Where does the water come from in the Gigastack concept?
The water supply was a key part of Gigastack study.
Renewable hydrogen requires water as a feedstock. This poses a challenge for industrial zones, as operators are required to minimise their use of water, and further restrictions may be imposed in an environmentally sensitive area where borehole extraction is limited. The Gigastack concept explored additional supply, recycling effluent waste-water from the Humber Refinery and desalination. The technical team opted to use effluent waste-water from the Humber Refinery based on a cost benefit analysis. This ensures that there is no increase to the industrial water demand in the region and provides an innovative way of recycling refinery effluent water.
Where will the Gigastack be located?
Alongside the consenting strategy and in support of the FEED study phase, Ørsted undertook a rigorous site selection process. This aimed to identify land plots which could support the project, proposed asset routing, and statutory undertakers and private assets owners with which Gigastack’s assets may interact. This also included a detailed study of the land ownership and required rights of way to fully understand any existing restrictions that may prohibit the use of the site as well as cable and pipeline routes.
This has enabled the project to rule out several sites and establish a preferred site location with routes for the required electricity cable, hydrogen pipeline and water assets. This process also identified all key stakeholders to be engaged and interacted with.
Why do we need renewable hydrogen? Why not use the electricity directly?
Hydrogen is essential for the UK to reach its net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050. This is recognised by government on the advice of its independent advisor, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
“the time is right to tap into hydrogen’s potential to play a key role in clean, secure and affordable energy future”
Renewable hydrogen offers an alternative use for renewable electricity compared to exporting directly to the electricity grid. This is an advantage, as the grid becomes increasingly saturated with renewable electricity particularly wind power, prices for electricity fall when the wind speeds across the UK increase. Furthermore, there are parts of the country where the electrical grid is so saturated that there is no physical capacity for additional connection of renewable projects. Hydrogen solves these problems for wind developers by offering an alternative and flexible market for their wind energy. The renewable hydrogen which is produced can be stored over long periods and then used to decarbonise “hard to treat” sectors such as industry and transport modes such as heavy-goods vehicles, trains, buses, manual handling equipment and maritime applications, for which decarbonisation using electricity alone is challenging. In this way, hydrogen enables a “sector-coupling” between the renewable energy sector and the large industrial, heat and transport markets. This coupling then enables an expansion in the amount of renewable energy generation which could be deployed if the generators had to rely exclusively on the electrical grid.
Most forecasters now agree that this sector coupling will be essential to achieve the ambition of a net-zero carbon energy system by 2050.
What next after Gigastack Phase 2
Through Gigastack Phase 2, the consortium has matured the production facility’s technical concept and begun testing the next-generation electrolyser technology at ITM Power’s Sheffield site. As a result, the consortium has defined and described the pathway to a final investment decision and commercial operation of a 100MW scale electrolyser system powered by offshore wind in 2025. The Gigastack Consortium is now focused on reaching Final Investment Decision by Q2 2023 to progress with the procurement and build phase, subject to appropriate Government support being available.
What is a PEM electrolyser?
An electrolyser is a device which splits liquid water (H2O) into Hydrogen (H2) and Oxygen (O2) gases using electricity. If the electricity used to power the stack is renewable, the hydrogen and oxygen produced are also said to be green and renewable themselves. ITM Power manufactures PEM electrolysers. PEM stands for polymer electrolyte membrane. This technology uses a solid polymer membrane to transport the protons from the anode to the cathode. PEM electrolysers have the advantage of a low footprint and the ability to respond very rapidly to changes in the availability of power and / or demand for hydrogen.
How will the hydrogen be used by Phillips 66?
This renewable hydrogen will be transported to the Humber Refinery, substituting refinery fuel gas, an energy source similar to natural gas for the generation of heat in the refinery processes. Renewable hydrogen could also be used to meet new demand associated with an expansion of Phillips 66 Limited’s electric vehicle (EV) battery coke production. The refinery is already an industrial scale producer and consumer of hydrogen (derived from catalytic naphtha reforming), used in various manufacturing processes and is already a component in refinery fuel gas.
Is this project replicable in other locations?
Yes! The work will provide a blueprint for deploying large-scale electrolyser technology at sites across the UK, particularly those where connection to large renewable assets is viable. This will facilitate the decarbonisation of other industrial clusters and areas, enabling the UK to achieve its legally binding net-zero 2050 greenhouse gas emissions target more easily.
Will the hydrogen serve other end users?
Electrolyser technology is inherently scalable. As demand increases, more electrolyser modules can be installed to increase the system capacity. This renewable hydrogen could then supply more of the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery’s hydrogen demand, other industrial users in the Humber, transport and even injection into the national gas grid to help decarbonize the UK’s heat use.
What are the carbon reductions from this project?
Hydrogen is a critical decarbonisation pathway for the Humber. Phillips 66 Limited has identified a pathway to 90% reduction of direct refinery emissions where up to 25% is expected to be abated through the use of both renewable and CCUS-enabled hydrogen. Gigastack’s 100MWe is expected to reduce refinery CO2 emissions by 0.1Mtpa by switching refinery fuel gases with hydrogen.
The work on the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery is an important first step in decarbonising the UK’s largest industrial cluster by carbon emissions. This project will demonstrate how this is achievable with renewable hydrogen, acting as a blueprint for similar projects and subsequent deployments UK-wide.
Is hydrogen safe?
Hydrogen has been used for a wide variety of industrial applications for more than 100 years. Today, some 2,000 tonnes of hydrogen are transported annually on UK roads to customers. Hydrogen is abundant, non-toxic, colourless, odourless and tasteless, and is a clean, efficient and safe energy source. It is the lightest element in the world (even lighter than air), and if released into the atmosphere rises and dissipates quickly. This makes it safer than liquid fuels in an accident as it can be vented from the tank, leaving nothing to ignite. Even if hydrogen does ignite, the low level of radiant heat emitted by the hydrogen flames means that nearby materials will be much less likely to ignite by heat transfer.