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Shell Catalysts & Technologies launches the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process

Shell Catalysts & Technologies is launching the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process, which integrates proven technologies to increase significantly the affordability of greenfield projects for “blue” hydrogen production from natural gas along with carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). Affordable blue hydrogen enables the decarbonization of hard-to-abate heavy industries while creating value for refiners and resource holders. Shell’s new process can reduce the levelized cost of hydrogen by 22% compared with the best the market has to offer today.

Without low-carbon hydrogen, the net-zero goals announced by governments and companies will be difficult to achieve. Currently, hydrogen production is nearly all “grey” (from hydrocarbons without CCUS). If hydrogen is to contribute to carbon neutrality, it must be produced on a much larger scale and with far lower emission levels.

Blue hydrogen production can be relatively easily scaled up to meet demand. With carbon dioxide (CO2) costing $25–35/t, blue hydrogen becomes competitive against grey, even with its higher capital costs. And green hydrogen, produced from the renewable-energy powered electrolysis of water, may still be more than double the price of blue hydrogen by 2030[i] and not achieve cost parity until about 2045.[ii]


This analysis is based on conventional steam methane reforming (SMR) and auto-thermal reforming (ATR) technologies. The availability of the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process, which integrates proprietary Shell gas partial oxidation (SGP) technology with ADIP ULTRA solvent technology, further improves blue hydrogen economics.

A key advantage of SGP technology over ATR is that the partial oxidation reaction does not require steam. Instead, high-pressure steam is generated, which satisfies the steam demands of the process and some other power consumers. There is also no need for feed gas pretreatment, which simples the process line-up. And SGP gives refiners greater feed flexibility, as it is more robust against feed contaminants and can thus accommodate a large range of natural gas qualities.

Compared with ATR, SGP technology gives a 22% lower levelized cost of hydrogen from:

  • 17% lower capital expenditure (higher operating pressure giving smaller hydrogen compressor and CO2 capture and compressor units); and
  • 34% lower operating expenditure (excluding the natural gas feedstock price) from reduced compression duties and more steam generation.

Modelling shows that, compared with an ATR unit, a Shell Blue Hydrogen Process line-up producing 500 t/d of pure hydrogen would have:1

  • a $30 million/y lower operating expenditure;
  • more than 99% CO2 capture; and
  • a 10–25% lower levelized cost of hydrogen.

When compared with SMR, SGP technology leads to even greater hydrogen production cost savings from both the capital and operating expenditure perspectives.

Process maturity and experience

Shell began research into SGP technology in the 1950s. Today, the technology has more than 30 active residue and gas gasification licensees, and there are more than 100 SGP gasifiers worldwide. For example, at the Pearl gas-to-liquids plant, Qatar, 18 SGP trains, each with an equivalent pure hydrogen production capacity of 500 t/d, have been operating since 2011.[iii] Since 1997, Pernis refinery, the Netherlands, has been operating at a 1-Mt/y CO2 capture capacity using SGP technology.

Shell also has CCUS experience through its involvement in multiple projects in different phases of development, and can offer key technologies and insights into CO2 capture, compression, transport, utilization and storage.

About Shell Catalysts & Technologies

Shell Catalysts & Technologies, part of Shell, is a leading technology licensor and brings owner–operator–innovator–licensor capabilities to the market. It has more than 1,200 references for gas processing technologies at gas plants and refineries worldwide.

It supports Shell and non-Shell businesses by working with them to co-create integrated, customized solutions comprising licensed technologies, refining and petrochemical catalysts, and technical services.

It was formed by combining Shell Global Solutions, a technology licensor with a track record of delivering pioneering process schemes and innovative configurations; Criterion Catalysts & Technologies, the world’s largest hydrocarbon processing catalyst supplier; and CRI Catalyst Company, a pioneer in the petrochemical catalyst sector.

It operates across the energy value chain: from upstream, gas processing and liquefied natural gas through to downstream refining and petrochemicals.

For further information, please visit www.shell.com/ct.

[i] The future of hydrogen, International Energy Agency (2019), www.iea.org/reports/the-future-of-hydrogen

[ii] Zero Energy Platform, 2017. Commercial Scale Feasibility of Clean Hydrogen.

[iii] Defined as pure hydrogen production, i.e. not including any inerts, methane, CO2, or carbon monoxide, which will also be present depending on the final purification step

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