Council gives green light for major blue hydrogen hub in Cheshire

Cheshire West & Chester Council has granted approval for what could be the UK’s first large-scale blue hydrogen plant, which will be based at Ellesmere Port and supply companies in sectors such as Kellogg's, Unilever and Tata Chemicals.

Council gives green light for major blue hydrogen hub in Cheshire

Pictured: An artist's impression of the first plant for the hub

The hydrogen hub’s developers, EET hydrogen, intend to deliver two plants that will be capable of converting natural gas and fuel gasses from the existing Stanlow Refinery into hydrogen. A proportion of the process emissions will be addressed with carbon capture technologies.

The first plant will have a capacity of 350MW while the second will be bigger, at 1,000MW. There are then options to expand, with EET Hydrogen targeting 4,000MW by the end of the decade.

Local companies including Essar, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Tata Chemicals, Encirc and Pilkington will be the offtakers of the produced hydrogen. By using the hydrogen to displace fossil fuels in manufacturing and industrial processes, EET has stated, some 2.5 million tonnes of CO2e emissions can be mitigated each year.

Construction at the first plant is due to begin this year and first production is therefore expected in 2027.

EET Hydrogen’s project manager for the first plant said the hub is “a vital piece of the North West’s journey to net zero, underpinning HyNet and providing the opportunity for manufacturers in the region to decarbonise their processes and support UK jobs”.

HyNet North West is a collaborative initiative developing a low-carbon industrial cluster around the River Dee and River Mersey, with hydrogen and carbon capture and storage being the key focus areas.

As well as the businesses already mentioned, the initiative also includes additional hydrogen infrastructure developers and would-be hydrogen offtakers in other sectors, including Manchester Airport in the transport sector.

Hydrogen rainbow

The UK Government is aiming for Britain to host 10GW of low-carbon hydrogen by 2030 and take an early stake in this fast-growing but nascent global sector.

At least half should be green – produced by electrolysing water in processes powered by renewable electricity – and the remainder will be ‘blue’. In the longer term, pink hydrogen, involving electrolysis served by nuclear, may also be a significant option.

Blue hydrogen has its fair share of controversies, given the relative commercial infancy of carbon capture.

2023 analysis from Westwood Global Energy Group revealed that the UK could bring 17GW of hydrogen production online by 2030, based on the current pipeline. But more than 80% of this pipeline is covered by blue projects, meaning that the Government’s ambitions to skew the mix towards green projects could be at risk.

To allay concerns about the potential emissions footprint of blue hydrogen, the UK Government is developing a low-carbon hydrogen standard. Producers will need to evidence their lifecycle emissions before being able to claim their hydrogen is ‘low-carbon’ and thus that their projects are eligible for financial support from Westminster.

Comments (4)

  1. Rob Heap says:

    Why not do the job properly and produce green hydrogen?

  2. David Dundas says:

    Good morning Sarah. Your report doesn’t mention where the fossil carbon goes. My understanding is that the operator Essar Energy Transition (EET) plans to capture most of the fossil CO2 produced by their processing of fossil methane and pump it into depleted gas wells off the Mersey. As the capture is only around 90% a substantial amount of fossil CO2 escapes into the air which is why the hydrogen produced is called blue hydrogen. And the CO2 pumped deep into old gas wells requires a lot of energy to do this. A better process is to crack the methane at temperatures around 900C which produces hydrogen and solid carbon which is a valuable byproduct used in many industries. This production of colourless blue hydrogen must be seen as an essential short term process to enable the development of the use of hydrogen in transport and industry such as green steel production, to be phased out by 2050

  3. Ian Byrne says:

    I’d also be interested in knowing more about the local demand for hydrogen (of any colour). “Sectors such as Kellogg’s, Unilever and Tata Chemicals” raises questions in my mind as to what Kellogg’s, in particular, needs the gas for. (OK, and the pedant in me points out these are companies, not sectors, anyway.) If it’s just replacing natural gas for combustion, then this is a terrible idea, so I presume there is some food manufacturing process that requires the gas, but cannot imagine quite what.

    1. Rob Heap says:

      Kelloggs cook corn and rice.

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