Shell Catalysts & Technologies is launching the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process. This integrates proven technologies for significant increases in the affordability of greenfield projects for “blue” hydrogen production from natural gas along with carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). Affordable blue hydrogen is an important part of the energy transition enabling the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate heavy industries while creating value for refiners and resource holders.
Although renewable electricity is expanding rapidly, without low-carbon hydrogen the net-zero goals announced by governments and companies will be difficult to achieve. The EU’s hydrogen strategy,[i] for example, describes the fuel as “essential to support the EU’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and for the global effort to implement the Paris Agreement”.
Currently, hydrogen production is nearly all “grey” (from hydrocarbons without CCUS) and accounts for more than double the UK’s annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.[ii] If hydrogen is to contribute to carbon neutrality, it must be produced on a much larger scale and with far lower emission levels.
Long term, the answer is likely to be “green” hydrogen produced from the electrolysis of water powered by renewable energy. However, electrolysis is currently expensive and there is insufficient renewable energy available to support large-scale production. Meeting today’s demand through electrolysis would require more than the EU’s annual electricity use.[iii] And using the current EU electricity mix would produce grey hydrogen from electrolysis with 2.2 times the greenhouse gas emissions of producing grey hydrogen from natural gas.[iv]
Scaling up blue hydrogen production will be easier than delivering green hydrogen. With CO2 costing $25–35/t, blue hydrogen becomes competitive against grey, even with its higher capital costs. And green hydrogen may still be more than double the price of blue hydrogen by 20303 and not achieve cost parity until about 2045.[v]
This analysis is based on conventional steam methane reforming (SMR) and autothermal reforming (ATR) technologies. The availability of the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process, which integrates proprietary Shell gas partial oxidation (SGP) technology with ADIP ULTRA solvent technology, further improves blue hydrogen economics.
A key advantage of SGP technology over ATR is that the partial oxidation reaction does not require steam. Instead, high-pressure steam is generated, which satisfies the steam demands of the process and some other power consumers. There is also no need for feed gas pretreatment, which simples the process line-up. And SGP gives refiners greater feed flexibility, as it is more robust against feed contaminants and can thus accommodate a large range of natural gas qualities.
Compared with ATR, SGP technology gives a 22% lower levellised cost of hydrogen from:
17% lower capital expenditure (higher operating pressure giving smaller hydrogen compressor and CO2 capture and compressor units); and
34% lower operating expenditure (excluding the natural gas feedstock price) from reduced compression duties and more steam generation.
Modelling shows that, compared with an ATR unit, a Shell Blue Hydrogen Process line-up producing 500 t/d of pure hydrogen would have:1
$30 million/y lower operating expenditure;
10% greater CO2 recovery; and
a 10–25% lower levellised cost of hydrogen.
When compared with SMR, SGP technology leads to even greater hydrogen production cost savings from both the capital and operating expenditure perspectives.
Process maturity and experience
Shell began research into SGP technology in the 1950s. Today, the technology has more than 30 active residue and gas gasification licensees, and there are more than 100 SGP gasifiers worldwide. For example, at the Pearl gas-to-liquids plant, Qatar, 18 SGP trains, each with an equivalent pure hydrogen production capacity of 500 t/d, have been operating since 2011.[vi] Since 1997, Pernis refinery, the Netherlands, has been operating at a 1-Mt/y CO2 capture capacity using SGP technology.
Shell also has CCUS experience through its involvement in multiple projects in different phases of development, and can offer key technologies and insights into CO2 capture, compression, transport, utilisation and storage.
For further details, please contact: Mr. Justin Swain
Telephone: +44 2079 344113
About Shell Catalysts & Technologies
Shell Catalysts & Technologies, part of Shell, is a leading technology licensor and brings owner–operator–innovator–licensor capabilities to the market. It has more than 1,200 references for gas processing technologies at gas plants and refineries worldwide.
It supports Shell and non-Shell businesses by working with them to co-create integrated, customised solutions comprising licensed technologies, refining and petrochemical catalysts, and technical services.
It was formed by combining Shell Global Solutions, a technology licensor with a track record of delivering pioneering process schemes and innovative configurations; Criterion Catalysts & Technologies, the world’s largest hydroprocessing catalyst supplier; and CRI Catalyst Company, a pioneer in the petrochemical catalyst sector.
It operates across the energy value chain: from upstream, gas processing and liquefied natural gas through to downstream refining and petrochemicals.
For further information, please visit our website at www.shell.com/ct.
Shell Catalysts & Technologies is a network of independent technology companies including Shell Global Solutions, all within the Shell Group. In this material, the expressions “Shell Catalysts & Technologies”, “the Shell Group” and “Shell Global Solutions” are sometimes used for convenience where reference is made to these companies in general, or where no useful purpose is served by identifying a particular company.
The information contained in this material is intended to be general in nature and must not be relied on as specific advice in connection with any decisions you may make. The companies within the Shell Group are not liable for any action you may take as a result of you relying on such material or for any loss or damage suffered by you as a result of you taking this action. Furthermore, these materials do not in any way constitute an offer to provide specific services. Some services may not be available in certain countries or political subdivisions thereof.
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[i] A hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe, European Commission (2020) www.ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/hydrogen_strategy.pdf [ii] www.edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=booklet2018&dst=co2pc [iii] The future of hydrogen, International Energy Agency (2019), www.iea.org/reports/the-future-of-hydrogen [iv] Shell hydrogen study: Energy of the future? Shell Deutschland Oil GmbH (2017), www.shell.com/energy-and-innovation/new-energies/hydrogen/_jcr_content/par/keybenefits_150847174/link.stream/1496312627865/6a3564d61b9aff43e087972db5212be68d1fb2e8/shell-h2-study-new.pdf [v] Zero Energy Platform, 2017. Commercial Scale Feasibility of Clean Hydrogen. [vi] Defined as pure hydrogen production, i.e. not including any inerts, methane, CO2, or carbon monoxide, which will also be present depending on the final purification step