Rosatom is ready to move into the front-end engineering and design phase for its proposed blue hydrogen project on Sakhalin Island in the country’s far east, according to the Russian state-owned nuclear conglomerate.

Its wholly-owned subsidiary Rusatom Overseas said France’s Air Liquide has completed a feasibility study on the project under a contract awarded last year.

The aim of the study was to determine whether its proposal to produce hydrogen from natural gas using a methane steam-reforming process and its exports to Asia and Pacific regions are economically attractive and can be implemented technically.

The project aims to produce up to 100 tonnes per day of hydrogen — about 30,000 tonnes per annum — in its initial phase.

Gas and power for the project are to be sourced locally, given the availability of natural gas from the ExxonMobil-led Sakhalin 1 and Gazprom-led Sakhalin 2 offshore oil and gas developments.

Carbon dioxide from the conversion process will be captured and stored underground to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from the project, with Rosatom recently partnering with Russian oil producer Gazprom Neft to use its carbon capture and storage (CCS) expertise.

Gazprom Neft said on Tuesday that it signed an agreement with Japan’s Mitsui to develop new solutions to implement CCS and blue hydrogen projects in Russia and elsewhere, where both companies operate.

According to Rusatom Overseas vice president Anton Moskvin, the Sakhaklin scheme is targeted to start operating in 2024, with regular hydrogen deliveries to begin in 2025.

He added that the facility’s hydrogen capacity may be expanded to about 330 tonnes per day — about 100,000 tpa — during a later phase.

This expansion is understood by project observers to be linked to Rosatom’s ongoing efforts to design and build its first very high temperature nuclear reactor (VHTR).

A VHTR can potentially heat the flow of helium — which is used as a heat transfer agent — to 950 degrees Celsius or above, whereas the steam-reforming process can run at temperatures between 700 degrees and 1000 degrees Celsius.

Rosatom’s design bureau, Okbm Afrikantov, is reportedly working to bring a VHTR into commercial operation before 2035, while another subsidiary — NPO Luch — is designing a linked conversion unit, according to company executives.

This unit will be situated next to the VHTR and will use incoming heat from the reactor to run the steam-reforming process to produce blue hydrogen from the flow of natural gas and water.

Rosatom’s blue hydrogen project is the largest on Sakhalin Island in terms of potential hydrogen production, with two other privately owned initiatives aimed at producing green hydrogen using renewable power sources.

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