Chinese state-owned oil giant Sinopec has announced that the world's largest green hydrogen project, the 260MW Kuqa facility in Xinjiang, northwest China, is set to be commissioned by the end of May. The project's commercial operation is scheduled to commence on June 30. Once operational, the Kuqa facility will surpass the current world leader, a 150MW project in northern China owned by Ningxia Baofeng Energy. However, Kuqa's reign as the largest green hydrogen system will be short-lived.
Sinopec is already constructing another project in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, which is about a third larger than Kuqa. The completion date for the Ordos project is currently unknown. Additionally, Sinopec has announced a ¥20bn ($2.8bn) green hydrogen project in Inner Mongolia, which will involve pumping 100,000 tonnes of hydrogen annually through a new 400km pipeline to Beijing.
The Kuqa facility, with a value of ¥3bn ($425m), will produce green hydrogen that will replace grey hydrogen made from unabated natural gas at a nearby oil refinery operated by Sinopec Tahe Refining and Chemical Company. Hydrogen is crucial in oil refineries for removing sulphur from crude oil and manufacturing petrochemicals. To ensure a continuous supply of hydrogen, a storage tank with a capacity of 210,000 cubic meters will be utilized at Kuqa. The hydrogen will be transported via a pipeline capable of conveying 28,000 cubic meters per hour. The project's 13 electrolysers have been supplied by local manufacturers Longi, Peric, and Cockerill Jingli Hydrogen, now fully owned by Belgium's John Cockerill.
However, concerns have arisen regarding the true green nature of the hydrogen produced at Kuqa. Initially, the project proposed a 1GW solar farm to power the facility, but the plan was later downsized to a 361MW array. According to research firm BloombergNEF, a 361MW plant would only meet 58% of the electrolysers' annual power requirements of 1,060GWh, necessitating additional power from the local coal-reliant grid. Sinopec intends to negotiate with the grid operator for the remaining 42%, but the specifics of the additional power sources remain vaguely described.
It is essential to note that for hydrogen projects to be considered green or renewable, they typically require approximately 2MW of renewable energy for every 1MW of electrolysers to account for the variability in wind and solar output. Sinopec has expressed its plans to produce over two million tonnes of green hydrogen annually by 2025, with gigawatt-scale projects in the pipeline