World's largest 'solar-to-hydrogen' project commissioned in China

Sinopec, one of the world's largest oil and petrochemical enterprises and China's largest hydrogen producer, announced the commission of what it claims to be the world's largest solar-to-hydrogen project in Xinjiang, China—where there is abundant solar irradiation.

With a total investment of $417 million, the Xinjiang Kuqa Green Hydrogen Pilot Project comprises a 20,000 tpa hydrogen electrolysis plant, a hydrogen storage tank farm with a capacity of 210,000 cubic meters as well as a 300-MW solar power plant that supplies clean energy for the hydrogen production.

Sinopec Xinjiang Kuqa Green Hydrogen Pilot Project
Image: Sinopec News

As the world's largest hydrogen producer and consumer, China's demand for hydrogen has experienced steady and rapid growth, which is expected to reach 35 million tpa in 2030 and 60 million tpa by 2050. However, most of the production is "grey" hydrogen produced from reforming and naphtha cracking units, or gas refinery byproducts.

Over the years, Sinopec has strived to switch from grey hydrogen production to green hydrogen production, which is powered by renewables like solar. The enterprise has set goals to increase its green hydrogen production capacity to 500,000 tpa.

The Xinjiang Kuqa project is anticipated to cut down carbon dioxide emissions by 485,000 tonnes per annum and is also regarded as part of Sinopec's larger quest to reach its carbon emissions peak before 2030 and carbon neutrality in 2050.

As the costs of solar continue going down with its technology maturing constantly, as well as the compelling benefits (e.g., excellent flexibility as an energy carrier, effective energy storage intermedium and high energy density) of hydrogen are driving its more extensive adoption, solar and hydrogen energy have become two important growing forces in the energy sector—and they are showing great potential to support each other in the bigger energy transition landscape.

Several top-tier solar manufacturers are tapping into the hydrogen business. LONGi founded LONGi Hydrogen in 2021 and has leveraged its widely acclaimed solar technology to explore "solar to hydrogen" integrations. The company is one of the electrolyzer set suppliers for this project.

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