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The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has announced £6.1m for the Bay Hydrogen Hub.

Bay Hydrogen Hub

Posted November 21, 2023

Bay Hydrogen Hub is an innovative end-to-end hydrogen project, from production to end use, showcasing novel technologies along the supply chain.

The Bay Hydrogen Hub project is a key stepping-stone towards developing nuclear hydrogen production, exploring innovations to deliver hydrogen to dispersed industrial sites, and towards the decarbonisation of the asphalt industry. Our consortium will demonstrate at an existing nuclear station solid-oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) technology integrated with nuclear heat and electricity, providing low-carbon, low-cost hydrogen via novel, next generation composite trailers to an asphalt site. This will prove an element of our vision of a broader energy hub, using the unique zero carbon heat and electricity from a nuclear plant optimally across different sectors.  

The innovation

The integration of SOEC with nuclear heat and electricity yields a remarkable >20% potential increase in hydrogen production efficiency compared to established electrolyser technologies – this provides a potential for lower cost hydrogen production which will be key for future low-carbon economies. The combination of nuclear power and SOEC remains untested on a global scale, rendering our project a pioneering endeavour, although many studies have identified its theoretical potential. Likewise, the use of hydrogen as a fuel at asphalt sites has not yet been physically demonstrated anywhere in the world, but has the potential for drastic carbon reduction, supporting the UK’s net zero mission and ensuring that the UK continues leading the way in the cement and asphalt industries.

  • Developing a nuclear site for hydrogen production using SOEC, not demonstrated before
  • Demonstrating SOEC integration with process heat from the nuclear station as a feedstock
  • Investigating innovative transport of hydrogen to dispersed sites not on a pipe network
  • Demonstrating decarbonisation of asphalt production using hydrogen as a fuel – hydrogen in asphalt has not been demonstrated anywhere before

Nuclear heat can be used not just to provide thermal energy for conversion to electricity, but also as a direct feed into cogeneration technologies. SOEC is one such technology that has a great potential to improve the overall energy efficiency of electrolysis. Demonstrating this coupling at scale is a vital step to showcase the synergies. Nuclear sites offer the perfect coupling with electrolysis, with readily available power systems, on site demineralised water and nitrogen (for electrolyser purging), instrument air and low carbon electricity.

The potential of this project extends beyond asphalt production, impacting sectors such as chemicals, iron & steel, aluminium, glass, and ceramics. This is made possible by the nuclear power plant's ability to supply the essential heat energy needed for effective hydrogen production. The project stands as a symbol of sustainability, with a main goal of reducing carbon emissions in the asphalt industry, supporting them on the road to sustainability.


Project objectives

  • Assessing the engineering and regulatory requirements for siting a Solid Oxide Electrolyser (SOE) at the Heysham 2 nuclear station, connecting to the auxiliary steam system and electrical utilities.
  • Developing an engineering design for hydrogen production and compression at the Heysham 2 site, capturing any challenges, limitations, and opportunities.
  • Investigating the engineering feasibility and economics of transporting hydrogen via high pressure composite tube trailers.
  • Developing an engineering design for converting an asphalt site to hydrogen, identifying equipment development challenges and site restrictions.
  • Producing a workable end-to-end solution that marries hydrogen production volume and timing with delivery options and end-use business as usual operations.
  • Investigating the future commercialisation and scalability of the production, distribution and end-use hydrogen technologies and applications.

Competitive benefits

The ability to couple hydrogen production to nuclear power stations and use zero carbon heat is a key competitive advantage for future nuclear projects, particularly for new and emerging nuclear technologies.

  • On-site H2 production with enhanced efficiency: Our exploration showcases the feasibility of on-site hydrogen production at nuclear plants through steam utilisation. This innovation promises a revolutionary boost in efficiency—yielding a remarkable 20% more hydrogen with the same overall energy input compared to conventional PEM and Alkaline electrolysis.
  • Strategic alignment with future hydrogen demand: The projected upsurge in hydrogen demand during the 2030s corresponds with concurrent advancements in nuclear and hydrogen production technologies. Our project’s forward-looking design ensures that we are poised to meet the escalating hydrogen demand effectively.
  • Emission reduction through hydrogen adoption: A competitive advantage lies in the emission reductions achieved through the replacement of fossil fuels with hydrogen in energy-intensive industries, such as asphalt and cement. Our initiative aligns resolutely with global emission reduction goals.
  • Hydrogen - fuel enhancer: Use of hydrogen as a fuel enhancer for cement signifies a transformative shift - offers a gateway to leveraging lower grade, cost-efficient, and higher biomass waste-derived fuels, ushering in a new era of sustainable practices.

The process

The process involves utilising steam and electricity generated by EDF's Heysham 2 Nuclear Power Station in Lancashire to produce hydrogen via solid oxide cell electrolyser.

  1. The hydrogen is compressed and stored in specially designed trailers before being transported to Hanson Asphalt plants.
  2. Once at the plant, the hydrogen is used to generate heat, which extracts moisture from the aggregate.
  3. The final step involves mixing the aggregate with other components to produce asphalt, which is then used to surface roads all around the UK.

Partners

EDF

EDF’s Heysham site has been identified by the UK Government as one of the UK’s prime sites for new nuclear development. EDF is helping Britain achieve Net Zero by leading the transition to a cleaner, low emission, electric future and tackling climate change. It is the UK’s largest producer of low-carbon electricity(1) and supplies millions of customers with electricity and gas. It generates low carbon electricity from five nuclear power stations and more than thirty onshore wind farms and two offshore wind farms. EDF is leading the UK's nuclear renaissance with the construction of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, and there are advanced plans for a replica at Sizewell C in Suffolk. 

Heidelberg Materials

Heidelberg Materials is a leading supplier of heavy building materials to the construction industry. It is split into four business lines – aggregates (crushed rock, sand and gravel), concrete, asphalt and contracting and cement – which together operate around 280 manufacturing sites and employ more than 3,500 people. For more information visit: www.heidelbergmaterials.com. Formally known as Hanson in the UK, Heidelberg Materials is one of the world’s largest integrated manufacturers of building materials and solutions, with leading market positions in cement, aggregates and ready-mixed concrete. It is represented in over 50 countries with more than 51,000 employees at almost 3,000 sites. At the centre of its actions lies responsibility for the environment. As the forerunner on the path to carbon neutrality and circular economy in the building materials industry, it is working on sustainable building materials and solutions for the future. It enables new opportunities for customers through digitalisation.

Vulcan Burners

Founded in 2005, Vulcan Burners has become one of the leading burner manufacturers for asphalt plant technology. Designed, engineered and manufactured in the heart of the world's largest materials handling export hub of Northern Ireland, Vulcan Burners has a global reach with an extensive international dealership network. The Vulcan Burner is created on a foundation of efficiency, innovation, and versatility providing the asphalt user with a progressive production experience. 

National Nuclear Laboratory

National Nuclear Laboratory is the UK’s national laboratory responsible for nuclear fission R&D and occupies a unique position in the nuclear innovation environment, taking science from inactive laboratory-scale demonstration to deployment. It is the custodian of unique world-leading nuclear skills, facilities and equipment vital to the UK and aims to support policy and provide long-term sustainable value for the UK in four Focus Areas: Clean Energy, Environmental Restoration, Health & Nuclear Medicine, and Nuclear Security & Non-Proliferation.