Nuclear-generated hydrogen considered for asphalt production

16 November 2022

An EDF-led consortium has been awarded UK government funding to investigate the feasibility of using nuclear-generated heat and electricity to create hydrogen for use in the production of asphalt and cement.

The Heysham 2 plant (Image: EDF)

The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently awarded the Bay Hydrogen Hub – Hydrogen4Hanson project almost GBP400,000 (USD475,800) in funding for the feasibility study. This funding has been made available from the UK government's GBP1 billion Net-Zero Innovation Portfolio, under the Industrial Hydrogen Accelerator Programme.

The consortium includes construction material manufacturer Hanson UK, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Hynamics (EDF's low-carbon hydrogen development business), clean energy technology developer CERES Power, EDF R&D and EDF Generation.

The concept is to demonstrate solid oxide electrolysis (SOEC) integrated with nuclear heat and electricity from EDF Energy's Heysham site in Lancashire, England, to provide low-carbon, low-cost hydrogen via novel, next generation composite storage tankers to multiple Hanson asphalt and cement sites in the UK. The project partners claim the technology could improve hydrogen production efficiency by 20% when compared to conventional electrolysis.

The consortium will undertake an initial feasibility study, with the future target of demonstrating the technology at the megawatt-scale through 2023-25.

It is hoped that the project will demonstrate a key step 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.

"This award is an enormous vote of confidence in our project," said Patrick Dupeyrat of EDF UK Research & Development. "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."

Rachael Glaving of EDF Generation Strategic & Commercial Development added: "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."

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

"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," said Hanson UK Sustainability Director Marian Garfield.

The Heysham site is divided into two separately-managed nuclear power plants - Heysham 1 and Heysham 2 - both with two reactors of the advanced gas-cooled reactor type. Heysham 1 began operating in 1983 and is currently scheduled to shut in March 2024. Operation of Heysham 2 began in 1988 and is expected to end in 2028.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News