Electrogenos ($1M for modern alkaline water electrolysis to produce low-cost green hydrogen)

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.

Working mechanism of a typical alkaline water electrolyzer.
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 Technology

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.

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