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INTERVIEW: Ryse Hydrogen's Suffolk freeport hydrogen vision takes shape

Highlights

Freeport East go-ahead 'delivers on PM's words'

Plan to help decarbonize Sizewell construction site

Buses, then trucks, trains, vessels the first use cases

London — Ryse Hydrogen plans to install a 6 MW electrolyzer at the Sizewell nuclear site in Suffolk as a launchpad for mass production of low carbon hydrogen in and around the future freeport of Felixstowe, company founder Jo Bamford told S&P Global Platts March 3.

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The Felixstowe/Harwich Freeport East bid was one of eight freeports given the go-ahead by the government in March 3's Budget.

"The prime minister has said the UK will be putting a big bet on hydrogen, and the Budget's green light for the Freeport East Hydrogen Hub is a major step towards delivering on these words," Bamford said.

Ryse is to work with EDF Energy to develop an electrolyzer connected to EDF's Sizewell B nuclear plant, producing hydrogen at baseload for the diggers and buses needed to help decarbonize construction of EDF's proposed 3.2 GW Sizewell C project.

Elsewhere, Ryse also plans to meet local demand cases with a 10 MW electrolyzer in Kent directly connected to a 120 MW wind farm, and a 6 MW electrolyzer in Scotland connected to wind, solar and battery storage south of Glasgow, part of the Hy2Go project.

It is the Sizewell project, however, that Bamford has in mind for major future expansion, involving the Freeport East bid for Felixstowe and Harwich, both operated by Hutchison Ports.

"Over a 10-year cycle this could grow to 1 GW," he said. "We start small, connecting to Sizewell B. EDF wants to move workers around using hydrogen buses and use hydrogen diggers once it starts building Sizewell C, making the site zero carbon as much as possible."

In addition, Ryse would supply Hutchison with hydrogen for its prototype port trucks, a model that could be exported to numerous other ports run the company (CK Hutchison Holdings has interests in 52 ports in 26 countries).

"These first use cases are enough to take 5-6 MW of electrolysis, but Sizewell B is 1.6 GW, Sizewell C will be 3.2 GW and there are about 2 GW of offshore wind coming into the same substation by the power station site," Bamford said.

In short, the Suffolk coast has sufficient power for a gigawatt of electrolysis, capable of meeting 20% of the government's 2030 hydrogen target.

Building volume

First, however, government needed to marry its transport goal of 4,000 zero emission buses with the 5 GW hydrogen target, Bamford said.

A hydrogen price of GBP6/kg ($8.38/kg) would provide equivalence with diesel bus fuel costs, an achievable target en route to longer-term goals of GBP5.50/kg for trains, GBP3.50/kg for heavy industry and GBP1.5/kg to reach parity with natural gas for heating, he said.

Current pump prices in the UK are around GBP10/kg, according to hydrogen companies ITM Power and Logan Energy, although motorists talk of GBP12/kg costs at the handful of hydrogen filing stations available across the UK.

S&P Global Platts, meanwhile, assessed the cost of green hydrogen production (Netherlands, PEM electrolysis, including capex) at Eur3.738/kg on March 1. The assessment reflects the commodity production cost and the capital expenditure associated with building a hydrogen facility.

"GBP6/kg is possible, but hydrogen needs to go from a science experiment to a product in the market on a daily basis. My focus is getting to volume. If we do that, I see GBP1.5/kg possible in about 10 years' time," Bamford said.

This would be done by "productionizing" the supply chain to create demand, moving from prototype to mass production for selected applications, starting in heavy duty transport: buses, then trucks, trains and vessels.

"What China did in batteries 10 years ago is what we need to do now -- get some volume up via subsidy, get the cost base down and then export to the world," he said.

Wrightbus tie-in

JCB heir Bamford founded Ryse Hydrogen four years ago, then in 2019 he bought out Northern Ireland's Wrightbus after the manufacturer was declared insolvent ahead of delivering on Ryse's bus orders.

Back on its feet, Wrightbus is now making double-decker fuel cell buses at its Ballymena site, with first sales to Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham and London, these last two the largest at 20 buses each. The buses use fuel cells provided by Ballard, and drivetrains from Siemens.

"Ryse is now a one-stop shop from hydrogen fuel supply to the bus itself, and we can finance the whole package on a per mile basis. All the operator has to do is provide a driver and pay a monthly fee over the 15-year life of a bus," Bamford said.

There are 45,000 buses in the UK. With a 3,000 bus order, Bamford argues he could get to cost parity with diesel buses, which are currently half the cost of both fuel cell and battery alternatives.

"Then, if I have 200 buses coming back to a depot with a filling station, I've got demand. I can then over-size electrolysis production by 25% so when other products come on stream, we've already got production in place," he said.

To kick-start the sector Bamford has called on the government to set aside GBP500 million, or 10%, of its five-year National Bus Strategy fund for the UK's hydrogen industry.

"The prime minister gets it, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy gets it, now the Department of Transport needs to get on board," he said.

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