An EDF led consortium to utilise innovative technology which uses nuclear generated heat and electricity to create hydrogen for asphalt and cement sites, has won government backing.

The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) awarded the Bay Hydrogen Hub – Hydrogen4Hanson project, in Lancashire, almost £400,000 in funding for a feasibility study recently. This funding has been made available from the government’s £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, under the Industrial Hydrogen Accelerator Programme.

This project is a key step towards the decarbonisation of the asphalt and cement industries, developing nuclear enabled hydrogen production and investigating technologies to deliver hydrogen to dispersed industrial sites.

The consortium, which involves Hanson UK, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Hynamics, CERES Power, EDF R&D and EDF Generation, will undertake this Stream 2A initial feasibility study, with the future target of demonstrating the technology at the megawatt scale through 2023-25.

The concept is to demonstrate solid oxide electrolysis (SOEC) integrated with nuclear heat and electricity to provide low carbon, low-cost hydrogen via novel, next generation composite storage tankers to dispersed asphalt and cement sites in the area around Heysham nuclear power station.

The technology could improve hydrogen production efficiency by 20% when compared to conventional electrolysis and has not yet been physically demonstrated anywhere in the world. Neither has the use of hydrogen as a fuel for asphalt production. This approach has the potential for significant carbon emission reduction, supporting the UK’s net zero mission and ensuring that the nation continues leading the way in the cement and asphalt industries.

Patrick Dupeyrat, EDF UK Research & Development, said

“This award is an enormous vote of confidence in our project. Decarbonising UK industry is one of the biggest challenges the nation faces in the push for Net Zero – using nuclear power to produce hydrogen which can power the carbon heavy asphalt industry is a logical thing to do.”

“Doing so will help create the nation’s new nuclear future with new innovative technology and could help safeguard jobs.”

Rachael Glaving, EDF Generation Strategic & Commercial Development, said:

“This is a fantastic project and a great opportunity for EDF to demonstrate how nuclear can contribute to the energy transition. The proposed study highlights how future nuclear stations might not only provide electricity but also heat which in this case will be used to support hydrogen production more efficiently than is currently possible.”

The Bay Hydrogen Hub research and development will also make a significant contribution to decarbonising multiple construction industries and supporting nuclear generated hydrogen from the next generation of nuclear reactors.

Marian Garfield, sustainability director of Hanson UK, said:

“The use of hydrogen as a fuel at asphalt sites has not yet been physically demonstrated anywhere in the world, so we are delighted to once again be leading the way with new technologies that have the potential to significantly cut carbon emissions across our industry. Our involvement in this project is another example of our commitment to meeting our 2050 net zero carbon ambitions.”

It is hoped that the project will demonstrate a key step forward towards the decarbonisation of both the asphalt and cement industries and has the potential to be upscaled to more than 250 sites in the UK alone, and learnings disseminated across the mineral products industry.

Gareth Headdock, NNL Vice President Government and New Build, said:

“NNL’s role in this project is integral in enabling deeper industrial decarbonisation through nuclear energy. We will examine how this demonstration project could unlock the opportunity for SOEC to be coupled to a wider range of nuclear reactor types, its scalability and coupling techniques to other industrial applications.”

Pierre de Raphélis-Soissan, Global Business Development Director at Hynamics, said:

“As a company we are committed to this project alongside EDF and the partners. It will enable us to develop learnings on nuclear hydrogen production which shall at the same time play a part in the drive towards decarbonisation of the asphalt and cement industry. The potential for carbon reduction drives us to accelerate technology development and its applications across the UK.”