Petrochemicals giant is planning to convert Scottish oil refinery into major blue hydrogen hub using CCS and other technologies

Ineos is pushing forward with a £1bn plan to convert its Grangemouth oil and petrochemicals refinery near Falkirk into a major blue hydrogen production hub, this week putting the call out for potential designs for the carbon capture system and other associated technologies to be deployed at the site.

Plans to convert the carbon intensive industrial site into a “world-scale carbon capture-enabled hydrogen production plant” were first announced by the petrochemicals giant last year, as it set out an ambition for the hub to achieve net zero emissions by 2045.

The site currently includes a combined heat and power plant, the KG ethylene plant, and the Petroineos refinery, all of which are set to utilise blue hydrogen produced at the site.

Blue hydrogen is produced from fossil gas with the vast majority of the resulting carbon emissions captured using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. Advocates of the approach argue it can be scaled up more quickly and potentially at lower cost than the nascent green hydrogen industry, which produces hydrogen using water, electrolysis, and renewable power. However, critics argue that green hydrogen could have greater longer term cost reduction potential and could be developed without driving continued investment in fossil gas infrastructure.

Ineos is proposing that the blue hydrogen it produces would be distributed to various facilities at the site using both new and upgraded pipelines, while the company also hopes to potentially sell the fuel to other third party facilities requiring hydrogen in the local area.

Ineos said it had already committed over £500m to active projects at Grangemouth, including a “New Energy Plant” utilising “highly efficient technology” to supply power to all its operations at the site, which is due to enter commissioning in late 2023. The firm has not disclosed details of the capacity or fuel to be used at the power plant, but said the facility would also be converted to run on hydrogen in future.

Meanwhile, by linking up with the proposed ‘Scottish cluster’ project that aims to link heavy industry sites and CCS infrastructure, Ineos plans to transport and permanently store more than one million tonnes of CO2 captured at the Grangemouth facility in rock formations beneath the North Sea.

Stuart Collings, Ineos CEO INEOS for oil and petrochemicals in the UK, said the firm was “progressing at pace” with the Grangemouth conversion project, which it claims will cuts emissions across the site by 60 per cent by the end of the decade.

“This will see the displacement of hydrocarbon fuels used at Grangemouth, like natural gas, with clean, low carbon hydrogen to power our processes and manufacture vital materials used across a wide range of sectors,” he explained. “To achieve this, we are inviting bids from the best engineering companies to design both a state of the art carbon capture enabled hydrogen production plant and an extensive suite of related infrastructure projects. The carbon dioxide from this project will be routed to the Scottish Cluster’s Acorn CO2 transport and storage project, resulting in reductions of more than one million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.”

However, plans to deliver the Acorn CCS project and several other net zero industrial clusters proposed for the UK remain largely dependent on the UK government coming forward with a new policy regime that would effectively subsidise carbon capture projects so as to incentivise firms to invest in the necessary infrastructure. Ministers are currently working on such a regime, but are yet to finalise precisely how the new clusters and associated industrial and hydrogen projects will be supported.

The news comes amid growing interest in CCS technologies for tackling the emissions associated with heavy industry processes around the world.

In related news today, concrete and cement giant Holcim has announced a new partnership with Italian oil, gas, and energy giant Eni aimed at harnessing carbon capture technologies to repurpose CO2 for manufacturing ‘green cemen2’.

Researchers at Holcim are currently exploring the use of olvine for storing CO2, a mineral it then hopes to turn into a raw material for the formulation of lower carbon cement.

It claims that carbonated olvine would be highly scalable, as it is widely available around the world, and would enable the permanent sequestration of CO2 into building and construction materials.

Holcim is currently considering which of its European sites would be most suitable for conducting industrial-scale pilots for producing greener cement using olvine, while Eni is concentrating on furthering its expertise in storing CO2 in the mineral, the two firms explained.

The partnership adds to over 30 CCS projects which Holcim is working on worldwide in the US, Canada, and Europe, with potential solutions ranging from recycling CO2 for crop growth in greenhouses all the way through to using carbon dioxide to create alternative fuels for aviation.

“The world needs transformational technologies to accelerate our transition to net zero,” said Edelio Bermejo, head of Holcim’s innovation centre. “With the storage of CO2 in new minerals like olivine, we are expanding our range of green cement solutions, to make sustainable construction a reality around the world, while reducing the footprint of our operations. Our work with Eni is in line with our open innovation ecosystem, partnering with like-minded organizations, from startups to multinationals, to make a bigger difference together.”

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