5 innovations for green hydrogen cost reduction

The business and scientific communities are bringing forward innovations designed to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of green hydrogen production. We look at five innovations announced in the last month.

  • Advanced Ionics and Hysata have both won vital growth funding this month
  • Each said the investments would help them test and scale up their systems
  • Scientists in Colorado, Sheffield and Tel Aviv have hailed other advances

Oil giant BP’s innovation arm BP Ventures last week led a $12.5m series A funding round in green hydrogen electrolyser technology firm Advanced Ionics.

The other investors in the round included Clean Energy Ventures, Mitusbishi Heavy Industries and GVP Climate, but it is BP that has garnered the headlines. The scale of the investment is minuscule for BP, which reported profits of $28bn in 2022. Even so, this has highlighted the activities in the business and scientific communities that are aimed at improving the efficiency and reducing the cost of green hydrogen.

In this article, we run down five innovations we have seen in the last week that their proponents said could help make the green hydrogen sector more competitive:

  1. BP leads $12.5m funding round in Advanced Ionics

Advanced Ionics has raised $12.5m to support initial deployments of its Symbion water electrolyser technology in heavy industry. The company said its technology uses low-temperature water vapour to produce hydrogen using 30% less electricity than typical green hydrogen electrolysers; and that the water vapour in its systems could come from heating systems already used in the industrial sector.

The company said this meant it could use less than 35kWh of power to produce a kilogram of green hydrogen, compared to more than 50kWh in existing systems. It said this could make green hydrogen available at scale for under $1 per kilogram. 

Advanced Ionics is currently working with Spanish oil giant Repsol on a series of pilot deployments for its technology, and is now planning to do likewise with BP.

“The results we’ve achieved in our testing along with early customer interest have indicated that we are an ideal technology provider for industrial customers looking to augment, expand or replace their existing hydrogen production facilities with green hydrogen,” said Chad Mason, chief executive at Advanced Ionics. New investment and interest from big-name backers will show if it can achieve its scale-up plans.

  1. Australian start-up wins $13.5m investment from ARENA

Australian start-up Hysata last week secured A$20.9m ($13.5m) backing from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to test its green hydrogen electrolysers at commercial scale at a manufacturing facility in Port Kembla, New South Wales. 

Hysata said its ‘capillary-fed electrolyser’ could transform the economics of green hydrogen by improving the efficiency of electrolysers from around 75% for existing commercial electrolysers to 95%. Hysata uses capillaries that are similar to delicate blood vessels in the human body to carry water to the electrolyser’s electrodes. By doing this, it says its technology stops air bubbles gathering around the electrodes and reducing efficiency.

After testing the technology in Port Kembla, Hysata will then deploy it at Stanwell’s Rockhampton power station in Queensland in 2025. After validation, its plan it to roll out the electrolysers in projects with headline capacity of 1GW or more.

Paul Barrett, chief executive at Hysata, said its electrolysers could produce green hydrogen at less than $1.50 per kilogram, which is needed to increase uptake of the renewably-produced fuel in hard-to-abate sectors.

  1. Colorado scientists develop ‘thermochemical’ approach

Scientists at University of Colorado last week announced they have found a more efficient way to produce green hydrogen than conventional methods. 

Traditionally, green hydrogen is made using electrolysis to split molecules of water into hydrogen and oxygen, but the Colorado scientists said they are working on a ‘thermochemical’ approach that uses iron-aluminate materials and the sun’s rays to conduct those reactions at high pressures. They said this could more than double the efficiency of green hydrogen production, and could be the first commercially-viable way to produce synthetic gas for use in petrol, diesel and kerosene.

Kent Warren, one of the study’s two lead authors, said he hoped it would open the way for transport fuels “derived from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide”. However, the technology is still at an early stage and far from commercial maturity.

  1. Sheffield steps up green hydrogen production for aviation

In the UK, scientists at the University of Sheffield last week said they were boosting green hydrogen production to be larger than any other UK facility; and added that it would help to support the rollout of more sustainable fuels in the aviation sector.

The university is using electrolysers from IMI Remosa to produce 140 normal cubic metres of green hydrogen per hour, which it would use to develop hydrogen-based fuels at its Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre. Sheffield researchers are also working with Virgin Atlantic on technology for the first sustainable transatlantic flight, which is due to take off on 28th November 2023.

Mohammed Pourkashanian, director at the university’s Energy Institute, said it was vital “to understand more about the possibilities and capabilities of green hydrogen” if the world is to achieve a “decarbonised future”.

  1. Tel Aviv researchers boost production with ‘sticky’ enzyme

Scientists at Israel’s Tel Aviv University reported last month that they had been able to create green hydrogen at 90% efficiency without carbon dioxide emissions. They wrote in journal Carbon Energy that this was due to an enzyme called hydrogenase that is usually able to produce hydrogen from sunlight via photosynthesis.

The researchers said they had been able to attach this enzyme to an electrode by using a water-based gel, which means it can be activated by electricity to produce green hydrogen at high efficiency levels.

Oren Ben-Zvi, senior research associate at the university, said: “We hope that in the future, it will be possible to employ our method commercially, to lower the costs, and to make the switch towards using green hydrogen in industry, agriculture, and as a clean energy source.”

There is no guarantee that any of the innovations in this article will be commercially successful, and this can only provide a snapshot of innovative research work in this part of the green hydrogen sector. But these breakthroughs give us confidence that the technology still has plenty of scope to reduce costs and boost efficiency.

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