Orkney is to become the pioneering base for the first commercial green hydrogen/ammonia plant in the UK after plans were given the go ahead by councillors.
The site, along with a proposed wind farm extension on the island’s Hammars Hill are intended in part to help decarbonise heat and transport on the islands and help with the local grid capacity.
But the process could also see them used to help with the roll out of fuel cells for electric vehicles, ships and aviation as companies seek to green their fleets using hydrogen based solutions.
The Eneus Energy project, including a supporting wind turbines extension at Hammars Hill, was approved by the Orkney Council Planning Committee at a meeting on January 20.
The site near Evie on the Orkney mainland will use a a zero-carbon process to harness the renewable electricity generated by the wind turbines, to produce hydrogen (H₂) from water. This will then be combined with nitrogen (N2) from the air to form ammonia (NH3).
The storage and transport of liquid ammonia in this form uses the same technologies as Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG).
That opens up the prospect of working in new and emerging markets with existing fuel suppliers on the islands.
Eneus CEO Chris Bronsdon commented: “This marks a significant milestone in the commercialisation of green hydrogen and ammonia in the Orkney Islands and for Scotland.
“Converting green hydrogen to ammonia turns it into an easily stored and economically transportable zero carbon fuel for end-user markets.
“We look forward to working with our partners both on and off Orkney to deliver this project, showcasing the potential for commercial scale plants to begin to move forward.”
Previous detail suggested some seven jobs would be supported.
Orkney Islands Council has previously welcomed the use of hydrogen to help with the decarbonisation of the islands’ transport and heat networks.
Since the submission of the application, the hydrogen sector has witnessed the publication of the Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Strategy and the UK Government’s Energy White Paper, which outlines the delivery of their national hydrogen strategy in early 2021.
GCR acted as planning agent for both parties and provided technical support and project management services, producing the planning and technical assessments to support the planning application.
Green ammonia can be used to offset fossil ammonia supplies which currently strip hydrogen from natural gas in order to make ammonia. This provides a route to decarbonise the chemicals sector, including the production of fertilisers for agricultural crops.eneusenergy.com
Hammars Hill Energy Ltd Director Alistair Gray said: “The wind turbines will be owned and managed by Hammars Hill Energy Limited, the owners of the existing Hammars Hill Wind Farm, and we are very pleased to have achieved planning consent for the two new turbines and associated hydrogen/ammonia plant.
“Covid-19 has changed things for us all, but if the UK is to deliver on its stated net-zero targets then it appears to me that the next decade will be critical if intent is to be turned into action.
“Orkney has some of the UK’s best renewable energy resources yet being at the end of the National Grid, the islands face significant challenges in grid capacity constraints and infrastructure developments, underpinned by an unhelpful regulatory and grid charging regime.
“Since the original project was built, the design and economics of wind turbines has evolved and in view of the risks associated with the proposed new transmission cable, and the delay and uncertainty over the conditions associated with the Ofgem “minded to decision”, the board of Hammars Hill have been considering a range of alternative strategies and believe that expansion of the existing wind farm together with the ammonia plant is an innovative example of the type of transformational project required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deliver net zero.”
GCR Director Gavin Catto said: “We are delighted to have secured consent for this innovative project. As we move through the energy transition and start to decarbonise the economy more deeply, we need to start thinking more widely about energy and how we capture and utilise it.
“This project that uses the abundant wind energy resource available on Orkney and converts it into a fuel that can be used to decarbonise heat and transport on the islands is going to be a key demonstration of how this transition can be achieved and we are delighted to be involved with this project.”