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Demonstration of a large-scale (min. 20MW) electrolyser for converting renewable energy to hydrogen

The project should aim at demonstrating electrolyser technologies beyond actual state-of-the-art producing hydrogen with favourable economic conditions, e.g. upstream of the point a wind park is connected to the grid, when power prices are low, when additional revenue can be generated by providing high value grid balancing services and where the renewable character of the hydrogen can be valorised.
The scope of the project is:

  • To develop a new large-scale electrolyser of minimum 20 MW of sufficiently rapid response time (of the order of a few seconds) from hot standby mode. If connected to the grid, the installed power and operating regime should be duly justified to identify the advantages offered to the grid within the long-term business model. The hydrogen purity should meet the hydrogen market requirements. The output pressure shall be designed to fulfil, when possible, the required pressure for the hydrogen application targeted - including buffer storage needs if any - and reduce as far as possible the need for dedicated hydrogen compression units downstream;
  • To minimize the footprint of the electrolyser with a single balance of plant including all required electrolysis utilities such as water purification, power rectification with appropriate grid interfaces and hydrogen purification, process cooling, etc. for delivery to the proposed application sector. Industrial integration with certification attested by a Notified Body should be foreseen;
  • The electrolyser should be adapted to the conditions of its operating environment, thus minimizing requirement for operation and maintenance activities;
  • To demonstrate an energy consumption consistent with 2020 expectations of 52,8 kWh/kg at nominal power;
  • To demonstrate the economic benefits of the project for the selected application. The consortium should demonstrate revenues from commercial contracts with the chain stakeholders who value the renewable character of the hydrogen;
  • The proposal should provide the operating scenarios, the expected annual production, the use foreseen and a detailed business case analysis. The electrolyser and downstream systems must be installed and operated for a minimum period of three to four years;
  • Electrolyser systems will demonstrate a sufficient level of responsiveness to meet the Grid Services requirements;
  • The proposal must thus include a plan for use of the installation after the project.

It is expected that proposal will address any industrial sector that has not until now been supported by the FCH 2 JU, e.g. use of hydrogen in steel manufacturing or direct replacement of net hydrogen demand in refinery should be excluded. The power connection costs, building costs and the electricity costs for the commissioning phase are eligible for funding. Electricity costs during demonstration / business operation are not eligible. The results of a techno-economic assessment should be reported after each year of operation, including information on the individual cost and revenue streams related to the electrolyser.
TRL at start: 7 and TRL at end: 8.
Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) dedicated mailbox, which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD.
Test activities should collaborate and use the protocols developed by the JRC Harmonisation Roadmap (see section 3.2.B ""Collaboration with JRC – Rolling Plan 2018""), in order to benchmark performance of components and allow for comparison across different projects.

The maximum FCH 2 JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 11 million. This is an eligibility criterion – proposals requesting FCH 2 JU contributions above this amount will not be evaluated.
More than one project may be funded for different electrolyser technologies and/or different market applications (industrial sectors).
Expected duration: 5 to 6 years (including minimum 3 to 4 years of demonstration).

The increase of intermittent renewable electricity raises the need for more flexibility and energy storage in the power market. Falling costs of renewable power open the possibility to generate hydrogen at large scale from renewable power through electrolysis. Several sectors, including refineries, chemical industry, transport, and the natural gas sector are exploring the reduction of their CO2 footprint by incorporating large quantities of renewable hydrogen in their processes.
The challenge is to demonstrate a large-scale electrolyser converting renewable energy into renewable hydrogen for use in an end–market valorising the renewable character of the hydrogen. The electrolyser technology should be at a scale that can modularly be implemented to achieve large capacities (tens of MW), in view of reducing both investment (CAPEX) and operating costs (OPEX). It should be developed to operate flexibly to harvest maximum renewable power and provide grid-balancing services.

The challenges addressed by the project are:

  • Demonstrating & improving the current state-of-the-art of 10s of MW electrolyser technology by significantly lowering the operating costs; minimizing footprint and addressing scalability;
  • Provision of large quantities of green hydrogen on a commercial basis for application(s) that valorize(s) the renewable character of the hydrogen;
  • Demonstration of the working flexibility of the electrolyser on a commercial basis by harvesting renewable power and in the meanwhile offering grid balancing services;
  • Demonstration of future economic viability of the technology;
  • Operation of an electrolyser system in real life conditions.

The proposal is expected to demonstrate in an operational environment improved electrolysis technology at the 10s of MW scale, configured to attract revenues from grid services and/or power price opportunities in addition to the main business of providing bulk renewable hydrogen to an industrial scale hydrogen user.
The consortium will ensure that actions are included in the project to generate learning and reach KPI and commercial targets, such as:

  • Demonstrating feasible operation of large scale electrolysis and the use of the produced hydrogen in an application valorising the renewable character of the produced hydrogen;
  • Assessment and operational experience, including safety, of the contractual and hardware arrangements required to distribute and supply hydrogen to the specific industrial and/or transport market;
  • Perform techno-economic analysis of the performance of these systems;
  • Technical assessment of the suitability of the electrolyser equipment to operate in its expected environment and suggestion of best practices;
  • Evaluation of the environmental performance of the system in alignment with the recommendations of the CertifHy project [18] – with attention to the CO2 intensity of the hydrogen produced versus NG route, which should include an understanding of the CO2 impact of the grid services mode selected and CO2 footprint impact in the addressed hydrogen end-user markets;
  • Projections of the value and size of the markets addressed by provision of the services and supply to multiple hydrogen markets, not excluding the transport sector;
  • If relevant, assessment and operation experience of the contractual and hardware arrangements required to access the services and operate the electrolyser systems;
  • Assessment of the legislative and RCS implications of these systems and any issues identified in obtaining consents to operate the system;
  • Recommendations for policy makers and regulators on measures helping to maximise the value of renewable energy and stimulate the market for renewables-electrolyser systems.

Proposals should describe how learnings will be communicated and dissemination beyond the consortium (upon sanitation to protect business data), including those regions in Europe where large-scale electrolysis has not yet been demonstrated.

Footnote [18]:

Type of action: Innovation Action
The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 3.3 and in the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018– 2020 which apply mutatis mutandis.