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Solid Oxide Electrolysis: A Technology Status Assessment

November 15, 2023 Category: Technology Work Area: Zero-Carbon Fuels

Global efforts to decarbonize are expected to create a strong demand for hydrogen produced through clean electricity-powered electrolyzers. The high-operating temperature of solid oxide electrolyzer cell technology gives it efficiency advantages that could help meet this demand for clean hydrogen in industrial processes. This report provides a summary assessment of solid oxide electrolyzer cell systems (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.