Shell calls on ITM Power for help in building world’s largest hydrogen production unit

picture: Shell

Sheffield clean energy company ITM Power is working with fuel multi-national Shell to create the world’s largest hydrogen-production unit of its kind.

The project will see installation of a large-scale electrolyser to produce hydrogen – seen as the fuel of the future by Shell – at the Wesseling refinery site within the Rheinland Refinery Complex. Says Brian Davis, Vice President of Integrated Energy Solutions at Shell: “Hydrogen is a promising technology, even beyond direct use as a cleaner fuel for transport. In the future, it is also expected to play a key role in integrating energy storage and power grid balancing, thus enabling a reliable and growing share of renewables in the energy system,” said

With a capacity of ten megawatts, the new plant would be the largest unit of its kind in Germany and the world’s largest PEM (Polymer Electrolyte Membrane) electrolyser. This electrolyser technology is also suitable to improve the stability of the electricity grid with a growing share of intermittent renewable energy sources, such as from solar and wind.

Shell through Shell Deutschland Oil GmbH and Shell Energy Europe Ltd with consortium partners ITM Power PLC, SINTEF, thinkstep and Element Energy have been invited to the preparation of a grant agreement by the European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking (FCH 2 JU), following a competitive call for proposals.

Today, the refinery uses approximately 180,000 tons of hydrogen per year in its various plants. The hydrogen is currently produced as a byproduct of the refining process or through natural gas reforming, while electrolysis uses electricity to split water into the base components of hydrogen and oxygen.

The project aims to enable the construction and operation of a large scale10 MW electrolyser that can produce high quality hydrogen and CO2 free hydrogen while demonstrating technology and cost improvements through upscaling and new business applications. Electrolysis using low-cost renewable electricity could be a key technology for a potential CO2 free hydrogen production in the Shell Rheinland Refinery.

“The envisaged hydrogen electrolysis would be a step into the future – opening the door to many new development options for the refinery,” said Dr. Thomas Zengerly, the General Manager for the Shell Rheinland Refinery. “The hydrogen produced could be integrated into the refinery processes. The location will also allow the refinery to later expand its facilities to supply hydrogen to potential new customers outside the refinery. This project would allow us to test new technologies in the refinery context”, Zengerly said.

ITM Power CEO Dr Graham Cooley said: “Decarbonising hydrogen production in the chemical and refining industries worldwide is potentially a very large market.  This pioneering project with Shell aims to demonstrate what can be achieved using our industrial scale electrolysers which can also use low cost renewable energy and help to balance electricity grids.”

The Company currently has £18.0m of projects under contract and £19.9m of contracts in the final stages of negotiation, totalling £37.9m.