Essar is transforming for tomorrow, going through the biggest transformation of its time. To enable this, Essar has made a £71m strategic, inward investment to innovate its energy and help decarbonise the Northwest through the commissioning and installation of the UK’s first-ever, hydrogen-ready refinery furnace.

Concept

The furnace will replace three existing furnaces at Stanlow in Cheshire. Once fully operational in 2024, it will improve Stanlow’s energy efficiency by 16,000 tonnes per annum and reduce CO2 emissions by over 200,000 tonnes each year from 2027 when it is expected to receive low-carbon hydrogen from the new Essar Energy Transition (EET) Hydrogen plant.

The design/implementation of the state-of-the-art furnace is paving the way to decarbonise Essar’s operations and cut emissions at Stanlow – one of the country’s most critical energy security manufacturing sites. The furnace forms a central part of Essar’s long-term strategy for Stanlow to become the UK’s first low-carbon refinery and lead the UK’s energy transition right here in the Northwest.

This £71 million strategic investment is a vital innovation in industrial energy, designed to not only transform Stanlow’s operations, but also address the global need to tackle climate change and rapidly accelerate the UK towards net-zero.

This innovation and Essar’s vision is aligned with the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan. This project is a key contributor to the decarbonisation roadmap for Stanlow’s refinery which will deliver 75% decarbonisation by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2040. On its own it will reduce the site’s emissions by 10% by 2027.

Through initial collaboration with Progressive Energy, Essar also launched EET Hydrogen to build its first low-carbon hydrogen production plant, co-located at Stanlow to provide hydrogen for the site and neighbouring businesses across the Northwest and North Wales. This collaboration is a central part of the HyNet Northwest decarbonisation cluster and means Essar can begin to close the loop, producing its own hydrogen from refinery off-gas feedstock to generate its own low-carbon steam and power for its operating processes.

The need

The world is changing rapidly and it’s a time of transformation and change, not just for Essar but for the UK energy sector and wider industries. Stanlow has been producing the vital fuels and chemical building blocks for other products that we rely on for approximately 70 years. It is one of the largest producers, with 16% of the UK fuels market, and is one of the first industrial sites transitioning to a low-carbon facility.

Essar’s hydrogen-ready furnace is unique at any refinery in the country – a first for the UK. It is not just a game-changing piece of kit to decarbonise Essar’s production processes/operations, it is a clear innovation in industrial energy, driving down carbon emissions and paving the way for the manufacture of energy products made with a lower-carbon footprint.

As the leading downstream energy player and key provider of regional fuels, Essar produces over 9 billion litres of fuel per annum and has approximately 80% share of the road fuel market in its refinery’s immediate supply envelope, the Northwest.

It supplies jet fuel to Liverpool and Manchester Airports, along with four other major UK airports, and multiple household names in aviation, while also servicing the country’s best-known hypermarkets, resellers, international oil companies and supplying its own 70 retail filling stations.

The work Essar is doing at Stanlow, through the installation of the new furnace, amongst other large scale innovative projects, is setting a global benchmark for decarbonising oil refineries and other industries. As global demand necessitates the urgent need to tackle climate change, there is an ever-growing need for the wider energy sector to respond by also moving to low-carbon footprints. The furnace offers Essar a unique value proposition with wide-reaching customer and environmental benefits.

The results

The furnace was the first step in Essar’s transformation strategy. It’s the largest asset to be transported in the company’s history and one of the largest objects ever moved on UK roads, standing almost five-times the height of a double-decker bus! Its 6,000-mile journey began in Thailand. After weeks at sea, it arrived at the Port of Liverpool, before being transported by barge down the Manchester Ship Canal to Essar by road.

No other structure like this exists in the UK so transporting it from Thailand and closing the M53 to walk it to Stanlow, at a pace less than 4mph, proved to be one of the biggest multi-agency, logistical feats in the history of the Northwest.

Decarbonisation is essential to deliver the low-carbon future society is aiming for and the furnace’s arrival has a real impact on Essar’s operations and the decarbonisation of the Northwest. Specifically, it will provide several improvements that will lead to benefits for Stanlow and the surrounding area, including lower carbon emissions due to gas-only firing and new burners that emit lower levels of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx).

In addition to the furnace and as part of its ‘Transforming for tomorrow’ mission, Essar is making multimillion-pound investments in a range of energy efficiency, fuel switching and carbon capture and storage solutions to secure long-term manufacturing – ensuring the UK maintains a strong, secure manufacturing base for fuels and other products, and that Stanlow has a positive impact on the economy of the Northwest.

As a leading player in the decarbonisation of the UK, Essar also plans to transform its 900-acre landbank into one of Europe’s largest energy transition hubs. By working with other companies, complimentary to the energy transition, others will benefit from its unique onsite resources.

Future-proofing the site in this way delivers wider benefits and social and environmental impacts. Locally, it has an impact, securing jobs and growing a highly skilled and experienced workforce. Nationally, it has an impact, as it is a material part of decarbonising the UK and the innovative work taking place at Stanlow can be replicated in multiple locations globally.