Boston — A new report from Clean Air Task Force assesses the state of high-temperature solid oxide electrolyzer cell systems (SOECs) and finds that the technology is ready to deploy, but that production needs to scale.
“Global efforts to decarbonize are expected to create a strong demand for hydrogen produced through clean electricity-powered electrolyzers,” said Magnolia Tovar, Global Director for Zero-Carbon Fuels at CATF. “The high-operating temperature of SOEC technology gives it efficiency advantages that could help meet this demand for clean hydrogen in industrial processes.”
The report, Solid Oxide Electrolysis: A Technology Status Assessment, provides a summary assessment of SOECs including an overview of how the technology functions, its potential applications, and the current state of the SOEC manufacturing. It finds that:
- With access to an external source of process heat to generate steam, such as from ammonia, chemicals, and steel plants, SOECs gain a potential 20% electrical efficiency advantage over competing architectures.
- Most of the companies that are pursuing SOEC development have already completed pilot projects, and even put their technology into commercial operation with industrial partners.
- A critical hurdle to successful SOEC commercialization is scaling product offerings from small modules, with capacity in the single-digit megawatts, to large systems with capacities well into the hundreds of megawatts.
- The capability to manufacture SOECs is not a bottleneck to the wider deployment of this technology – in fact, gigawatt-scale manufacturing could be built up in 18 to 36 months.
- Wider SOEC deployment has been held back by the perception that the technology is immature and because demand for electrolyzers in general has been limited until recently.
“SOECs leverage external heat sources to increase the electrical efficiency of electrolysis,” said Ghassan Whakim, Production and Export Director for Zero-Carbon Fuels at CATF. “Provided that SOEC manufactures can successfully scale their products, the technology can position itself to be the preferred hydrogen generation technology at industrial sites with available process steam.”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that future hydrogen demand could soar from approximately 95 million tonnes per year at present to 430 million tonnes per year by 2050. Unfortunately, virtually all hydrogen produced today – more than 99% – is made from fossil fuels or uses fossil fuel energy inputs, without carbon abatement. As a result, it is carbon intensive.
Electrolysis powered by low-carbon electricity – which includes SOECs – is one of two main pathways for available for decarbonizing hydrogen production today, the other being production from natural gas with carbon capture and storage (at CO2 capture rates greater than 90%) and strict upstream methane controls.
Steve Reyes, Communications Manager, CATF, [email protected], +1 562-916-6463
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit catf.us and follow @cleanaircatf.