Plans unveiled for UK’s second plastic-to-hydrogen recycling plant

Pictured: An artist's impression of the proposed plant. Image: Peel NRE 

Plans for the first facility were approved for planning consent from Cheshire West & Chester Council last March and a Front-End Engineering Design Phase was then completed in August. Developers Peel NRE believe this site could be operational by the end of 2022.

Now, the firm has announced plans to build a similar facility at the Rothesay Dock on the north bank of the River Clyde in West Dunbartonshire.

The facility will cost £20m to develop and will process up to 13,500 tonnes of plastics once completed. Peel NRE claims that the technology used at the centre, developed by Powerhouse Energy, can process all types of plastics, including those that cannot be recycled in traditional mechanical infrastructure. These include black plastics and flexible plastics.

The recycling process involves shredding plastic into small pieces and then heating it to vaporise the materials. This vapour can then be used to make syngas that can be converted into hydrogen.

Peel NRE has said that the new facility will be co-located with a refuelling station. A recent Bloomberg Intelligence report stated that hydrogen is likely to account for 50% of final energy consumption globally in the marine transport sector by 2050. The proportion could stand at 25% for road transport and aviation.

The firm is expected to submit a planning application to West Dunbartonshire Council later this year, following a consultation with local stakeholders. It is planning to develop 11 plastic-to-hydrogen recycling plants in partnership with Powerhouse Energy this decade and is also working on sites in Hungary and Greece.

“This new facility will play an important role in supporting the objective of both Holyrood and Westminster to make hydrogen a key element of Scotland’s decarbonisation strategy,” Powerhouse Energy’s executive chairman Tim Yeo said.

“We welcome plans to co-locate a re-fuelling station at the site which will help increase uptake of hydrogen fuel in the region and add to Scotland’s growing hydrogen economy. All eyes are on Scotland ahead of the important COP26 meeting in Glasgow later this year, so we are delighted our pioneering, clean energy technology will help put Scotland on the path to net-zero”. 

The developers claim that, aside from scaling more sustainable alternatives to hydrogen production with fossil fuels, the facility could help the UK Government deliver on its pledge to stop exporting plastic waste to non-OECD nations.

A recent Greenpeace study claims that more than half of the UK’s plastic waste is being exported to Malaysia and Turkey. With Turkey now having closed its borders to certain kinds of plastic exports, the pressure is on nations including the UK to find alternatives.

Germany scales up hydrogen pipeline

As we here in the UK await the publication of the Government’s Hydrogen Strategy, the German Government has outlined plans to invest €8bn in 62 large-scale hydrogen projects. This funding will be compounded by €33bn from the private sector.  

Projects selected to potentially receive a share of the funding, provided by the EU as part of the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) scheme, include electrolysers for the production of green hydrogen and hydrogen distribution infrastructure, including 1,700km of new pipelines.

Also supported are projects to help steel manufacturing sites transition from coal to hydrogen for heating. The German Steel Federation WV Stahl claims that a tonne of carbon-neutral hydrogen could prevent 26 tonnes of carbon emissions in steel-making. 

The German Government now has to put the proposals to the European Commission for state aid muster.

The EU first presented its hydrogen strategy last summer. Top-line commitments include the production of up to 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU by 2030, based on 40 gigawatts of electrolysers. Since then, the private sector has outlined collaborative plans to improve gas network infrastructure and to bring down generation costs for green hydrogen.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie