Peregrine Hydrogen ($8M for energy-efficient hybrid water electrolyzer to produce valuable chemicals and low-cost green hydrogen for fertilizer production)

Peregrine Hydrogen, an American cleantech startup founded in 2023, develops an innovative electrolyzer technology for the production of both green hydrogen and valuable chemicals. Hydrogen is produced at a similar cost to the conventional steam methane reforming (SMR) method, making this technology a game-changer in the hydrogen production industry.

Challenges: produce green hydrogen at a low cost

Hydrogen (H₂) is a crucial chemical feedstock for the production of fertilizer, plastics, and other essential products that directly address the basic needs of human society. The majority of the world’s hydrogen (over 60 million tons) is produced via steam methane (CH₄) 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.

Green hydrogen is expensive

Green hydrogen is crucial for a carbon-neutral world. Green hydrogen is produced when electricity from renewable sources such as nuclear, solar, and wind is used to split water. Green hydrogen can decarbonize hard-to-abate industries, such as steel manufacture, long-distance transportation, shipping, and aviation. It can also be used to store renewable electricity seasonally.

However, green hydrogen is not yet cost-competitive with SMR-produced hydrogen. This is due to the high capital expenditure (CAPEX) and high operational expenditure (OPEX) of the present-day water electrolysis plants. The OPEX is by far the largest cost component, and it is dominated by the energy efficiency of the water electrolyzer and the cost of the input renewable electricity used to power it.

Producing 1 kilogram of hydrogen requires about 53 kWh of electricity by modern commercial water electrolysers operating at sub-megawatt scale. An electrolyzer with an energy efficiency of 83% consumes about 47.5 kWh of this total, while the engineering system consumes the remaining 5.5 kWh. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has set a 2050 target of below 42 kWh/kgH₂ for electrolysis cell energy consumption. Thus, any improvement in net energy efficiency reduces the levelized cost of hydrogen.

How to produce cost-effective green hydrogen

As depicted in the diagram below, a conventional water electrolysis consists of two half-reactions: the anodic oxygen evolution reaction (OER) and the cathodic hydrogen evolution reaction (HER).

The conventional water electrolyzer with a simple HER and an inherent sluggish kinetics of OER.
The conventional water electrolyzer with a simple HER and an inherent sluggish kinetics of OER.

The cathodic hydrogen evolution reaction is a simple two-electron process, whereas the anodic oxygen evolution reaction theoretically involves a four-electron process. Even with the development of anodic electrocatalysts, the inherent sluggish kinetics of OER requires a higher voltage and, consequently, an increase in the electricity input of water electrolyzers.

Oxygen gas produced at the anode has a low market value and is usually vented rather than captured for useful purposes. Moreover, the simultaneous production of oxygen and hydrogen gasses would cause gas to cross the membrane, raising safety concerns.

To address these issues, hybrid water electrolyzers that combine cathodic hydrogen evolution reactions with thermodynamically more favorable and value-added electrooxidation reactions have been investigated. As depicted in the diagram below, the hybrid water electrolyzers can reduce energy consumption, lower the cost of green hydrogen, and simultaneously produce valuable chemicals at the anode.

Energy-saving hybrid water electrolyzer with both HER and value-added electrooxidation reactions.
Energy-saving hybrid water electrolyzer with both HER and value-added electrooxidation reactions.

Peregrine Hydrogen Technology

Peregrine Hydrogen develops a hybrid water electrolyzer technology for the simultaneous production of green hydrogen and valuable chemicals. The company boasts its technology is a game-changer in the hydrogen production industry as its hydrogen is produced at a similar cost to the traditional steam methane reforming (SMR) method.

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