It’s been a while CleanTechnica they looked at solid oxide fuel cells and there’s a lot to catch up on. To name a few, Shell has just signed a contract with Ceres to test their solid oxide technology to produce green hydrogen in India, and iconic carmaker Ferrari has teamed up with Bloom Energy to decarbonise its Maranello plant in Italy. .
What happened to solid oxide fuel cells?
For those of you who are new to this topic, a hydrogen fuel cell mixes hydrogen with ambient oxygen and a catalyst to generate zero-emission electricity, with water being the only by-product. The opposite process is called water electrolysis, in which electricity and a catalyst are applied to water to expel hydrogen gas.
Of the green hydrogen fields, polymer electrolyte (PEM) fuel cells have so far attracted the most attention. They usually use a solid polymer as the electrolyte, as described by our friends in the US Department of Energy.
Solid oxide fuel cells are a completely different animal. Their electrolyte is a non-porous ceramic compound and can operate at temperatures up to 1,830 ° F. Within a cogeneration system, their fuel efficiency could reach 85% or more.
Other advantages include a high heating angle, which eliminates the need for an expensive catalyst and also allows the fuel cell to operate at different inputs without the need for system accessories.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, but some fine-tuning is needed before solid oxide systems reach the mass market. Meanwhile, the Energy Department is at the door, which puts the production of green hydrogen in the picture. Here is an excerpt from the SOFC program run by the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the Ministry of Energy:
The SOFC program develops synergistic solid oxide electrolysis (SOEC) technology. Electrolysis is a process that splits hydrogen from water using an electric current. SOEC systems offer a potentially attractive hydrogen production option due to the high efficiency and flexibility of the system.
“The developers are [also] exploring the potential of using both SOEC and SOFC in a single hybrid plant for high-demand electricity generation (high value) and off-peak hydrogen production (low cost), ”adds NETL. “Hydrogen produced during off-peak demand, for example, could be used later in electricity generation, making SOEC a key component in enabling wider adaptation of distributed renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
Solid oxide fuel cell return
CleanTechnica about 10 years ago I looked at Bloom Energy a few times with solid oxides, but the radar has been quite quiet ever since. Last CleanTechnica Another push for solid oxide fuel cells was in July 2021, when the US Department of Energy launched a $ 52.5 million hydrogen research and development round to support its new initiative to accelerate clean Hydrogen Shot technologies.
The hydrogen soup-nuts program creates space for natural gas, but has long focused on decarbonization. In last year’s summer round of funding, the University of West Virginia peeled off a portion of $ 1 million for a project called “Design of internal surfaces of porous electrodes in cells for solid oxide electrolysis for highly efficient and durable hydrogen production. “
The Ministry of Energy explains what this means (added breaks):
“West Virginia University Research Corporation develops and implants highly active and robust nanoscale coating layers on the inner surface of the porous electrode.
“The coating layer will be developed using an additive atomic layer manufacturing (ALD) manufacturing process and will be implanted directly on the inner surface of the porous electrodes of the commercial cells produced in this way.
“The project will provide a simple solution to various material challenges at the cell level and could further enable large and more efficient SOEC storage and systems.”
If you’re wondering how the fossil-oriented state of West Virginia fits in, solid oxide fuel cells are agnostic. They can run on natural gas and WVU has an impressive portfolio of advanced materials research in part thanks to its experience in natural gas.
Natural gas fans may still be warming their hearts over a new research grant, but what goose sauce is goose sauce. Solid oxide fuel cells can also operate on renewable sources, including biogas and, of course, green hydrogen.
For the record, WVU also collects $ 250,000 from other sources for this effort.
The shell is immersed in a pool of solid oxides
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the significance of Shell’s latest drop into the sparkling green economy of the future.
Earlier this week, Ceres announced an agreement with Shell to build a megawatt solid oxide fuel cell project at Shell’s R&D center in Bangalore, India, to produce green hydrogen for the industrial market.
“Shell and Ceres are building this partnership to use SOEC technology to provide highly efficient and inexpensive green hydrogen; is now widely regarded as a credible way to decarbonise the hard-to-reduce parts of the energy system that are now dependent on fossil fuels, ”explained Ceres.
“Ceres aims to produce hydrogen with efficiencies about 20% higher than other technologies, ranging from the mid-1980s to 90% efficiencies, where waste heat can be used in industrial processes to achieve high efficiencies,” they add. They add that the goal is to achieve “by 2025 the highest levels of hydrogen costs of $ 1.5 / kg by 2025”.
The trial run is expected to last three years, which should give Shell enough time to develop a new Crux gas field off the coast of Western Australia.
Sheesh! Well, baby steps. Shell has to repair a lot of climate damage, but the US solar industry is one bright spot and its offshore wind activities are another. Shell also supports the EU’s drive for green hydrogen, so keep an eye on it.
Ferrari Hearts also has solid oxide fuel cells
Other interesting innovations bring Bloom Energy back to the market CleanTechnica map.
Last week, the company announced that it was installing a 1-megawatt solid oxide fuel cell at Ferrari’s Maranello plant in Italy, apparently to support the iconic carmaker’s plans for expansion.
“The partnership with Ferrari, a global leader in the luxury and automotive sectors for 75 years, marks Bloom’s entry into the European Union and Italy and is the first step towards potentially larger projects between the two companies,” Bloom said.
“The highly efficient Bloom Energy platform converts fuels such as hydrogen, biogas or natural gas into clean electricity without combustion. Thanks to the Bloom solid oxide platform, Ferrari is expected to be able to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions at its manufacturing plant while releasing cost and sustainability benefits, ”they added.
If one megawatt sounds a little low, that’s right. The original goal is to provide 5% of Ferrari’s energy needs. However, as energy efficiency improvements, the new fuel cells will have a significant impact. Bloom and Ferrari expect to save 20% of the gas used by the plant’s existing cogeneration system and reduce local emissions.
There could be green hydrogen in the game. Bloom also indicated that its flexible Bloom Energy Server platform will allow “Ferrari to generate carbon-free electricity from hydrogen and other zero-carbon fuels, in support of the” growing Italian hydrogen economy, “which appears to be on the rise. EU focus on green hydrogen.
Interesting! Anyway, if older fossil fuel stakeholders like Shell are serious about saving the planet, they should move on. It’s getting hot here!
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Photo: Solid oxide fuel cells courtesy of Ceres.
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