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Shell and ITM Power to build world’s largest hydrogen electrolysis plant

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Shell and ITM Power will build the world’s largest hydrogen electrolysis plant at Rhineland refinery, Germany.

With a peak capacity of 10 MW the hydrogen will be used for the processing and upgrading of products at the refinery’s Wesseling site as well as testing the technology and exploring application in other sectors.

The European partner consortium of Shell, ITM Power, SINTEF, thinkstep and Element Energy has now secured €10 million in funding from the European ‘Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint Undertaking’. The project’s total investment, including integration into the refinery, is approximately €20 million.

Detailed technical planning and the approval process will now begin. The plant, named ‘Refhyne’, is scheduled to be in operation in 2020 and will be the first industrial scale test of the polymer electrolyte membrane technology process.

“This new unit at Rhineland enables hydrogen to be made from electricity rather than natural gas. A unit of this kind brings a flexibility that can help the stability of the power grid, thereby facilitating more use of renewable electricity”, said Lori Ryerkerk, Executive Vice President of Shell Manufacturing. “In addition, if powered by renewable electricity, the green hydrogen will help reduce the carbon intensity of the site – a key goal for us."

Currently the Rhineland refinery, Germany’s largest, requires approximately 180 000 tpy of hydrogen, which is produced by steam reforming from natural gas. The new facility will be able to produce an additional 1300 tpy of hydrogen, which can be fully integrated into the refinery processes, such as for the desulfurisation of conventional fuels.

Shell Rhineland Refinery General Manager, Thomas Zengerly, commented: “We are pleased to be working collaboratively with the EU and to assist in developing Europe’s future energy system by testing this technology at the Wesseling site. If successful there is potential for this technology to be expanded at our refinery.”

Hydrogen is already being used in transport by fuel cell vehicles, as well as in industrial applications. When used in transport, hydrogen can help improve local air quality, as the only emission of fuel cell vehicles is water vapour. When the hydrogen is produced from renewable sources, it can help improve CO2 emissions from the transport sector. Shell is taking part in several initiatives to build up a hydrogen-refuelling network for transport in a number of markets, including Germany.

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