Dutch nuclear company ULC-Energy will collaborate with Topsoe and Rolls-Royce SMR to investigate the production of hydrogen using Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell (SOEC) technology and electricity and heat produced from an SMR nuclear power plant.

The partners will also investigate how the SMR nuclear power plant can deliver backup power to the grid, creating a viable alternative to long-duration energy storage or hydrogen combustion for electricity generation.

The joint investigation will include a valuation of the operational flexibility of the Rolls-Royce SMR/Topsoe SOEC combination in the future green energy market.

“Hydrogen will play an increasingly important role in balancing future energy markets. We expect nuclear energy, especially in combination with high-temperature electrolysis, to be able to produce zero-emission hydrogen competitively on a stand-alone basis.

“Additional value associated with the operational flexibility will further enhance the business case for this solution. We are particularly pleased that this study has been made possible by the support from a number of national and international companies” said Dirk Rabelink, CEO of ULC-Energy.

The investigation will be based on Topsoe’s SOEC technology, a compact stack built primarily from ceramic materials enclosed within a metal housing.

According to Jack H. Carstensen, business development director at Topsoe, SOEC leverages high-temperature electrolysis that enables industrial-scale production of clean hydrogen using renewable energy.

Said Carstensen in a statement, “Due to the nature of the intrinsic fast-reaction kinetics and optimized conductivity found in high-temperature electrolysis, Topsoe’s SOEC technology produces more hydrogen per total power input when compared to the alternatives of alkaline and PEM electrolysis. Additionally, when coupled with a heat-producing technology such as nuclear, SOEC allows for the lowest levelized hydrogen cost with the highest level of energy efficiency.”

Harry Keeling, Rolls-Royce SMR’s head of industrial markets, said: “The production of low-cost hydrogen is a critical step on the pathway to decarbonizing our wider society. This agreement with ULC-Energy and Topsoe is an exciting step toward unleashing the potential of the Rolls-Royce SMR as its ability to flexibly provide thermal and electrical energy supports a wide range of industrial applications, chief amongst these being the large-scale generation of low-cost hydrogen.”

Originally published in Power Engineering International.

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