The Essar Group has announced that it is partnering up with clean-energy specialists Progressive Energy to invest just over $1bn in the development of the UK’s biggest low-carbon hydrogen production hub to date at the Indian multinational conglomerate and construction company’s Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port.
The two companies are forming a joint venture to build two plants to convert natural gas and fuel gases from the oil refinery into low-carbon hydrogen. The resulting CO2 emissions will be captured and stored offshore in sub-surface reservoirs below Liverpool Bay. From 2025 onwards, it is projected to have an annual production capacity of three terawatt-hours (TWh) of low-carbon hydrogen, and this is expected to be “quickly followed” by another facility twice the size, bringing the hub’s total hydrogen to over 9TWh per year.
The hydrogen produced at the facilities would then be used to supply heavy industry and manufacturing at the HyNet North West industrial decarbonisation cluster which Progressive Energy is also spearheading in tandem with a host of manufacturers and with £7.5m of government funding. The hydrogen from the Essar refinery may then end up being used to fuel buses, trains and heavy goods vehicles, as well as to heat homes or provide storage capacity for energy produced by wind and solar facilities in the region.
The UK is already emerging as pioneers in the use of hydrogen in domestic heating and the new hub could play a major role in developing a hydrogen economy in the North West of England and North East Wales, while also ramping up production of the fuel in line with the government’s net zero ambitions to bring 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity online by 2030.
“We cannot reach net zero without decarbonising industry,” said Progressive Energy Director Chris Manson-Whitton. “Delivering net zero requires a transformation of our energy system. HyNet offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create real change in energy production and consumption, creating a cleaner world for future generations.”