More UK support for hydrogen plans at Heysham 2

19 September 2023

The UK Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) has announced £6.1m ($7.5m) in funding for the Bay Hydrogen Hub – the Hydrogen4Hanson scheme. In November 2022, the UK Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy awarded the Hydrogen4Hanson project almost £400,000 for a feasibility study of the concept. 

This funding came from the UK government's £1bn Net-Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), under the Industrial Hydrogen Accelerator Programme, which provides funding for low-carbon technologies and systems. The Industrial Hydrogen Accelerator Programme provides funding for innovation projects that can provide evidence on end-to-end industrial fuel switching to hydrogen, from feasibility through to demonstration.

The hub is a consortium comprising EDF, construction materials producer Hanson, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), and Vulcan Burners. It aims to pilot a project in which nuclear derived hydrogen will be used to decarbonise asphalt and cement production.

The DESNZ funding will be matched by the project partners. The Government and industry funding, which together will exceed £15m, will go towards developing a final design for the hydrogen production, distribution and end use technology and for exploring the full costs and delivery plans.

Rachael Glaving, Commercial Director at EDF, said nuclear power can do more than suply zero-carbon electricity to the grid and help to constrain the emissions. “Our hope is that this project shows industries that are dependent on fossil fuels, as well as the nuclear sector, that by working together we can build a lower carbon future for industry and confirm the UK’s place as a global decarbonisation technology leader.”

The Bay Hydrogen Hub proposes to build a solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) electrolyser at Heysham 2 Power Station in Lancashire. The station, which generates 1.25 GWe, will divert small quantities of electricity and steam, generated by the nuclear process, to an SOEC built onsite. This will create hydrogen, which would then be transported in modern high-capacity tankers, to Hanson’s Criggion asphalt plant in North Wales to fuel the industrial processes which presently use a mix of liquid fossil fuel.

At present, no facility in the world has used hydrogen as a fuel for asphalt production. Earlier in 2023, a feasibility study demonstrated the significant benefit the project would bring in proving how nuclear could power hydrogen electrolysis. Simon Willis, CEO of Hanson UK, said: “Nuclear power derived hydrogen has the potential to be a complete game-changer for decarbonising asphalt and cement production. Our involvement in the Bay Hydrogen Hub project underscores our commitment to lead the way by investing in cutting edge technologies to prove they can deliver in real-world situations and help us meet our net zero goals.”

He added: “Hanson has already successfully shown that hydrogen can be used as part of a net zero fuel mix at our cement works in Ribblesdale, Lancashire, but its use as a fuel at an asphalt site has not yet been physically demonstrated anywhere in the world. It’s an exciting time and we are hopeful that the project will demonstrate another key step forward towards the decarbonisation of our industry.”

Teresa Lewis, Managing Director Vulcan Burners said: “The development of a hydrogen powered burner for the processing of asphalt is an exciting challenge and a significant milestone in our company’s commitment to providing a solution to pave the way to net zero within the asphalt industry.”

Gareth Headdock, NNL Vice President of Government & New Build said the project places the UK as a global leader in the development of nuclear enabled hydrogen. “We are really excited to see this new application of nuclear energy, along with the increasing investment in advanced nuclear. As we invest in the next generation of scientists and engineers, the Bay Hydrogen Hub is building the skills we need for our hydrogen future.”

The project partners will now develop the full designs for the electrolyser and scope and cost all works that will be required at Heysham 2 to take the scheme forward. Once this work is concluded, a decision will be made which could see construction, and supporting physical works, begin at the power station in early 2024.

Image: Heysham 2 (courtesy of EDF Energy)

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