Electrolyser systems for both the UK and the global green hydrogen economy
Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power, who have just opened the world’s first hydrogen Gigafactory in Sheffield, describes how his company is helping to position Sheffield as the hub for green hydrogen on both the UK and international stage.
What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen is a gas, and the most abundant chemical in the universe. Its properties mean that it is extremely light and contains pure energy, which will burn when it reacts with air. When this process happens, the hydrogen reacts to turn into water. This makes hydrogen a perfect zero-carbon fuel source, with many possibilities for its use.
What role does hydrogen play in getting to Net Zero?
Because it’s so versatile, it can be deployed to help with difficult-to-decarbonise sectors such as transport, heating, and industry. However, because there are different ways to produce hydrogen, including using natural gas, the process is not always carbon-free.
Green hydrogen can play a key role in helping the UK and the rest of the world to get to Net Zero by decarbonising difficult sectors, such as industry, heavy transport, and heating - indeed, the Climate Change Committee has said that, without hydrogen, achieving Net Zero by 2050 will not be possible.
What work are you doing?
We design and manufacture products which generate green hydrogen gas, primarily electrolysers that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Because we are focused on green hydrogen production, our electrolysers are built to produce hydrogen using 100% renewable energy sources, such as wind.
Earlier this year we moved into the world’s first hydrogen Gigafactory, in Sheffield. It’s called a Gigafactory because the electrolysers we build are capable of generating over 1GW of hydrogen energy per year. Our aim is to establish Sheffield as the hub for green hydrogen not only in the UK, but also internationally.
Where are you based and how many people do you employ?
Our green hydrogen Gigafactory is based in Bessemer Park, Sheffield, and we already employ over 240 people. We are currently recruiting for a further 80 engineers and we have ambitious plans to expand further.
We want to help ensure that Sheffield becomes a manufacturing hotspot for both the UK and the global hydrogen industry. We offer training, and re-skilling for existing engineers, as well as apprenticeships. Considering the energy transition that is underway, we will be forging new skillsets to meet the challenge.
Last year we raised £165m on the London Stock Exchange. This funding will accelerate ITM Power's offering at the 100MW project scale, support an expansion of our hydrogen Gigafactory in Sheffield, create more jobs, and enable us to build a second UK Gigafactory if necessary. The funding round was 2.5x oversubscribed and our new investors are some of the largest global ESG funds.
How do you manage and limit CO2 emissions from your factory in Sheffield?
We are launching our inaugural environmental and social governance (ESG) report later this month and will be working towards reporting on our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions as part of our move into our new factory.
How does your work in Sheffield support international work to reduce carbon emissions?
We take great care in controlling as much of the supply chain as possible and manufacture all high value, and intellectual protocol (IP) heavy aspects of our electrolysis in the Gigafactory. The products are designed and manufactured in Sheffield.
However, we export our products across the globe, as the demand for green hydrogen increases - from Australia to Chile and closer to home in Europe. We have also recently announced plans with Shell to extend our current 10MW electrolyser at their refinery in the Rhineland, Germany from 10MW to 100MW, making this by far the world’s biggest electrolyser facility.