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Development and validation of high power and impurity tolerant fuel cell systems ready to run on industrial quality dry hydrogen


EU is a world leader in fuel cell technology. Fuel cells “made in Europe” have undergone a successful development and the different types of FC driven devices, mainly in the power range up to 20 kWe, are on the way to deployment in multiple stationary power markets. The EU automotive industry is on the cutting edge of development of hydrogen fuelled heavy duty vehicles, which however are operated with high purity hydrogen and have thus less requirements on longevity.

Development of high power range fuel cell systems projects CISTEM[[]], DEMOSOFC[[]], ComSos[[]], GRASSHOPPER[[]]) as well as fuel flexibility towards the blends with hydrogen (project SO-FREE[[]]) have been already addressed by previous EU funded projects paving the way for this actual next step : efficient and reliable high power output systems operating on industrial quality hydrogen. The coming “green” hydrogen economy however, requires highly efficient and flexible power generators in the power range 100 kW to 1 MW and that are able to operate with industrial quality dry hydrogen (95% pure). The generators in this power range are required for decarbonisation of maritime, aviation and other sectors, including the energy supply for critical infrastructure (prime power), charging stations for local electrical vehicle fleets, and idling, cold ironing, and ground operation.

This topic aims to bridge the power gap between small stationary and MW installations, by developing and validating a building block in the shape of a renewable hydrogen fuelled fuel cell system (of at least 100 kW), which can be customised for various applications, have a modular design and be impurity tolerant. The duration of the validation should be at least 5,000 hours. This building block should be able to operate at any location having access to any renewable hydrogen supply sources underground storage facilities initially used for natural gas storage, natural gas grid enabled to transport hydrogen as well as dedicated hydrogen grid. Moreover, the durable and flexible (full and partial load) operations of a ≥ 100 kW fuel cell system with industrial quality dry hydrogen (95% pure) should be also explored. Ability of operation on a second type of fuel or hydrogen blends may be included too. The validation should be performed for use case cold ironing or ground power supply at the site, where industrial quality dry hydrogen fuel without blending is available.

The following activities should be within the scope of this topic:

  • Hydrogen fuelled system design and development utilising existing fuel cell stack manufacturing technologies;
  • Analysis of impurities in hydrogen coming from renewable hydrogen generators, storage and other sources (expected impurities to be considered are CO, odorants, CH4, N2, CO2, ethane and propane with total content up to 5%) and development of impurity-tolerant system;
  • Quantification of degradation in fuel cells and BoP components, and the effect of operation parameters on degradation at different impurity level and operational cycles;
  • Risk assessment of safety aspects in relation to the future certification of the system and techno-economical assessment for a selected application;
  • System operation with commercially available and affordable hydrogen with major impurities/contaminants including state of health monitoring;
  • Dynamic modelling of system performance on hydrogen and hydrogen blends (if reasonable for the application selected) and system dynamic load and transient behaviour operation according to the end-user load profile(s) for selected application(s).

Efficient heat extraction and re-use may be addressed to increase total system efficiency. The utilisation of existing but not commercially available single stack with considerably increased power output, robustness etc. in comparison to the state-of-the-art technology (e.g. 20 kWe for SOFC, 120 kWe for PEMFC) may be considered as a cost-effective path to higher power output units in parallel to utilisation of commercially available stacks.

Extraction of hydrogen from different hydrogen carriers is not in the scope of this topic. Consortia are expected to gather comprehensive expertise from the EU research and industrial community to ensure broad impact by addressing the abovementioned items. A participation of end user(s) for the selected system application is expected.

Proposals are expected to address sustainability and circularity aspects.

Activities developing test protocols and procedures for the performance and durability assessment of electrolysers and fuel cell components proposals should foresee a collaboration mechanism with JRC (see section ""Collaboration with JRC""), in order to support EU-wide harmonisation. Test activities should adopt the already published EU harmonised testing protocols[[]] to benchmark performance and quantify progress at programme level.

Activities are expected to start at TRL 3 and achieve TRL 5 by the end of the project - see General Annex B.

The JU estimates that an EU contribution of maximum EUR 4.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately.

The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter of the Clean Hydrogen JU 2023 Annual Work Plan and in the General Annexes to the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023–2024 which apply mutatis mutandis.