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AREVA, Smart Energies and ADEME form French JV for PEM electrolyzers for hydrogen; power-to-gas

AREVA, Smart Energies through its subsidiary CETH2, and the ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency) have created a joint venture—AREVA H2-Gen—to manufacture Proton Exchange Membranes (PEM) for the production of hydrogen from water and electricity. Initially intended for industrial applications, PEM electrolysis is now targeting the renewable energy storage market, to supply service stations with hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles or to supply natural gas networks (power-to-gas, e.g., earlier post).

AREVA, Smart Energies and the French State, represented by the ADEME as operator of the Investissements d’Avenir (investments for the future) Program, will eventually hold equal stakes in the company, with the aim of making it a leading global player in the field of hydrogen production by electrolysis. This company will be based in France, where it will have a dedicated engineering and production site.

The equity investment provided by the ADEME, acting on behalf of the French State, shall help finance the investments required for the development and sale of more powerful electrolyzers.

We acquired CETH2 in 2010 to finance the first prototypes of PEM electrolyzers, and have supported the company over the past four years in its technical and commercial development. In a PEM electrolysis market undergoing strong growth, we are now delighted to be able to join forces with an industrial partner such as AREVA, with the financial support of the ADEME.

—Vianney de l’Estang, CEO of Smart Energies



PEM electrolyzers may become the back bone of future clean H2 stations for future FCEVs, specially where clean (Hydro-Nuke-Wind-Solar) electricity is available. It could become an effective way to store excess e-energy.

The next generation may produce various competitive e-fuels to store excess intermittent and base load e-energy.


The round-trip efficiency of H2 conversion is perhaps 65%.  There are electricity-to-energy schemes with far higher returns on electric input (not including chemical energy input), and those ought to have higher priority.  Why don't they?  I suspect, because these hydrogen schemes are designed to fail.


H2 made and stored at the (up to 100,000) H2 stations, with lower cost overnight and off peak demand hours electricity, could solve the problems with intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar and excess base load energy.

BEVs, FCEVs and H2 stations could return (sell at 2X or 3X the regular price) some of their stored energy to the grid to help with peak demands.

Current (conversion) efficiency will certainly rise in the next 10 to 20 years.


The conversion losses of H2 make it a poor option for overnight energy storage/load balancing.  Zn-air cells have higher efficiency and much smaller capital cost.  Only when you are talking days (if not weeks) of storage does H2 begin making sense, and then it's up against simple addition of generation.

The whole argument for H2 assumes that adding generation simply isn't sensible, that you'll then have too much a lot of the time.  In other words, that you don't have control over your generators—that they run at the whim of fickle day and weather cycles.  The assumption needs to be made explicit, and challenged.


Im interested to buy a fuelcell car with hydrogen been made by water electrolysis.


The good side of H2 (distributed) storage and generation is that the storage tanks (and H2 generators) can be large enough to deal with seasonal energy generation and demand variations. Ideal for FCEVs from clean intermittent energy sources

Batteries are OK for short daily changes and could be collocated for EVs etc. Ideal for PHEVs and BEVs from clean intermittent (solar) energy sources.

Current gasoline and diesel 100,000 stations may have to be progressively replaced with H2 and quick charge e-stations at a cost of about $125B over 25 years or a mere $5B/year for USA. Not much of a financial challenge for an economy the size of USA's.


The Bill Gates and Warren Buffet Foundation could finance 100% of the above programme and create lots of local jobs for 25+ years.

The profits from the first 20,000 stations could finance the following 80,000 stations, to effectively reduce the initial capital funds required from $125B to $25B, over the first 5 years.

Of course, Governments could help with tax credits, low cost loans etc. Individuals could also invest into the programme.

Thomas Pedersen

Storage of H2 for seasonal variations??? Seasonal variations of what? Transportation fuels? Then OK, maybe, but not for total energy usage.

The best you can do with H2 is probably to hurry and attach it to some kind of CxHyOz (preferably with z=0) in need of H2 to increase its value. Maybe bottom-of-the-barrel heavy fuel, which may be cracked into diesel and elemental sulphur.

Electrolyzers are expensive and any business case predicated on usage when energy is cheap is in trouble. Even with free electricity as input, the value of the produced H2 requires a lot of operating hours to pay back the capital investments in equipment and infrastructure.

Nuclear power may be predictable but renewable energy sources are not, so whoever the customer for this H2 is, they may require stable supply, i.e. back-up, thereby effectively doubling the investment.

There is a chicken-and-egg problem (supply and demand) and even when that is solved, you've got the problems I mentioned (in a highly condensed fashion) above. I'm not saying it is impossible, but the baby may turn out to be still-born. There are also competing options, such as CxHyOz fuels - including fossil/bio/other fuels - for PHEV's running 80+% on electricity. Those CxHyOz fuel can be easily stored, as opposed to H2.



The final solution is to stop burning fuels to reduce GHG. Storing intermittent e-energy for future CLEAN uses may not be 100% efficient nor 100% competitive but it is the nature of the beast.

Storing punctual clean e-energy surpluses via H2 to ensure enough fuel for FCEVs may not be 100% efficient but it could be 100% effective. Your FCEV fleet could effectively run on intermittent Solar and Wind energies with enough H2 storage tanks.

Very large batteries could be used to play the same role for BEVs with less lost and eventually lower cost too?

Better e-energy storage means may be developed by 2040 or so but we may have to go with what is available now and upgrade latter.

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