ITM Power, the energy storage and clean fuel company, together with Shell, will be building a new hydrogen (H2) electrolysis plant – the largest of its kind in the world.

The PEM plant will be built at Rhineland refinery, Germany and will have a peak capacity of 10 megawatts (MW). The H2 will be used for the processing and upgrading of products at the refinery’s Wesseling site as well as testing the technology and exploring application in other sectors.

The European partner consortium of Shell, ITM Power, SINTEF, thinkstep and Element Energy has now secured €10m in funding from the European ‘Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint Undertaking’. The project’s total investment, including integration into the refinery, is approximately €20m.

Detailed technical planning and the approval process will now begin. The plant, named ‘Refhyne’ is scheduled to be in operation in 2020 and will be the first industrial scale test of the polymer electrolyte membrane technology process.

Lori Ryerkerk, Executive Vice-President of Shell Manufacturing, explained, “This new unit at Rhineland enables H2 to be made from electricity rather than natural gas. A unit of this kind brings a flexibility that can help the stability of the power grid, thereby facilitating more use of renewable electricity.”

“In addition, if powered by renewable electricity, the green H2 will help reduce the carbon intensity of the site – a key goal for us,” Ryerkerk added.

Currently the Rheinland refinery, Germany’s largest, requires approximately 180,000 tonnes of H2 annually, which is produced by steam reforming from natural gas. The new facility will be able to produce an additional 1,300 tonnes of H2 per year, which can be fully integrated into the refinery processes, such as for the desulphurisation of conventional fuels.

Shell Rheinland Refinery General Manager, Thomas Zengerly, highlights, “We are pleased to be working collaboratively with the European Union and to assist in developing Europe’s future energy system by testing this technology at the Wesseling site. If successful there is potential for this technology to be expanded at our refinery.”

Dr. Graham Cooley, CEO, ITM Power PLC, Sheffield, commented, “The Rhineland 10MW system will be the largest PEM electrolyser in the world. It represents the maturing of PEM technology for large scale, industrial applications. We are honoured to be working with Shell and the project team to deploy this plant at one of Europe’s flagship refineries.”