Essar Stanlow takes delivery of UK’s first refinery-based hydrogen furnace

The furnace straddles both lanes of the M53

Cheshire oil refinery, Essar Oil UK, has taken delivery of the first hydrogen-powered furnace at a refinery anywhere in the UK.

The owner of the Stanlow refining site in Ellesmere Port, said it took a major logistical feat, including closing the M53 motorway on Saturday night (August 13).

The furnace arrived the following evening, (August 14), after several hours of complex operations involving multiple agencies including National Highways and Cheshire Police, with the machinery being moved at a walking pace of less than four mph.

It moved along the M53 motorway, exiting at junction 10, before completing the final leg of its journey along the A5117 road to Stanlow.

The furnace, which arrived at the Port of Liverpool on June 20, is one of the largest objects moved on UK roads.

The principal component of the furnace – standing almost five times the height of a double decker bus at 18.5 metres tall, 26.5 metres long and 14.2 metres wide – completely filled both northbound and southbound carriageways of the motorway, straddling the central reservation at key points, with wheels either side of the barriers.

The furnace’s 6,000-mile journey began in May this year in Thailand, where it was manufactured and fabricated.

After weeks at sea, the furnace arrived at Liverpool Port, before being transported by barge down the Manchester Ship Canal.

The furnace is the first of its kind in the UK, capable of running on a 100% hydrogen source and will replace three existing furnaces at Stanlow.

Hydrogen used by the new furnace from 2026 will be produced by Vertex Hydrogen, a joint venture launched in January between Essar and Progressive Energy, located on-site at Stanlow and part of the HyNet North West low carbon cluster.

Once fully operational in 2023, it will improve energy efficiency at Stanlow compared with existing furnaces, helping to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 240,000 tonnes each year from 2026, while simultaneously reducing maintenance costs.

The furnace will pave the way to decarbonising Essar’s operations and cutting emissions at Stanlow – one of the country’s most important refining and 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, helping lead the country’s low carbon transformation.

In addition to the new furnace, Essar is investing in a range of energy efficiency, low carbon energy, and carbon capture and storage initiatives.

Deepak Maheshwari, chief executive at Essar Oil UK, said: “After years of planning and months of transportation, we are delighted to take delivery of our new, state-of-the-art hydrogen furnace. We are grateful to the many organisations, including National Highways and Cheshire Police, who helped ensure the safe arrival of such a large and complex item.

“The new furnace is the first of its kind at any refinery in the UK and demonstrates clearly Essar’s long term commitment towards decarbonising our operations and helping lead the UK’s low carbon transition.”