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SOPHIA Report Summary

Project ID: 621173
Funded under: FP7-JTI
Country: Netherlands

Periodic Report Summary 1 - SOPHIA (Solar integrated pressurized high temperature electrolysis)

Project Context and Objectives:
Hydrogen and other fuels are expected to play a key role as energy carrier for the transport sector and as energy buffer for the integration of large amounts of renewable energy into the grid. Therefore the development of carbon lean technologies producing hydrogen at reasonable price from renewable or low CO2 emitting sources like nuclear is of utmost importance. High temperature steam electrolysis (so-called HTE or SOE for Solid Oxide Electrolysis) is most promising, since less electricity is required to dissociate water at high temperature, the remaining part of the required dissociation energy being added as heat, available at a lower price level. In addition, high temperature co-electrolysis, a joint electrolysis of CO2 and H2O offers the possibility to recycle CO2 producing syngas (H2+CO). Syngas is the standard intermediate for the subsequent production of methane or other gaseous or liquid fuels after an additional processing step. The SOPHIA project covers these aspects.
A 3 kWe-size pressurized HTE system, coupled to a concentrated solar energy source will be designed, fabricated and operated on-sun for proof of principle. Second, it will prove the concept of co-electrolysis at the stack level while operated also pressurized. The achievement of such targets needs key developments that are addressed into SOPHIA.
Further, SOPHIA identifies different “power to gas” scenarios of complete process chain (including power, heat and CO2 sources) for the technological concept development and its end-products valorisation. A techno-economic analysis will be carried out for different case studies identified for concepts industrialization and a Life Cycle Analysis with respect to environmental aspects according to Eco-indicator 99 will be performed.

Project Results:
The aim of the SOPHIA project is to develop a solar-powered High Temperature Electrolysis system, and develop technology for co-electrolysis.
A first market analysis has been executed showing the constraints, market potential, and outlook. It shows that for systems producing hydro-carbons the availability of CO2 is not limiting, but the solar power is. It has been identified that the market potential for products made using a solar-powered HTE system is very large. Changing regulations will allow the introduction of renewable methane, methanol, and hydrogen as advanced biofuels in the mobility market. The hydrogen consumption by industry is very large and in addition grid injection of hydrogen and renewable methane presents a strong potential in Europe.
In view of the needed solar flux at five possible locations in southern Europe different concepts of a solar-powered HTE-system have been studied. Based on these concepts the specifications of large scale systems are being set up. For hydrogen production for mobility applications the size of a system will be such that it produces 400 kg H2/d. For industrial use the size will equivalent to a production volume of 4000 kg H2/d. The different CSP technologies have been identified regarding their suitability for integration with HTE. Flow charts of the coupling of the CSP technologies to the steam electrolysis have been generated for a scaled-up hydrogen production plant, especially for a Direct Steam Generation plant, a pressurized air solar plant and for a Molten Salt Power plant. The simulations of these three solar plants have been carried out for the two scenarios pre-cited (mobility application and industrial use).
In parallel a more general approach is used to analyse solar-driven high-temperature electrolysis systems relating costs to efficiency. The first results indicate that a system including a PV-system might be beneficial.
The technology developed within SOPHIA will be prototyped on a 3 kW-scale. The specifications of the prototype system have been defined, a Process Flow Diagram is made and the system is modelled. Subsequently a P&ID is developed. Sizing, designing and manufacturing of the different system components is on-going. The system is designed for operation at 15 bar, and will be tested at HyGear. The complete system, comprising of the HTE stack-subsystem and solar receiver will be tested at the Solar Simulator at DLR. For safety reasons the system will be tested at 4 bar.
The SOE-stack developed within the system is based on an atmospheric design. Components have been adapted for operation at high pressure. A self-clamping system has been developed.
Various models are being developed and validated using electrochemical experiments as well as various microstructural analyses. The modelling results have led to recommendations for the improvement of the oxygen electrode, changing the dispersion of the two phases in the oxygen electrode functional layer. An improved performance on cell level has been shown.
A new large area stack design, so-called “large size stack” that is better suited for large power requirements of SOE applications is being developed. It includes cells of larger active area (> 200 cm²) and an optimised flow field and gas feed concept. A first single repeat unit (SRU) has been prototyped and tested on a dedicated test bench. The initial tests are done in fuel cell mode;
Various cell, SRU, and stack tests have been done in electrolysis and co-electrolysis mode. At atmospheric pressures a short stack has operated for 1500h without degradation. A performance mapping in steam and co-electrolysis mode has been done, identifying the best operating conditions. At elevated pressure, a SoA cell has been tested at 10 bar, providing data for the model validation.
The solar interface is an important component of the system, it collects the solar energy and uses it to produce steam. Two designs have been under investigation both experimentally as well as theoretically using modelling, a multi-tubular parallel flow solar receiver and a spiral reactor. The latter has been chosen for the application.

Potential Impact:
The project has the following expected results:
1. The identification of different “power to gas” scenarios of complete process chain including power, heat and CO2 sources.
2. A first demonstration of a solar powered pressurized high temperature electrolyser system.
3. Improved materials for SOE stacks
4. Cells and stacks for co-electrolysis
5. A new stack design with enlarged active area

The “power-to-gas” scenario’s will enable the increase of the penetration of new renewables into the power generation system. Using the Sophia technology hydrogen will be produced via electrolysis at a high efficiency, but also syngas (H2+CO) via co-electrolysis. This syngas can be transformed in other fuels like methane with additional transformation steps. This synthetic methane can be introduced in the existing network making its transport easy, without additional infrastructure cost. That means that not only CO2 emissions are avoided for producing this new fuel from renewable energy but also CO2 waste streams from fossil or biomass related processes can be recycled and highly efficiently utilized.
Changing regulations will allow the introduction of renewable methane, methanol, and hydrogen as advanced biofuels in the mobility market. So, the products from the SOPHIA technology can find their into the mobility market.
The enhancement of high temperature pressurized electrolysis which is the most energy efficient compared to low temperature electrolysis technologies, within the SOPHIA project, will increase the opportunity to deploy large scale hydrogen and syngas production. This will help Europe reach its objectives for 2020 and 2050.
The improvement of stack, operability at high pressure and the enlarging of the active area will advance the general level of the SOE and SOFC technology and be a step towards the deployment of SOE and co-SOE at large scale. These improvements are supported by model development and modelling activities, which also can be used for different applications.
Deployment of the SOPHIA technology will also have social and policy benefits. A reduction of emissions can be reached, the competitiveness of Europe and especially the SME’s involved in the project will be improved. The carbon dioxide emitting industry can benefit, as CO2 can be treated as a feedstock,

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Reported by

HyGear B.V.
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