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Game changer in high temperature steam electrolysers with novel tubular cells and stacks geometry for pressurized hydrogen production

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GAMER (Game changer in high temperature steam electrolysers with novel tubular cells and stacks geometry for pressurized hydrogen production)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2020-12-31

In the GAMER project, we focus on the demonstration of an innovative, low-cost and modular hydrogen production technology utilising tubular proton conducting ceramic cells and their inherent advantages for steam electrolysis. High temperature electrolysis (HTE) can potentially replace fossil fuel energy input with renewable electricity for the generation of hydrogen, for example in refineries and chemical industries, whereby available (waste) heat from the plant could improve the efficiency of the electrolysis process. The main objective of GAMER is to design, build and operate for 2000 hours in relevant environment a low cost 10 kW proton ceramic conducting based electrolyser system delivering at least 30 bar output dry hydrogen using standard industry components for balance of plant (BoP) for efficient thermal management with renewable, heat sources and steam available in industrial plants.
In GAMER the work has focused on establishing a multi scale multi-physics modelling platform to optimize the design of the electrolyser system (see Figure 1). This modelling framework addresses materials, electrochemistry and flows spanning from cells, SEUs, electrolyser and BoP. It is implemented as an excel tool (GES.VI) and used to dimension the 10kW prototype considering energy balance and power demands of each component, with experimental data sets for materials, cells and SEUs performance collected in the project eroom. The prototype system consists of the SEUs integrated in racks in a hot box and a testing rig with BoP. The blueprints of the electrolyser system are available. A HAZOP exercise has been performed to validate the design with respect to HAZards and OPerational aspects. The testing rig has been built during the second period of the project and delivered to CSIC. The SEU design is based on single tube-in-shell configuration and the production is being established at laboratory scale with several SEUs delivered to the project for performance evaluation.
Dedicated protocols for pre-qualification of KET components, cells and assemblies of SEUs have been established and are operated on these components to monitor yield of production and ensure safety of operation. Electrochemical testing of tubular cells using composite BGLC/BZCY steam electrodes and SEUs has been conducted showing a good transfer of manufacturing from cells to SEUs configuration.
By M36, 13 SEUs have been supplied for testing in high pressure operation (up to 10 bar), with 6 of these enabling to collect reliable data sets. These data enabled to validate the manufacturing scaling up from short cells to long cells to SEUs. High faradaic efficiency ranging from 75-80% has been obtained at 600°C in electrolysis mode.
Process integration of PCE in various industrial plants and techno-economic study of steam electrolyser using various scenarios for supply of electricity, steam generation from various heat sources (renewables or waste), and for hydrogen pressurization has been conducted. This work involves GAMER partners, as well as GAMER advisory board members. Several scenarios show the benefits of integrating high temperature PCE in these schemes, and further dissemination of these results are planned. In parallel of this work, life cycle analysis focusing on these scenarios are conducted and will provide additional information to assess the environment benefits of PCE integration in these schemes.
Dissemination activities are overseen in a dissemination and communication plan, continuously monitored in the project. So far, the project has contributed with 19 oral and poster presentations in international conferences, 4 press releases, 1 flyer and one publication in Nature Materials.
Exploitation of innovations from the project are addressed in an exploitation plan, where dedicated strategies are being established based on stakeholder mappings, interactions with GAMER advisory board members, organization of workshops and preliminary identification of exploitation pathways for each partner (WP7). Several consultations have already been carried out with the AB members: Yara and Air Liquide to broaden the possibilities for integration of PCE technology in other industrial plants and scales than those represented by GAMER partners.
The proton ceramics offer several potential advantages for steam electrolysis. The direct production of dry hydrogen is a first advantage. Furthermore, the production of undiluted dry hydrogen (i) removes the risk of oxidation of Ni commonly used in H2-side electrodes (cathodes) of high temperature electrolysers and (ii) enables the direct use of the hot pressurized H2 produced, which helps in reaching high system and overall-plant energy efficiency. Additionally, the proton moves with a smaller activation energy than oxide ions enabling operation in an intermediate temperature range (400 – 700ºC), beneficial for efficient thermal coupling with renewable or waste heat. The PCE has also the benefit of a high pressure of hydrogen balanced with the sum of steam and oxygen, while the SOE must use a high pressure of solely oxygen to balance steam and hydrogen, making it more challenging to reach the same produced hydrogen pressure. In GAMER, we are currently focusing on demonstrating how these advantages can be leveraged in an innovative tubular SEU design. Innovation is brought in the project with the development of optimized H2O+O2 electrode and current collection system enabling designing a new SEU. A patent application is currently in progress to protect this invention.
Testing of the tubular cells in pressurized electrolysis mode have demonstrated performance and stability of operation beyond state-of-the-art for tubular proton ceramic based cells. Furthermore, it is expected that the new SEUs integrating the optimized material solutions will also achieve similar performance and stability, contributing to breakthrough development in HTE.
At present, there is no prototype of PCE stack developed worldwide. The design of the 10kW prototype already constitutes an important innovation of GAMER. Its building and testing in the second period of GAMER will generate important knowledge in PCE technology, which will have significant impact on stakeholders: this will result in an important proof-of-concept demonstration of the technology at TRL5. In parallel of this work, techno-economic studies will be carried to define relevant integration scenarios of PCE in industrial plants.
General overview of GAMER results generated by M18 from the technical WPs (WP1-WP6), with correspond
Overview of the activities carried out in GAMER during M1-M18 addressing the milestones (MS) of GAME