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SSE Thermal charts path to green hydrogen future with first-of-a-kind project

19 Dec 2022

SSE Thermal is developing a first-of-a-kind project in the Humber which would unite hydrogen production, storage and power generation in one location by the middle of this decade.

The Aldbrough Hydrogen Pathfinder project will support the evidence base for wider deployment of flexible hydrogen power in the UK’s net zero journey and is a major enabler of SSE Thermal’s wider Humber ambitions.

Located at SSE Thermal and Equinor’s existing Aldbrough Gas Storage site on the East Yorkshire coast, the project is designed to demonstrate the interactions between hydrogen electrolysis, hydrogen cavern storage and 100% hydrogen dispatchable power.

The concept would see green power sourced from grid through Renewable PPAs, in compliance with the Low Carbon Hydrogen Standard. Hydrogen would then be produced via a 35MW electrolyser before being stored in a converted salt cavern and then used in a 100% hydrogen-fired turbine, exporting flexible green power back to grid at times of system need. In future, hydrogen storage will also benefit offtakers in other sectors, for example in industry, heat or transport.

The Aldbrough Hydrogen Pathfinder aims to produce hydrogen and start filling the cavern by 2025, subject to planning consents and reaching a financial investment decision next year.

The project is seeking support in the UK Government’s Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, which aims to support the commercial deployment of new low-carbon hydrogen production projects during the 2020s. The Pathfinder project will secure early electrolytic hydrogen production capacity and prove an integrated concept to add vital flexibility and security to the UK’s electricity system.

Underlining the maturity of the Aldbrough Hydrogen Pathfinder, SSE Thermal has signed a contract with Siemens Energy for the delivery of the first phase of a Front End Engineering and Design programme.

"We know that hydrogen has enormous potential as an enabler of net zero – and this project aims to prove that. Through the Aldbrough Hydrogen Pathfinder, we intend to bring together production, storage and power generation in one location and showcase how electrolytic hydrogen can provide home-grown security of supply while powering the UK to net zero."

Catherine Raw, Managing Director of SSE Thermal

Catherine added:
"This ambitious project, which could be operational the middle of the decade, represents an important part of SSE Thermal’s wider plans to decarbonise the UK’s most carbon-intensive industrial cluster and we firmly believe it can chart a path to a hydrogen future.”

Steve Scrimshaw, VP at Siemens Energy UK & Ireland, said:
“Aldbrough can be a world-leading hydrogen production, storage and power facility. That’s why we’re delighted to be building on our existing partnership with SSE Thermal and developing plans to kickstart the low carbon hydrogen economy, not only here in the Humber but for the whole of the UK. Storage and re-electrification of low-carbon hydrogen is going to be play a key role in supporting the further deployment of renewable electricity generation, including wind and solar, required to achieve net zero. There is no alternative to the energy transition. We need to act now and by working together we have the technologies and know how to succeed.”

In 2021, SSE Thermal and Equinor announced that they were collaborating on plans for one of the world's largest hydrogen storage facilities at Aldbrough. The planned Aldbrough Hydrogen Storage facility could be in operation by early 2028, following the proposed start of commercial operations for the Pathfinder project in 2025, with an initial expected capacity of at least 320 Gigawatt hours (GWh) supporting the growth of hydrogen in the Humber.

In addition, SSE Thermal and Equinor are developing Keadby Hydrogen Power Station, which could be the world’s first major 100% hydrogen-fired power station, with a peak demand of 1,800MW of hydrogen. The two companies are also exploring hydrogen blending opportunities at the jointly-owned Saltend Power Station, while SSE Thermal is doing so at its Keadby 2 Power Station.