A Shell logo sits on a sign outside a gas station operated by Royal Dutch Shell Plc in Clacton-on-Sea, U.K., on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Shell agreed to buy BG Group Plc for about 47 billion pounds ($70 billion) in cash and shares, the oil and gas industry's biggest deal in at least a decade. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The European crude oil and energy producer Shell has announced plans to start building Europe’s largest renewable hydrogen plant. Some of the factory’s output will be used for the production of traditional jet fuel.

Largest  Hydrogen Plant in Europe

The plant will be built on the Tweede Maasvlakte in the port of Rotterdam, Holland, with construction being completed by 2025. Once operational, the facility’s 200MW electrolyser will produce up to 60,000 kilograms of renewable hydrogen per day. Power for the electrolyser will come from the offshore wind farm, Hollandse Kust (Noord), which is part-owned by Shell.

Shell Energy and Chemicals Park in Rotterdam
The Shell Energy and Chemicals Park in Rotterdam | Agro & Chemistry

Whilst the hydrogen fuel will not be used for planes, the output of the plant will be used to help power the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park in Rotterdam, which produces jet fuel. The company says this will “partially decarbonise the facilities production of energy products like petrol diesel and jet fuel”.

A Step Forward

Whilst using renewable energy to make more oil products isn’t exactly a win for the environment, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Part of the problem of transitioning to greener aviation is there just isn’t the infrastructure to support it yet. We’re not yet producing enough sustainable alternatives to meet the demand.

For example, earlier this year, we covered the construction of the lighthouse fuels project in Teesside, which, once complete, will produce 180 million litres of sustainable aviation fuel a year. To put that into perspective, however, a single airline might use 150 million litres annually.

The same is true of hydrogen. Gram for gram, hydrogen is about 2.8 times more efficient than traditional jet fuel. That means the 60,000kg of hydrogen a day that the Shell plant will produce is equivalent to roughly 168,000kg of jet fuel. According to Boeing’s website, a 747 uses around 10 kilograms of fuel per kilometre. That means the plant produces enough hydrogen each day to power one direct flight from London to Sydney (if a B747 had that range), a distance of around 17,000km. To put that into perspective, Qantas offers a return flight from London to Sydney every day.

Qantas Airbus A330, shell fuel plant
The plant will provide enough hydrogen fuel to power a Sydney to London flight each day, but not the return | © Qantas

Whilst these are only rough calculations, it gives you an idea of the gap between supply and demand. The more hydrogen fuel facilities we have, the closer we get to a greener future for aviation.

What are your thoughts on Shell’s new plant? Let us know in the comments below!


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