The Anonymous Widower

Centrica Business Solutions Begins Work On 20MW Hydrogen-Ready Peaker In Redditch

The title of this post, is the same as that as this news item from Centrica Business Systems.

This is the sub-heading.

Centrica Business Solutions has started work on a 20MW hydrogen-ready gas-fired peaking plant in Worcestershire, as it continues to expand its portfolio of energy assets.

These three paragraphs outline the project.

Centrica has purchased a previously decommissioned power plant in Redditch, and is set to install eight UK assembled containerised engines to burn natural gas.

Expected to be fully operational later this year, the peaking power plant will run only when there is high or peak demand for electricity, or when generation from renewables is low. The Redditch project will have the capacity to power the equivalent of 2,000 homes for a full day when required, helping to maintain stability and reliability on the grid.

The engines will also be capable of burning a blend of natural gas and hydrogen, futureproofing the site and helping the UK transition towards a decarbonised energy system.

  • The original power station had Rolls-Royce generators.
  • Cummins and Rolls-Royce mtu and possibly other companies can probably supply the dual fuel generators.
  • Cummins have received UK Government funding to develop hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines.
  • This press release from Cummins, which is entitled Dawn Of A New Chapter From Darlington, gives more details on Cummins’ plans for the Darlington factory and hydrogen.

Given that Cummins manufactured sixty-six thousand engines in Darlington in 2021 and it is stated that these containerised engines will be assembled in the UK, I feel, that these engines may be from Cummins.

Centrica’s Plans

This paragraph in the Centrica Business Systems news item, outlines their plans.

The Redditch peaking plant is part of Centrica’s plans to deliver around 1GW of flexible energy assets, that includes the redevelopment of several legacy-owned power stations, including the transformation of the former Brigg Power Station in Lincolnshire into a battery storage asset and the first plant in the UK to be part fuelled by hydrogen.

As Redditch power station is only 20 MW, Centrica could be thinking of around fifty assets of a similar size.

Brigg Power Station

The Wikipedia entry for Brigg Power station gives these details of the station.

  • The station was built in 1993.
  • It is a combined cycle gas turbine power station.
  • The primary fuel is natural gas, but it can also run on diesel.
  • It has a nameplate capacity of 240 MW.

Brigg power station is also to be used as a test site for hydrogen firing.

This news item from Centrica is entitled Centrica And HiiROC To Inject Hydrogen At Brigg Gas-Fired Power Station In UK First Project.

These paragraphs from the news item explains the process.

The 49MW gas fired plant at Brigg is designed to meet demand during peak times or when generation from renewables is low, typically operating for less than three hours a day. Mixing hydrogen in with natural gas reduces the overall carbon intensity.

It’s anticipated that during the trial, getting underway in Q3 2023, no more than three per cent of the gas mix could be hydrogen, increasing to 20% incrementally after the project. Longer term, the vision is to move towards 100% hydrogen and to deploy similar technology across all gas-fired peaking plant.

HiiROC’s proprietary technology converts biomethane, flare gas or natural gas into clean hydrogen and carbon black, through an innovative Thermal Plasma Electrolysis process. This results in a low carbon, or potentially negative carbon, ‘emerald hydrogen’.

Because the byproduct comes in the form of a valuable, solid, pure carbon it can be easily captured and used in applications ranging from tyres, rubbers and toners, and in new use cases like building materials and even as a soil enhancer.

It looks to me, that HiiROC are using an updated version of a process called pyrolysis, which is fully and well-described in this Wikipedia entry. This is the first paragraph.

The pyrolysis (or devolatilization) process is the thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperatures, often in an inert atmosphere. It involves a change of chemical composition. The word is coined from the Greek-derived elements pyro “fire”, “heat”, “fever” and lysis “separating”.

Pyrolysis is more common than you think and is even used in cooking to do things like caramelise onions. This is a video of a chef giving a demonstration of caramelising onions.

On an industrial scale, pyrolysis is used to make coke and charcoal.

I came across pyrolysis in my first job after graduating, when I worked at ICI Runcorn.

ICI were trying to make acetylene in a process plant they had bought from BASF. Ethylene was burned in an atmosphere, that didn’t have much oxygen and then quenched in naphtha. This should have produced acetylene , but all it produced was tonnes of black soot, that it spread all over Runcorn.

I shared an office with a guy, who was using a purpose-built instrument to measure acetylene in the off-gas from the burners.

When he discovered that the gas could be in explosive limits, ICI shut the plant down. The Germans didn’t believe this and said, that anyway it was impossible to do the measurement.

ICI gave up on the process and demolished their plant, but sadly the German plant blew up and killed several workers.

It does look like HiiROC have tamed the process to be able to put hydrocarbons in one end and get hydrogen and carbon black out the other.

I wonder how many old and possibly dangerous chemical processes can be reimagined using modern technology.

It certainly appears that Centrica are not holding back on innovation.


I’ve never run a large electricity network. Not even a simulated one.

But I’m fairly sure that having a large number of assets of different sizes, that can be optimised to the load and the fuel available, creates a more reliable and efficient network.

Heavy energy users may even have their own small efficient power station, that is powered by gases piped from the local landfill.



April 6, 2023 - Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , , , , , ,

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