New Electrolyser Plant to Produce Hydrogen in Germany

           Carbon and Climate

Shell and ITM Power have announced plans for a 10GW electrolyser to produce hydrogen at the Wesseling refinery in Germany. It will be the world’s largest electrolyser of its kind and will produce CO2-free hydrogen while also acting to demonstrate the technology.Initially, the hydrogen will be used for the refinery process, before being expanded for customers outside the refinery. Brian Davis, Vice President of Integrated Energy Solutions at Shell said that in the future hydrogen is “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”.

At present hydrogen is predominantly manufactured from natural gas, the by-product of which is CO2. The CO2, in turn, must be captured and stored. Electrolysis is an alternative means of production that is CO2-free because it uses electricity to split water into electricity and hydrogen. To keep the carbon footprint of the process low, the electricity used in electrolysis should be generated by renewables. The resulting hydrogen can then be stored and used to generate electricity when required, thereby acting as a form of energy storage. This approach is yet to be demonstrated commercially, but large companies are backing research into hydrogen for storing energy because of its potential to store for longer than lithium batteries. Storage provides stability and flexibility to the network, which is increasingly important due to the intermittent nature of renewables.

Hydrogen in the UK is almost exclusively used in the chemical industry but has the potential for use in a variety of sectors. Analysis from the ETI considers two different scenarios for the UK energy system out to 2050 and studies the part that hydrogen could play. One of these scenarios sees hydrogen emerge as a prominent energy vector from the mid-2030s, serving both industry and the power sector. The other scenario sees a wider use for hydrogen to include clean fuel for transport and domestic heating. When it comes to power generation, hydrogen could be used as peaking plant, or as a mid-merit plant during the heating season. Both outlooks are reliant on the development of hydrogen networks, which is one of the greatest hurdles for this innovative development.


Nikki Wilson

Nikki joined Alfa Energy in September 2015 as a Carbon Management Consultant where she advises clients on legislation, compliance, and the implementation of carbon management schemes. She is a Practitioner member of IEMA, has a postgraduate diploma in Environmental Decision Making, and has over 15 years’ experience in energy consultancy.