Research & Development

Clean Hydrogen / US DOE To Test Electrolysis Technology Powered By Nuclear

By David Dalton
21 May 2021

US DOE To Test Electrolysis Technology Powered By Nuclear
Idaho National Laboratory will test Bloom Energy’s electrolysers. Courtesy INL.
The US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory will collaborate with California-based Bloom Energy on a project to produce clean hydrogen using solid-oxide, high-temperature electrolysis technology powered by nuclear energy.

Bloom Energy said it had signed an agreement with IINL to independently test the use of nuclear energy to create clean hydrogen through Bloom Energy’s electrolyser technology. Testing is due to begin by the end of this year

Carbon-free hydrogen is obtained through electrolysis that is powered by nuclear generation. When the electric grid has ample power, rather than ramping down power generation, the electricity generated by nuclear plants can be used to produce cost-effective hydrogen in support of the burgeoning hydrogen economy.

The electrolysis technology developed by Bloom Energy converts water or steam into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be injected into the natural gas pipeline, stored and used for power generation with a fuel cell at a later time, dispensed to fuel cell vehicles, or used by industrial processes that consume large amounts of hydrogen.

Bloom Energy said the electrolyser has a higher efficiency than low-temperature electrolysis technologies, thereby reducing the amount of electricity needed to produce hydrogen. The steam supplied to the electrolysers can also be generated by the thermal energy produced by a nuclear power plant, bolstering the overall efficiency of hydrogen production.

INL will test Bloom Energy’s electrolysers at a laboratory in Idaho where researchers can simulate steam and load following conditions as if it were already integrated with a nuclear power station. These simulations will provide the opportunity to model operations in a controlled environment.

“The high-temperature electrolysers take advantage of both the thermal and the electrical power that are available at nuclear power plants,” said Tyler Westover, the hydrogen and thermal systems group lead at INL. “This expands the markets for nuclear power plants by allowing them to switch between sending power to the electrical grid and producing clean hydrogen for transportation and industry energy sectors.”

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