China Petrochemical & Chemical Corp (Sinopec Group) says it plans to become China’s biggest hydrogen producer, putting the country on course to achieve its energy transition and climate goals.
The nation’s largest refiner and fuel distributor aims to install a capacity to produce 120,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year by the end of 2025, according to its hydrogen business development strategy.
Sinopec’s in-house website, Sinopecnews.com.cn, reported: “The company is targeting to become the largest, technologically leading and best-managed hydrogen company. It will focus on hydrogen refueling and green hydrogen production to help the transportation sector reduce carbon emissions.”
In November 2021, the state-owned company started work on a three billion yuan ($433 million) solar-powered green hydrogen plant in Kuqa, in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, billed as the world’s largest. With an annual output capacity of 20,000 tonnes, Sinopec will be able to help cut 485,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year when the plant is completed in June 2023.
Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy through electrolysis that separates water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Growing production and use of the clean fuel is a key part of China’s strategy to wean itself off fossil fuels and reach carbon neutrality by 2060. China is already the world’s largest hydrogen producer with an annual output of 33 million tonnes.
In March, Beijing introduced the nation’s first hydrogen strategy to develop the industry between 2021 and 2035. Under the plan, China will have at least 50,000 hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles on the road and produce 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes of green hydrogen a year by 2025.
Aided by the rapid decline in the cost of renewable energy, green hydrogen is in the early stages of commercialisation, where enlarging the scale of production is key to cutting costs.
Sinopec Group will gradually replace fossil fuel with renewable energy at its hydrogen production facilities. As its green hydrogen output is ramped up, it will cut down the use of so-called blue hydrogen produced from natural gas.
The energy giant uses hydrogen as a feedstock in its oil refining and ammonia production plants.
Currently, green hydrogen only accounts for a tiny portion of the nation’s production of the colourless and odourless gas, which is the most abundant element in the universe.
Around 80 percent of the hydrogen produced in China uses coal and natural gas as feedstock, with the rest derived as a by-product of industrial production.
The nation’s annual hydrogen demand could surge from 20 million tonnes to 35 million tonnes by 2030 and 60 million tonnes by 2050, according to projections by the state-supported industry group China Hydrogen Alliance.
Sinopec Group has signed collaboration agreements with multiple businesses to build hydrogen supply chains.
In December 2021, Sinopec Group and US-based Cummins formed a joint venture to build a plant for making green hydrogen equipment in Foshan, Guangdong province. It is slated for completion next year.
In late 2019, Sinopec Group signed a preliminary agreement with France’s Air Liquide to collaborate on developing the hydrogen business in China. Air Liquide has agreed to share its hydrogen production, storage and transportation expertise.
Sinopec Group said: “In the next step, Sinopec Group will adopt an even more open attitude, in seeking cooperation with state-backed industry funds, financial institutions and key supply chain players, to establish hydrogen innovation platforms.”
(Source: Tank News Int., Sept. 8-2022)