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Shell, ITM Power to build world’s largest hydrogen electrolysis plant in Germany; €20M REFHYNE project

Shell and ITM Power will build the world’s largest hydrogen electrolysis plant at Rhineland refinery, Germany. (Earlier post.) With a peak capacity of 10 megawatts, the hydrogen will be used for the processing and upgrading of products at the refinery’s Wesseling site as well as testing the technology and exploring application in other sectors.

The European partner consortium of Shell, ITM Power, SINTEF, thinkstep and Element Energy has now secured €10 million (US$12.2 million) in funding from the European Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH) for this project, which is labeled REFHYNE. The project’s total investment, including integration into the refinery, is approximately €20 million.

Currently the Rheinland refinery, Germany’s largest, requires approximately 180,000 tons of hydrogen annually. The electrolyzer will provide bulk quantities of hydrogen to the refinery’s hydrogen pipeline system (currently supplied by two steam methane reformers). The new facility will be able to produce an additional 1,300 tonnes of hydrogen per year, which can be fully integrated into the refinery processes, such as for the desulfurization of conventional fuels.

The electrolyzer will be operated in a highly responsive mode, helping to balance the refinery’s internal electricity grid and also selling Primary Control Reserve service to the German Transmission System Operators.

Detailed technical planning and the approval process will now begin. The plant is scheduled to be in operation in 2020 and will be the first industrial-scale test of the polymer electrolyte membrane technology process.

This new unit at Rhineland enables hydrogen to be made from electricity rather than natural gas. A unit of this kind brings a flexibility that can help the stability of the power grid, thereby facilitating more use of renewable electricity. In addition, if powered by renewable electricity, the green hydrogen will help reduce the carbon intensity of the site—a key goal for us.

—Lori Ryerkerk, Executive Vice President of Shell Manufacturing

The combination of hydrogen sales to the refinery and balancing payments create a business case which justifies the installation. The business case will be evaluated in detail in a 2-year campaign of techno-economic and environmental analysis.

The REFHYNE business model is replicable in markets with a similar regulatory structure to Germany. However, to expand this market to a GW scale, new business models will be needed. These will include valuing green hydrogen as an input to industrial processes (to meet carbon policy targets) and also on sales to H2 mobility markets.

The REFHYNE project will gather real world data on these models and will use this to simulate the bulk electrolyzer model in a range of market conditions. This will be used to produce reports on the conditions under which the electrolyzer business models become viable, in order to provide the evidence base required to justify changes in existing policies.

The REFHYNE electrolyzer has been designed as the building block for future electrolyzers up to 100MW and beyond. REFHYNE includes a design study into the options for a 100MW electrolyzer at the Rhineland refinery, which will help prepare the market for deployments at this scale.



Large scale H2 production ( with electricity) by majors with lots of $$$ may be the way to ensure lower cost clean H2 for near future FCEVs. Many more H2 production and distribution stations are required.

Toyota has confirmed that it will use 50 Mirai FCEVs, for testing in cold weather in and around Quebec City, for commercial/industrial uses in 2018. More clean H2 stations (from electricity) will be added in the area where FCEVs will be operated.


This is a reformer site producing 180,000 tons of Hydrogen from fossil fuels and they are adding maybe 1,300 tons using electricity. This is a button on a meat block; but, a start to prove or disprove the concept.


Fuel cell vehicles with PHEV batteries should run well in cold weather, the PEM creates heat to warm batteries and passengers.


The prototype of the Mirai was extensively tested in Yellowknife for how it was in the cold:

They are basically very good in the cold, but of course operational use will hone the details.


I do think electrolysis is the wrong play here. I'm not exactly upset by this news, but I think it will prove a failure in time, though, they could stabilize loads of electricity with it as a large buyer in times of electric glut and low prices. (that's the only time is see this working out)


Note for the innumerate:  1300 tons is about 0.72% of the refinery's hydrogen consumption.  This is a pathetically small "first step".

The combination of hydrogen sales to the refinery and balancing payments create a business case which justifies the installation.

In other words, the elecric consumer is subsidizing the refinery through additional payments for "balancing", which would not be required if not for trying to make everything "renewable".  "Free" fuel comes at a very steep price.

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