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Idaho National Lab and Bloom Energy produce hydrogen at record-setting efficiencies

Bloom Energy announced the initial results of its ongoing demonstration with Idaho National Laboratory (INL). With nearly 500 hours of full-load operation completed at the laboratory, Bloom’s high-temperature electrolyzer is producing hydrogen more efficiently than other commercially available electrolyzers, including PEM and alkaline.

Researchers at INL have been conducting a variety of tests on Bloom Energy’s solid oxide electrolyzer at the Dynamic Energy Testing and Integration Laboratory, including steam and load simulations that replicate nuclear power station conditions, an important step in validating full compatibility with a nuclear facility.

Running at high temperatures and high availability, the pilot results reveal the Bloom Electrolyzer is producing hydrogen at 37.7 kWh per kilogram of hydrogen and with 88.5% LHV (Lower Heating Value) to DC. Dynamic testing has also been conducted and included ramping the system from 100% of rated power to 5% in less than 10 minutes without adverse system impacts.

The Bloom Electrolyzer is, without a doubt, the most efficient electrolyzer we have tested to-date at INL. When hydrogen is produced from a clean, 24/7 source, like nuclear, it can help us address some of the significant challenges we face around decarbonization. Pairing the research and development capabilities of a national laboratory with innovative and forward-thinking organizations like Bloom Energy is how we make rapidly reducing the costs of clean hydrogen a reality and a real step toward changing the world’s energy future.

—John Wagner, director, Idaho National Labs

Operating continuously and providing high-quality steam input, nuclear plants are well positioned to utilize electrolyzers to efficiently produce substantial quantities of clean hydrogen with minimal disruption to ongoing operations. Global demand for hydrogen and its emerging applications are projected to increase tenfold or more by 2050, surpassing the current infrastructure for producing and delivering hydrogen.

One of the primary barriers to scalable and abundant hydrogen production is cost—up to 80% of the cost of hydrogen production through electrolysis is electricity. Because the Bloom Electrolyzer operates at high temperatures, it requires less energy than low-temperature PEM and alkaline electrolyzers to split water molecules. Producing hydrogen up to 45% more efficiently than PEM and alkaline electrolyzers when combined with external heat, the Bloom Electrolyzer supports a trajectory for hydrogen to become economically accessible.

Comments

Davemart

That is remarkable efficiency.

Compare it for instance to Enapter's AEM technology, which is exciting because it uses cheap materials compared to PEM electrolysers, but can still ramp swiftly, unlike an alkaline electrolyer:

https://www.rechargenews.com/energy-transition/exclusive-enapter-eyes-83-cost-reduction-for-its-unique-aem-hydrogen-electrolysers-by-2025/2-1-1256489

' The Enapter electrolysers can produce one kilo of hydrogen from 53.4kWh — and is therefore more energy efficient than average alkaline or PEM electrolysers (see below) — while the technology is also able to quickly respond to the ups and downs of variable renewable generation in a similar way to the more expensive PEM machines.

This means that by 2025, a 1MW AEM Multicore unit could produce green hydrogen at $2.26 per kilogram, using renewable electricity at an average price of €30 ($30) per MWh, with a load factor of 98%. That figure rises to €3.33/kg with a mean power price of €50/MWh.'

The only tech which may compete with the SOFC levels of efficiency, is the recently discussed here Hysata system:

https://www.greencarcongress.com/2022/08/20220805-hysata.html

That however is at a far earlier stage, on the what the heck is happening here with these lab results level? ;-)

SOFCs also have significant challenges, much of them related to the very high temperature of operation.

I would like to know more on the scale of this test result, it sounds very much test bench stuff.

My bet would be on the Anion fuel cells, at least for some time, but then I am conservative.

Davemart

It looks like Bloom Energy are a lot further along with their SOFC than I had realised - I thought their server farms and so on used PEM, but apparently not:

https://www.bloomenergy.com/technology/

Dunno if this is exactly the same version as INL have tested for the nuclear industry, but it looks as though it can be deployed now at considerable scale, with great efficiency.

Davemart

Here is a 2021 article on Bloom Energy:

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/bloom-energy-sees-future-in-hydrogen-fuel-cells-electrolysis-and-carbon-capture

' Bloom announced its first fuel cells that can run on hydrogen in June 2019. Last summer it expanded its scope to making electrolyzers — essentially reversing a typical fuel cell’s conversion of hydrogen into electricity and water.
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Bloom’s foray into hydrogen was anchored by a partnership with SK Engineering and Construction, an affiliate of South Korean industrial giant SK Group. In November the partners announced a contract win involving 1.8 megawatts of hydrogen-powered fuel cells through late 2021 to 2022, and Bloom’s analyst day presentation in December set a 2022 delivery date for its electrolyzers.

Multiple fuel cell competitors are also targeting the green hydrogen opportunity, including some with long-standing product lines built to use and produce hydrogen, such as Plug Power, Ballard Power Systems, PowerCell Sweden and Hydrogenics. '

Davemart

Sorry, I posted more than I intended of the article!

Davemart

And here is the Holy Grail, lower temperature SOFCs - way cheaper, if only we could make them work! ;-)

https://phys.org/news/2021-11-materials-temperature-solid-oxide-fuel.html

Gorr

Start production and distribution of hydrogen and sell ice hydrogen cars, im ready to buy. It's the best way to fight climate change and reduce petroleum prices. The public will adopt hydrogen more than batteries.

yoatmon

"Around the world, industry and policymakers are enthusiastic about clean hydrogen's potential as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels, as it can conceivably greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Billions (USD) in new investments and financial subsidies are being proposed to speed its adoption. Nevertheless, hydrogen itself has significant climate impacts that are both widely overlooked and underestimated, and it is a very small molecule that can easily leak into the atmosphere from infrastructure".
It may well be, that hydrogen will not contribute to any effects as desired, but on the contrary, worsen the overall present intolerable situation.

Gryf

Bloom Energy has been building Solid Oxide FC/Electrolyzer commercially for some time. The INL test was not a lab experiment, from this post:
“With nearly 500 hours of full-load operation completed at the laboratory, Bloom’s high-temperature electrolyzer is producing hydrogen more efficiently than other commercially available electrolyzers, including PEM and alkaline.”
Read on the Bloom Energy web site:
https://www.bloomenergy.com/blog/the-right-and-wrong-way-to-think-about-hydrogen/
Also:
https://www.bloomenergy.com/news/bloom-energy-electrolyzer-accelerates-the-future-of-hydrogen-production-in-south-korea/

@Gorr - forget about H2ICE, Quebec has the best electric prices and EV incentives in NA, buy an EV.

Gryf

Building an H2 infrastructure will cost $Trillions. Putting a few Bloom Boxes next to an Ammonia Plant or Steel Mill with access to Nuclear, Hydro or low cost Electricity may make sense.

Davemart

The current relatively high costs of SOFCs make it difficult for them to be economic if they are down a lot of the time due to low wind etc.

On page 54 here the critical cost for electrolysers to be able to cope with loads of downtime is given as $300KW:

https://www.energy-transitions.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/ETC-Global-Hydrogen-Report.pdf

SOFCs are nowhere near that, although of course superior efficiency is going to help.

That is why this is suited more to nuclear production, and this study was done in association with them, where electricity supply can be pretty constant, rather than dealing with renewables with their intermittency.

Widespread use of solid oxide electrolysers for renewables really needs the inherently lower costs of lower temperature versions, which are at a much earlier stage.

Davemart

I'd just note that the field is changing so rapidly, often for the better, that even very comprehensive studies like the one I linked miss a lot.

So on page 26 they mention Alkaline electolysers, PEB and SOEC, but nary a mention of Anion exchange membrane, as used by Enapter, which is very serious contender in my view.

And of course the war in the Ukraine means that the relative costs of diesel etc versus green hydrogen have been blown away.

Davemart

This would work well with biogas, biomass etc as well as nuclear.

Anywhere where the intermittency of renewables can be smoothed out to allow enough hours running the plant to cover its relatively high capital costs.

Gryf

“ This would work well with biogas, biomass etc”
They already have:
https://bioenergyinternational.com/bloom-energy-deploys-bar-20-dairy-farms-biogas-power-project/
https://www.bloomenergy.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-biogas/

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