• Essar unveils £45m plan to build UK’s first refinery-based hydrogen furnace

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      Greg Kelsall

Essar Oil UK, a leading UK-focused downstream energy company, has announced plans to install a new £45 million furnace at its Stanlow site which will be capable of using hydrogen as its fuel source. This marks another significant milestone in Essar’s continued commitment to become the UK’s first low carbon refinery. It follows the recent launch of Vertex Hydrogen, a new Essar-led joint venture with Progressive Energy, in which the company will invest £1 billion over the next five years to drive down emissions, including the development of new hydrogen production plants at Stanlow, forming a central part of the HyNet North West decarbonisation cluster.  This is one of the two UK track-one industrial decarbonisation clusters as described in a previous IFRF blog post.

The scheme (which is subject to planning approval) comprises the decommissioning of three existing furnaces, including a chimney of approximately 140m in height and their replacement with a single, highly efficient furnace, which includes a chimney of approximately 71m in height. The scheme will provide a number of improvements that will lead to benefits for Stanlow and the surrounding area, including lower carbon emissions due to gas-only firing and new burners that emit lower levels of NOx and future proofing to enable the use of sustainable fuel types in the future such as hydrogen. The furnace is currently being fabricated in Thailand. The largest single module is 26.5 metres long, by 18.5 metres tall, by 14.5 metres and the furnace will be delivered on site almost fully constructed. With an investment of £45 million, the new furnace forms a key part of the company’s strategy to reduce its own carbon emissions.

The furnace is unique in that it will have the capability to run entirely on hydrogen, becoming the first of its kind based at a UK refinery. It has an improved energy efficiency of 4% compared to existing furnaces, which will save 16.6 ktCO2/y, as well as reducing ongoing maintenance costs. Due to be installed later this year, the furnace will become fully operational in 2023 and from 2026 onwards it will be fuelled by hydrogen produced at Stanlow as part of the HyNet North West decarbonisation cluster.

Essar’s new joint venture, Vertex Hydrogen, will develop the world’s first and largest blue hydrogen production plant at Stanlow. Hydrogen will be used at the site and will be distributed to industrial businesses in the region to support their own transition to low carbon.