World’s largest solar-to-hydrogen project commissioned by Sinopec

Sinopec, China’s largest hydrogen producer, has started operation of what it claims to be the world’s largest solar-to-hydrogen project and which is located in northwest China’s Xinjiang region.

The Xinjiang Kuqa Green Hydrogen Pilot Project is part of Sinopec’s larger mission to achieve a carbon emissions peak before 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2050, 10 years ahead of the Chinese government’s 2060 target.

The project, equipped with 52 electrolyser sets, each with capacity of 1000 cubic metres of hydrogen per hour, produced by passing electricity through water, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 485,000 tonnes per annum.

The 3 billion yuan ($417 million) project features a 300-megawatt photovoltaic plant, a 20,000 tpa hydrogen electrolysis plant and a hydrogen storage tank farm with capacity of 210,000 cubic metres.

The project also encompasses hydrogen pipelines able to transport 28,000 cubic metres per hour.

Since early July, the project has been supplying green hydrogen to Sinopec’s Tahe Refining & Chemical to replace the use of fossil fuels.

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Of the total 52 electrolyser sets, 13 are supplied by Cockerill Jingli Hydrogen, Longi Hydrogen and the 718th Research Institute of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (PERIC).

Cockerill Jingli Hydrogen is a joint venture between Suzhou Jingli Hydrogen Production Equipment Company and Belgium-headquartered John Cockerill Group.

The project is spearheaded by Sinopec’s New Star Xinjiang Green Hydrogen New Energy unit. Contractors include Sinopec Guangzhou (Luoyang) Engineering, Sinopec Fifth Construction and Zhongyuan Construction Engineering.

Sinopec said that it has “independently” developed green electricity hydrogen production configuration and optimisation software to match the synchronous response of electronic control equipment to improve the static state.

China now boasts 3 gigawatts production capacity for 1000 cubic metres per hour electrolysers, while demand for green hydrogen in the first five months of this year exceeded 650 MW, according to Sinopec.

By 2025, the company plans to increase its green hydrogen production capacity to 500,000 tpa. It currently produces 3.9 million tpa of grey hydrogen from fossil fuels.

A recent report by UK supermajor Shell quoted studies suggesting that China’s total hydrogen production could surpass 580 million tpa of coal equivalent by 2060, accounting for 16% of the nation’s expected energy consumption.

Growth will be mainly driven by the use of hydrogen as a fuel for industry and long-distance transportation, Shell said.

China is already the world’s top hydrogen producer, with output of around 20 million tpa, most of which is grey hydrogen produced from reforming and naphtha cracking units, or gas refinery byproducts.

A recent white paper from the China Hydrogen Energy Alliance noted that China’s demand for hydrogen will rise to 35 million tpa in 2030, growing to 60 million tpa by 2050, when it will account for 10% of the energy demand mix.