HyNet developers share FEED lessons from first hydrogen plant

Article by Amanda Jasi

Vertex Hydrogen
Vertex Hydrogen's low carbon hydrogen production plant will be located at Essar's Stanlow Manufacturing Complex in Ellesmore Port, Cheshire

ESSAR Oil UK and Progressive Energy joint-venture Vertex Hydrogen has unveiled a report detailing the development of the UK’s first large-scale low carbon hydrogen production plant, to share lessons learned.

Low carbon hydrogen is expected to play a critical role in helping the UK to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Vertex is designing, developing, and building the UK’s first low carbon hydrogen production plant, which will form part of the core of HyNet, an industrial decarbonisation cluster based around north-west England. Essar and Progressive Energy announced the partnership last year.

The HyNet project will produce 30 TWh/y of hydrogen by 2030. This will involve building four plants that the partners say will cost-effectively replace 45% of current natural gas consumption in north-west England and North Wales, and reduce CO2 emissions by about 6m t/y. HyNet aims to deliver 75% of the UK’s target of producing 5 GW of hydrogen by 2030, and the entirety of its target for 10m t/y of CCS capacity by 2030.

The report outlines the front-end engineering design (FEED) development for Plant 1, which will take the first steps towards a hydrogen economy in the region by delivering 350 MW of low carbon hydrogen production. Hydrogen will be produced from natural gas using Johnson Matthey’s Low Carbon Hydrogen (LCH) technology. The scheme is expected to achieve 85% thermal efficiency and capture 97% of the CO2 produced.

The plant will be at Essar’s Stanlow Manufacturing Complex in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Plant 1 is expected to be ready for a final investment decision by the end of this year, and operational by the end of 2025.

The report also includes preliminary evaluation of future sites. It recognises that the site needs to accommodate Plant 2, so that key factors such as layout, offsite connections, and utility tank sizing are considered to manage interfaces, equipment, and infrastructure scaling. The 700 MW Plant 2 is expected to begin operating in 2026. Plants 3 and 4, which will also be at Stanlow, will follow in 2028 and 2030.

Production from these plants could benefit the more than 20 energy-intensive industrial companies and power generators that have signed memorandums of understanding with HyNet for connection to its hydrogen network and supply of low carbon hydrogen. These includes companies within the chemicals, ceramics, paper, and glass sectors.

In the report, the consortium also highlights lessons learned from the project that will inform the next phase and others undertaking similar projects. These include lessons around needing to understand and manage the hazards of CO2 and the storage of oxygen; risk management; accounting for the impact of external projects; and enabling collaboration.

Chris Manson Whitton, Director of Vertex Hydrogen said: “Our joint team of engineers, project managers, and technologists, drawn from the consortium partners, have been developing this ground-breaking project over the last two years. We understand how important it is for us to share the knowledge we have learnt over this time to facilitate others who are following in our footsteps. This will both ensure the UK maintains its leadership position at the forefront of the growing global hydrogen economy and enable us to move as quickly as possible towards net zero.

“The work completed to date on Vertex Hydrogen’s hydrogen production plant project demonstrates that we already have the technologies and skills within the UK workforce to design and deliver this type of project successfully.”

The FEED was undertaken by a consortium of Essar, Kent (formerly SNC-Lavalin), Johnson Matthey, and Progressive Energy. It was funded by the UK Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) via Phase 2 of its hydrogen supply competition.

The report follows Vertex submitting plans to BEIS, in January, to build the UK’s first low carbon hydrogen hub with the HyNet cluster, as part of the UK Government’s Cluster Sequencing process. HyNet was selected as a priority CCUS cluster in October 2021.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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