Shell starts operations at Europe's biggest green hydrogen PEM

Author: Morgan Condon

2021/07/02

LONDON (ICIS)--Shell has started operations at Europe’s largest green hydrogen electrolyser at its energy and chemicals park in Rheinland, Germany, the company announced on Friday.

The Refhyne project polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyser will use renewable electricity to produce up to 1,300 tonnes/year of green hydrogen.

Initially, the hydrogen will be used to produce fuels with lower carbon intensity, and will be used to help decarbonise other industries.

This is the first fully operational plant to use the technology at this scale in a refinery, as part of the Refhyne European consortium and with funding from the European Commission’s Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU).

The European consortium backing the project includes Shell, British PEM electrolyser producer ITM Power, research organisation Norway-headquartered research group SINTEF and consultants Sphera and Element Energy.

The electrolyser was made by ITM Power in Sheffield, UK and includes parts made in Italy, Sweden, Spain and Germany.

PEM electrolysers are more compact than conventional alkaline electrolysers and are suited to working with renewable energy because they can use varying loads of electricity, allowing them to operate when wind and solar energy generation are cheapest.

There are already plans to expand capacity at the site near Cologne from 10Mw to 100Mw with the Refhyne II, with investment decisions still pending.

The EU Climate and Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) has invited the Rehyne II consortium to discuss the grant agreement but has not provided any formal commitment to provide financial support.

Shell also intends to use the site to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) using renewable power and biomass in the future, and a plan for a liquefied renewable natural gas (bio-LNG) plant is also under development.

The project is in line with Shell’s ambition to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, with a 55% reduction in the production of traditional fuels targeted by 2030.

The Dutch major plans to transform its refinery footprint to five core energy and chemicals parks, increasing efficiency and integration with chemicals sites to produce low-carbon and synthetic fuels and other products including bitumen and lubricants.

Hydrogen is classified as green when it has produced no carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, using renewable electricity and an electrolyser, with water being the only by-product.

The North Rhine Westphalia region already meets 30% of Germany’s hydrogen demand, with estimates that this demand will double by 2030.

“Shell wants to become a leading supplier of green hydrogen for industrial and transport customers in Germany,” said Shell’s Downstream Director, Huibert Vigeveno

“We will be involved in the whole process — from power generation, using offshore wind, to hydrogen production and distribution across sectors.”

Shell Germany announced plans to reduce or compensate carbon emissions by more than a third within a decade, including both its own and customers’ greenhouse gas emissions.

This equates to 30m tonnes/year, or around a tenth of the government’s CO2 reduction target for Germany by 2030.