The Neste refinery in Rotterdam will get the first high-temperature electrolyzer. Electrolysis is used to produce hydrogen for fuel from water. The Neste system will be 20 percent more energy efficient than a low-temp system and is planned to open in 2023.
Hydrogen may play an important role in the energy transition. It can be used as fuel for cars or for heating houses without emission. However, most hydrogen is produced with a “grey” process: high-pressure steam reacts with methane, resulting in hydrogen and the byproduct CO2. In electrolysis, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen by using electricity. If green energy is used, the product is called “green hydrogen”.
Neste’s biorefinery is the biggest factory for renewable fuels in Europe. Currently, it still uses grey hydrogen. The new system will produce hydrogen from gaseous instead of liquid water. In high-temperature electrolysis, the heat from the source can be used directly to power the reaction. This is more efficient than converting heat into electricity first, resulting in a more energy-efficient process.
The system will be the first multimegawatt high-temperature electrolyzer in the world that produces hydrogen. It’s a step towards lowering CO2 emissions from industry on a large scale. Apart from Neste, partners driving the project are Engie, Paul Wurth, Sunfire and French research institute CEA. The consortium plans to produce 960 tons of hydrogen in 2024.