Shell and ITM Power have revealed plans to install a large scale electrolyser to produce hydrogen (H2) at the Wesseling refinery site within the Rheinland Refinery Complex.

With a capacity of 10 megawatts (MW) , this would be the largest unit of its kind in Germany and the world’s largest Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) electrolyser. This electrolyser technology is also suitable to improve the stability of the electricity grid with a growing share of intermittent renewable energy sources, such as from solar and wind.

Shell through Shell Deutschland Oil GmbH and Shell Energy Europe Ltd with consortium partners ITM Power PLC, SINTEF, thinkstep and Element Energy have been invited to the preparation of a grant agreement by the European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking (FCH 2 JU), following a competitive call for proposals.

Today, the refinery uses approximately 180,000 tonnes of H2 per year in their various plants. The H2 is currently produced as a byproduct of the refining process or through natural gas reforming, while electrolysis uses electricity to split water into the base components of H2 and oxygen.

The project aims to enable the construction and operation of a large scale 10MW electrolyser that can produce high quality H2 and carbon dioxide (CO2) free H2 while demonstrating technology and cost improvements through upscaling and new business applications. Electrolysis using low-cost renewable electricity could be a key technology for a potential CO2 free H2 production in the Shell Rheinland Refinery.

Dr. Thomas Zengerly, General Manager for the Shell Rheinland Refinery, explained, “The envisaged H2 electrolysis would be a step into the future – opening the door to many new development options for the refinery. The H2 produced could be integrated into the refinery processes. The location will also allow the refinery to later expand its facilities to supply H2 to potential new customers outside the refinery. This project would allow us to test new technologies in the refinery context.”

ITM Power’s CEO, Dr. Graham Cooley, added, “Decarbonising H2 production in the chemical and refining industries worldwide is potentially a very large market. This pioneering project with Shell aims to demonstrate what can be achieved using our industrial scale electrolysers which can also use low cost renewable energy and help to balance electricity grids.”