Uniper partners with Shell for UK blue hydrogen project

The Humber Hub Blue Project includes plans for a blue hydrogen production facility with capacity up to 720MW, using gas reformation technology with CCS

Uniper has signed an agreement with Shell to progress plans to produce blue hydrogen at Uniper’s Killingholme power station site, in the East of England.

The Humber Hub Blue Project includes plans for a blue hydrogen production facility with a capacity of up to 720MW, using gas reformation technology with CCS. 

The captured carbon would be fed through the proposed Zero Carbon Humber onshore pipeline, part of the East Coast Cluster, recently selected as one of two carbon capture and storage schemes to receive initial government support under the Government’s Cluster Sequencing Process.

The Humber Hub Blue Project recently passed the eligibility criteria for Phase 2 of the Government’s Cluster Sequencing Process. Successful projects which could be eligible for Government funding will be shortlisted from May 2022. Phase 2 projects are expected to take final investment decisions from 2024 to then be operational from 2027.

Blue hydrogen production at Killingholme could see the capture of approximately 1.6mn metric tonnes (Mt) of carbon per year through CCS, making a significant contribution to the UK Government’s target to capture 10Mt of carbon per year by 2030.

The agreement follows an MoU signed by both companies in 2021 to explore accelerating the development of a hydrogen economy in Europe. Shell and Uniper will now jointly progress process design studies and site development activity, with a view to taking the project to Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) by 2023.

Axel Wietfeld CEO of Uniper Hydrogen, said the Humber Hub Blue Project is a key part of Uniper’s hydrogen ambitions in the UK.

“The development of a hydrogen production hub at Killingholme represents a significant step towards decarbonising the UK’s largest industrial cluster," added Mike Lockett, Uniper UK Country Chairman and Chief Commercial Officer Power. "Future proofing the industry, this investment has the potential to secure and grow the region’s economy”, 

David Bunch, Country Chair, Shell UK, said it plans to invest up to £25bn in the UK energy system over the next decade and more than 75% of this is for low and zero-carbon technology.

"Hydrogen and CCS will be key to these plans," he said. "They can also help stimulate economic growth and jobs. That is why it is critical that both government and industry continue to work together to drive change.”

British Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth Greg Hands said: “We’ve set ambitious targets for hydrogen production in our British Energy Security Strategy and are investing £360mn in innovative energy technologies to get us there."

Concerns over blue hydrogen's carbon footprint 

Blue hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced by the reformation of natural gas. It starts with converting methane to hydrogen and CO2 by using heat, steam and pressure, or grey hydrogen, but goes further to capture some of the carbon dioxide. Once the byproduct carbon dioxide and the other impurities are sequestered, it becomes blue hydrogen, according to the US Department of Energy.

However Cornell and Stanford University researchers believe it may harm the climate more than burning fossil fuel (click here). It found the carbon footprint to create blue hydrogen is more than 20% greater than using either natural gas or coal directly for heat, or about 60% greater than using diesel oil for heat.

Green hydrogen appears to be more of a primary focus for development. Mitsui & Co recently made a €10mn investment in Lhyfe which will fuel the renewable green hydrogen company's international expansion.

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