Essar submits plans for £750m hydrogen plants

As part of the HyNet North West low carbon project oil giant Essar Oil (UK) plans to build two hydrogen plants at Stanlow close to the Mersey with a combined investment value of £750m. Tony McDonough reports

Essar Oil UK’s Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port, close to the Mersey


Mersey oil giant Essar Oil (UK) has submitted a planning application to build two hydrogen production plants with a combined investment value of £750m.

With production scheduled to begin in the mid-2020s, the facilities will form a central pillar of the HyNet North West initiative, a low carbon energy project that will position the region at the leading edge of the UK’s transition to net zero.

Essar is seeking consent from Cheshire West and Chester Council for the construction of the plants at its Stanlow Manufacturing Complex in Ellesmere Port. If approved, construction work is scheduled to begin on site by the end of 2022.

They will produce so-called ‘blue hydrogen’, which isn’t totally green as it is produced by burning natural gas which is a fossil fuel. However, instead of being released into the air and contributing to the greenhouse effect, the CO₂ is captured and stored

It is a better option than ‘grey hydrogen’, which is generated from natural gas and emits huge emissions. But a report from Cornell, one of the leading universities in the US, earlier this year questioned how environmentally friendly blue hydrogen really is. It estimated it may only cut emissions by between 9% and 12%.

The best option of all is ‘green hydrogen’ which, as the name suggests, is produced via wind or solar energy, using a process called electrolysis, and is emission-free. However, green hydrogen is not yet widely available at scale or at an affordable cost. 

In August, David Parkin, HyNet project director, told LBN that the project’s long-term aim was to produce green hydrogen but insisted blue hydrogen “offers the best route to supplying low carbon hydrogen at scale in the short to medium-term”.

He added: “However, HyNet’s hydrogen pipeline and storage infrastructure is designed such that low carbon hydrogen of all types, including green hydrogen, can be distributed to industry, transport and homes when it becomes available.”

The application will request full planning permission for the majority of the first phase of the development, comprising the first process plant capable of producing 350MWth of high purity low carbon hydrogen.

It will also request outline planning permission for elements of a supporting plant for phase 1, plus a second hydrogen production plant with a capacity of 700MWth of hydrogen and supporting plant. 

In the following years, follow on capacity growth is planned to reach 80% of the Government’s new target of 5GW of low carbon hydrogen for power, transport, industry and homes by 2030. 

Essar chief executive, Deepak Maheshwari, said: “Essar is committed to delivering on its transition to low carbon operations. The planned evolution of our Stanlow refinery is set to power the UK’s low carbon revolution for years to come, creating jobs and helping local communities flourish.” 

Together with HyNet, Essar has also announced plans to create a new facility to convert non-recyclable household waste into sustainable aviation fuel for use by airlines operating at UK airports, including Liverpool.

The project involves Essar, Fulcrum BioEnergy and Essar’s subsidiary company Stanlow Terminals Limited and will convert several hundred thousand tonnes of pre- processed waste, otherwise destined for incineration or landfill, into approximately 100 million litres of low carbon SAF annually. 

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