Unilever’s Port Sunlight factory in the UK will explore the viability of hydrogen fuel as a low-carbon alternative to natural gas at an industrial scale.
The pilot is part of a project funded by the UK government called HyNet and has been selected as one of three industrial sites for testing, with glassmaker Pilkington and refinery Essar Oil.
HyNet aims to help the country’s transition to a decarbonised economy, with hydrogen being recognised by the Committee on Climate Change as an essential part of the country’s journey towards net-zero and is seen as an alternative to fuel industries, transport networks, and heating homes.
“Unilever has a clear target of being a carbon-neutral company by 2030, and we’re committed to playing our part and doing what we can to help the wider industry move further, faster,” said Sebastian Munden, EVP & GM at Unilever UK & Ireland.
The hydrogen will be produced by “reforming” natural gas, a high-temperature process in which steam reacts with a hydrocarbon fuel. The resulting gas will have the same composition as the low-carbon hydrogen produced by the HyNet project, dubbed “blue hydrogen”.
“We already have five carbon neutral sites in the UK and have been able to reduce our manufacturing carbon footprint by two-thirds since 2008,” added Munden. “The success of this Port Sunlight trial would mean Unilever can deliver home and personal care products to our consumers with an even smaller carbon footprint, which we know is of great importance to them.”
The infrastructure and technology developed in this program will pave the way for developing “green hydrogen”, a more sustainable gas produced by electrolysis that separates water into oxygen and hydrogen.