Shell pioneering electrolysis technology at German refinery

Shell have announced that it, along with ITM Power, will build the world’s largest hydrogen electrolysis plant at its Rhineland refinery in Wesseling, Germany.

“This new unit at Rhineland enables hydrogen to be made from electricity rather than natural gas,” Lori Ryerkerk, executive vice president of Shell Manufacturing, said in a written statement.

“A unit of this kind brings a flexibility that can help the stability of the power grid, thereby facilitating more use of renewable energy. In addition, if powered by renewable electricity, the green hydrogen will help reduce the carbon intensity of the site – a key goal for us.”

Shell stated that the project to deploy the “Refhyne” plant now enters the detailed planning and approval process. The company anticipates that Refhyne, which it says will mark the first industrial-scale test of the polymer electrolyte membrane technology process, will be in operation in 2020.

According to Shell, the hydrogen electrolysis plant will boast a peak capacity of 10 megawatts. In addition to using the hydrogen to process and upgrade products at the refinery, the company plans to test the technology and investigate its applicability to other sectors

“We're pleased to be workingwith the European Union and to assist in developing Europe’s future energy system by testing this technology at the Wesseling site,” said Thomas Zengerly, the refinery’s general manager. “If successful there is potential for this technology to be expanded at our refinery.”

The refinery currently produces approximately 180,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year via steam reforming from natural gas, Shell stated. The new electrolysis plant will be capable of producing an extra 1,300 tonnes of hydrogen annually that can be fully integrated into the refinery processes, the company added.