How can the UK transition to a low-carbon energy future while also making sure everyone continues to have access to the energy they need? Meeting this challenge will require fundamental changes in the types of energy we use, as well as the way in which it’s produced.

As a clean, safe and versatile energy carrier, hydrogen, and hydrogen fuel-cell technologies, have significant potential to enable this transition. Hydrogen is an exciting energy option with lots still to be explored, and Shell sees the opportunity for hydrogen use in a number of areas:

Hydrogen Car Refuelling At Shell Station - Sustainable Transport

Transport

Hydrogen has the potential to be an important, safe, low-carbon transport fuel, particularly for heavy-duty transport such as trucks and buses.

In hydrogen vehicles, energy is stored as compressed hydrogen fuel. This means that these vehicles can drive up to 700 km without refuelling and take only a few minutes to refuel.

Hydrogen vehicles also produce no greenhouse gases from the exhaust pipe – the only emission is water vapour. And when renewable electricity is used to make the hydrogen, then the process of driving a hydrogen powered vehicle is nearly emission-free.

In the UK, Shell offers hydrogen refuelling with partner ITM Power at Shell Beaconsfield and ITM is building new facilities at Shell Derby and Barking. Shell continues to develop hydrogen refuelling infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles in the UK, with an aim to build out a future network that meets the needs of customers.

Shell is part of a consortium that conducted a feasibility study for a proposed green hydrogen hub focused on decarbonising the Thames Estuary. In September 2021 the project, known as HOST (Hydrogen and Oxygen South Thames), received support from the Department for Transport Clean Maritime Demonstration Fund. The project aims to demonstrate the potential for hydrogen to decarbonise maritime transport and the wider energy system.

Hydrogen Powered Car

Industry

Some industries have started to use hydrogen as a feedstock, or fuel, to power processes. And when the hydrogen is produced cleanly it can lower the carbon emissions of the industrial process.

Shell is currently exploring several renewable energy initiatives across the UK that may ultimately increase the production of clean hydrogen, particularly for use in industry.

This includes Project Acorn in Scotland where Shell, Storegga (Pale Blue Dot) and Harbour Energy are equal partners. Project Acorn is looking to provide critical carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen infrastructure that will help the UK to decarbonise.

In April 2022, we announced an agreement with Uniper to explore hydrogen production at scale in the UK. The hydrogen could be used to decarbonise industry, transport and power in the Humber region.

Shell is part of the Project Cavendish consortium with partners including Arup, National Grid Ventures, SSE Thermal, Uniper and VPI. The aim of the project is to develop a [700MW] hydrogen production facility with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology on the Isle of Grain, in Kent, UK.

Hydrogen Power Heating Unit

Heating

Heating is another area that is difficult to decarbonise, and currently heating Britain’s buildings and hot water is responsible for nearly a fifth of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 80% of homes in the UK are heated by natural gas, so replacing these fuels with low-carbon alternatives, for instance electricity for heat pumps or hydrogen, is a critical step to reducing the UK’s emissions.

The right alternative may differ by consumer preference, region or building type but hydrogen can be stored at high energy density in liquid or gaseous form for long periods of time – particularly important in the UK where energy demand is much greater in winter than in summer – and can also be combusted in boilers for heating. As such, Shell believes that there is a role for hydrogen power to play in the decarbonisation of central heating systems.

How is hydrogen produced?

Producing hydrogen cleanly is a crucial step to ensuring its potential as a clean form of energy. Most of the hydrogen available today is produced using energy from hydrocarbons, particularly natural gas. Hydrogen produced in this way is known as ‘grey’ hydrogen.

While this process generates significant carbon emissions, it can be made almost emission-free by using carbon capture and storage (CCS) to store any carbon emissions that are produced safely back underground. The product is then known as ‘blue’ hydrogen.

Hydrogen can also be made via electrolysis, by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen using electricity from renewable energy sources. When produced like this, the process is also almost emission-free, and the hydrogen is known as ‘green’ hydrogen. All hydrogen power supplied at Shell’s retail stations in the UK is green hydrogen.

Here’s how these processes work:

Press the marked areas to learn more about each
energy produced process
Detail 1

Primary energy sources

The following primary energy sources can be used: Biogas or Biomethane; Natural Gas; Solar or Wind.

Detail 2

Thermochemical conversion

Biogas or Biomethane, or Natural Gas go through a thermochemical conversion called steam methane reform (SMR) which produces a reaction with steam and forms a synthetic gas that consists predominantly of hydrogen.

Detail 3

Electrolysis

Natural gas, solar or wind as a primary energy source can be used to produce electricity, which then is used in a process called electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Detail 4

Final energy carrier

Either of these processes produce hydrogen.

Press the marked areas to learn more about each

Working towards a hydrogen future

Effective UK Government policies and support to develop infrastructure and build customer demand are essential for making hydrogen a viable form of energy.

That is why Shell UK is involved in several initiatives that aim to support the UK Government such as the Hydrogen Advisory Council, which the Government launched in July 2020 to explore and advance the development of hydrogen as a decarbonised energy carrier for the UK. Their work contributed to the government’s UK Hydrogen Strategy that was published in August 2021.

Shell is part of a consortium that conducted a feasibility study for a proposed green hydrogen hub focused on decarbonising the Thames Estuary. In September 2021 the project, known as HOST (Hydrogen and Oxygen South Thames), received support from the Department for Transport Clean Maritime Demonstration Fund. The project aims to demonstrate the potential for hydrogen to decarbonise maritime transport and the wider energy system.

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