low carbon hydrogen project, involving Johnson Matthey as technology provider, SNC-Lavalin as project delivery specialists, and Essar Oil UK as owner and operator; while the second project, to conduct live trials of hydrogen fuelling, includes regional businesses Unilever, Essar Oil UK and Pilkington.

Both HyNet projects are led by developer Progressive Energy.

The project to develop the UK’s first Low Carbon Hydrogen Plant at Essar Oil UK’s Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port has been awarded £7.5 million. The plant will produce 3TWh of low carbon hydrogen – double the UK’s total current production of biomethane – which will be provided to industrial, and eventually domestic, customers in the region.The facility will deliver low cost, low carbon hydrogen at scale and high efficiency, and with a very high carbon capture rate; over 95% of the carbon used in the process will be captured and stored, thanks to the carbon capture technology.

When operational, the facility will capture 600,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum, the equivalent of taking over 250,000 cars off the road.

Hydrogen will be distributed by way of a new pipeline network under development by Cadent, which will also provide the pathway for renewable hydrogen once costs come down in the future. The funding will also deliver the Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) of the plant, providing a reference design for the facility to be replicated across the UK and internationally.

HyNet has also received £5.2 million to fund live trials of hydrogen fuelling at Unilever’s Port Sunlight manufacturing site, which produces many of the UK’s home care and personal care products, and at Pilkington’s Greengate Works glass-making plant in St Helens.

In St Helens, the use of hydrogen in the glass-making process will be a global first, while the demonstration at Unilever’s Port Sunlight will be the first meaningful use of hydrogen in a commercial scale boiler.

The project also includes a FEED study for a new 100% hydrogen-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant, using gas turbines, at Essar’s Stanlow refinery. Evidence from the demonstrations will pave the way for conversion to low carbon hydrogen across a range of global industries.

The projects will aim to demonstrate that hydrogen can be used as a substitute fuel for natural gas in manufacturing processes, helping the companies’ transition to a low-carbon future and leading the way for others to follow.

Neil Syderhead of operations at Pilkington UK, said: “Our parent company NSG Group has made a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions globally by 21% from a 2018 baseline by 2030. Hydrogen combustion has the potential to be a key enabling step to meeting this target. For the first time anywhere in the world we’re going to show how hydrogen can be used in the glass-making process, paving the way for manufacturing processes across many industries. Not only will this lead to significant carbon savings but it will help to safeguard and grow jobs in the manufacturing sector.”

With research from the NWHA showing that over two-thirds of local authorities in the UK have declared climate emergencies, hydrogen is also increasingly being seen as part of the solution for meeting local climate targets. Liverpool City Region is targeting all gas network methane to be replaced by hydrogen by 2035 and the creation of a network of low carbon hydrogen filling stations for transport.

The projects form part of HyNet, which could see low-carbon hydrogen blended into the gas grid and piped into homes and businesses by 2025.

The HyNet project is part of the wider North West Energy and Hydrogen Cluster, which could deliver 33,000 jobs, over £4 billion investment, and save 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year.