Image credit: HyNet

The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has awarded £13m ($17m) to fund two world-first hydrogen projects led by the HyNet consortium in the northwest of England.

The first is 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.

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.

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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 £7.5m ($12m). The plant will produce 3 TWh 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 per cent of the carbon used in the process will be captured and stored, thanks to the pioneering 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 £5.2m ($7m) 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 per cent 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.

David Parkin, director, Progressive Energy and spokesperson for the North West Hydrogen Alliance (NWHA) said: “The Committee on Climate Change is absolutely clear that to deliver Net Zero, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage are going to be a necessity. This funding is hugely significant for the North West, and the rest of the UK, providing essential support for HyNet and taking hydrogen energy from aspiration to reality.”

The Government investment will enable the North West to become a trailblazer in the UK for the transition to a low carbon economy.

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.