Electrogenos, a UK hydrogen energy startup founded in 2022, develops an efficient high-temperature alkaline water electrolyzer using a platinum-free, porous, durable electrocatalyst for the production of low-cost green hydrogen. The company simplifies the electrolyzer stack and facilitates its automated operation. Additionally, the company uses a unique manufacturing process that reduces electrolyzer costs and factory deployment times.
Challenges: produce green hydrogen at a low cost
Green hydrogen energizing the path to net zero
Hydrogen (H₂) is a crucial component in the production of ammonia, which is a key ingredient in many fertilizers, plastics, and other essential products. The majority of the world’s hydrogen (over 60 million tons) is produced via steam methane reforming (SMR) process. This process requires a significant amount of energy input and contributes about 2% of global carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions. The SMR process emits between 5 and 9 tons of CO₂ per ton of hydrogen produced.
Hydrogen can also be produced through water electrolysis. Water electrolyzers typically include alkaline water electrolyzer (AWE), proton exchange membrane water electrolyzer (PEMWE), and solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOEC). If these electrolyzers use electric power from renewable energy sources, such as nuclear, solar, and wind, the hydrogen produced is referred to as “green hydrogen”. Green hydrogen can decarbonize hard-to-abate industries, such as steel manufacture, long-distance transportation, shipping, and aviation.
Green hydrogen is crucial for a carbon-neutral world.
Green hydrogen cost
The levelized cost of hydrogen (LCOH) is a variable that indicates how much it costs to produce 1 kg of hydrogen, taking into account the estimated costs of the investment required and the cost of operating the assets involved in its production.
Green hydrogen is not yet cost-competitive with SMR-produced hydrogen. The LCOH of gray hydrogen through SMR without carbon capture is below $1/kg, even assuming a natural gas price at $3.50/MMBtu. The LCOH of blue hydrogen produced through SMR with carbon capture ranges from $1.40/kg to $2.55/kg, depending on the technology used. The LCOH of green hydrogen is currently in the broad range of $3 – $7/kg, depending on several factors such as location, technology, and the cost of renewable energy.
However, it is anticipated that the LCOH of green hydrogen will decrease, making it cost-competitive with SMR-produced hydrogen. During the past two decades, the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for newly commissioned installations of PVs and onshore and offshore wind power decreased by 88%, 68%, and 60%, respectively. Technological advancements are anticipated to play a significant role in reducing the LCOH of green hydrogen.
Green hydrogen cost reduction
Modern alkaline water electrolysis currently provides the lowest LCOH among the three types of electrolyzers (proton exchange membrane water electrolysis and solid oxide electrolysis cells). They are highly efficient and able to handle the intermittent loads associated with renewable energy sources. Any improvement in energy efficiency of the alkaline water electrolyzer can further reduce the LCOH.
Alkaline water electrolyzer has two electrodes operating in a liquid alkaline electrolyte solution of potassium hydroxide (KOH) or sodium hydroxide (NaOH). A diaphragm separates the electrodes, prevents the product gasses from crossing, and transports the hydroxide ions (OH⁻) from one electrode to the other. The diagram below depicts the working mechanism of a typical alkaline water electrolyzer.
Increasing the operating temperature of the alkaline water electrolyzer is a simple way to improve its energy efficiency. A high operating temperature above 100 ºC increases the electrolyte’s conductivity and reaction kinetics. At such high temperatures, pressurization maintains the electrolyte in the liquid phase and reduces the costs associated with the downstream hydrogen compression. To improve the overall economics, the waste heat can be used directly in existing district heating networks.
Current high-temperature alkaline water electrolyzers are limited to 80–100 ºC. This limitation stems from the stability of diaphragm and catalyst. Therefore, it is necessary to improve the design of the electrolyzer stack and its components to achieve a high temperature alkaline water electrolyzer that operates above 100 ºC.
Electrogenos develops a high-temperature alkaline water electrolyzer which uses durable, platinum-free hydrogen electrocatalyst and low-cost fabrication approach to reduce the LCOH of green hydrogen.
The durable, platinum-free hydrogen electrocatalyst is made by electrical deposition. The electrocatalyst has a hierarchical porous structure, comprising both large and small pores. Large pores allow for rapid mass transport of the electrolyte, while small pores offer a larger surface area of catalytically active sites for hydrogen bubble nucleation. Such a hierarchical porous electrocatalyst increases the reaction rate, thereby enhancing the efficiency of the alkaline water electrolyzer. The hierarchical electrocatalyst has a cone shape, which helps eject bubbles that accumulate on electrodes. This is important to maintain the electrolyzer’s high efficiency.
Electrogenos designs the electrolyzer architecture capable of operating automatically at high temperatures and pressures. Electrogenos’ unique electrolyzer architecture reduces the number of stack components by a factor of three, facilitating fully automated operation.
The company also develops a unique manufacturing process that reduces electrolyzer costs and reduces factory deployment times. Electrogenos’ manufacturing process is based on soft-tooling, which is a flexible and scalable process that can be adapted to market needs.
Electrogenos Technology Applications
Electrogenos’s alkaline water electrolyzer produces green hydrogen, which has a variety of industrial applications.
Green hydrogen can be used as feedstock for chemical industries like the production of fertilizer, fuels, and plastics. To reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation sector, green hydrogen is being used as a fuel in cars, mining vehicles, trains, aircraft, lorries, buses, and maritime transport. Green hydrogen can also be used to decarbonize hard-to-abate industries, such as steel manufacture.
Electrogenos is developing the innovative alkaline water electrolyzers.
Electrogenos has raised a total of £1M in funding over 2 rounds:
Their latest funding was raised on Feb 23, 2023 from a Pre-Seed round.
Electrogenos is funded by 2 investors:
Augusto Bartolome is CEO.