The low carbon gas division of fossil fuel refiner Essar Energy Transition has appointed Rob Wallace to oversee construction of the hydrogen-ready combined heat and power (CHP) unit it intends for its Stanlow, Cheshire  complex.

A 25-year energy industry veteran, most recently at ESB, Ireland’s electricity supplier, Wallace, pictured, will run the planned CHP plant, once it is commissioned by Essar Energy Transition (EET). Before re-branding in January, EET was known as Essar Oil UK.

The plant will play a key role in both reducing emissions at Stanlow and delivering on EET’s ambition to create an energy transition hub in the North West.

Stanlow produces about 2m tonnes a year of CO2, making it the region’s biggest emitter.  The intended CHP plant is at the centre of EET’s intention to turn the complex, producer of around one-sixth of UK oil and gas, into the world’s first fully decarbonised refinery.

Led by Wallace, EET Hydrogen Power will, the group says, play a significant role in transitioning from carbon pollution. More energy efficient than current processes, the CHP -plantwill initially deliver a 13% carbon dioxide emissions reduction from the site or 180,000 tonnes per annum.

Once powered by EET Hydrogen, a reduction of 740,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions will be achieved, equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road.

EET Hydrogen Power will contribute to EET Fuels’ decarbonisation ambitions. It adds further fuel switching capability beyond the £45 million hydrogen-ready furnace in construction at Stanlow. Announced in 2022, the furnace is a first of a kind in the UK, and will be fuelled by EET Hydrogen.

Stanlow is the nerve centre of the government-backed HyNet hydrogen scheme. The refinery site will be home to a production hub, costing up to £3bn. It will comprise two initial hydrogen production facilities built by EET Hydrogen, itself a joint venture between refinery owner Essar Oil UK and low carbon technologists Progressive Energy.

Scheduled to be operational by late 2027, the first will make 350MW of ‘blue’ hydrogen each year, ‘scrubbed’ from hydrocarbon feedstock with high pressure steam. This will be followed a year or two later by the bigger HPP2 unit, producing 1GW per year.

EET Hydrogen is tasked to develop 1.35GW of blue hydrogen for the UK market, with follow-on capacity set to reach 4GW.

Supplying adjacent industrial buyers, the new Stanlow facility will produce ‘blue’ hydrogen for glassmaker Pilkington, consumer products giant Unilever and container manufacturer Encirc, among others.

Wallace’s most recent job was as hydrogen manager with the Irish electricity entity’s asset development team, tasked to deliver ESB’s Net Zero 2040 strategy.

Of his new position, Wallace said:  “Through its ambitious hydrogen and industrial carbon capture projects, EET has made tremendous steps to become a leading example of decarbonisation in the UK.

“I’m looking forward to working with the wider team to achieve these plans and support the region’s decarbonisation plans”

EET CEO Tony Fountain added: “We wish Rob a warm welcome to EET. He brings extensive knowledge on hydrogen and power development and will make a valuable contribution to successfully implementing our ambitious decarbonisation projects.”

The erstwhile Essar Oil UK, still controlled by brothers Shashi and Ravi Ruia, bought Stanlow from Shell in 2011. Despite early plans to increase its area by 25%, recent financial performance has been chequered.

Three months ago, the Guardian reported that the company, despite ceasing imports of Russian oil in 2022 in response to Putin’s attack on Ukraine, was benefitting from a $500 million line of credit extended until June this year by the trading division of Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil company.


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