Partners Aim to Build Production Capacity for 1GW/Year of PEM Electrolysis Systems

September 01, 2019 by Paul Shepard

ITM Power announced funding from the UK Government for the Gigastack feasibility study with Ørsted and Element Energy. The project funding is for the feasibility phase leading, if successful, to the opportunity to bid for further funding for the implementation.

Gigastack funded by the BEIS Hydrogen Supply Competition, will demonstrate the delivery of bulk, low-cost and zero-carbon hydrogen through gigawatt-scale polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysis, manufactured in the UK. Pictured above is an Ørsted off-shore windfarm similar to the one that will power the electrolyzers.

The project aims to dramatically reduce the cost of electrolytic hydrogen through:

  • Development of a new 5MW stack module design to reduce material costs.
  • A new semi-automated manufacturing facility with an electrolyzer capacity of up to c. 1GW/year to increase throughput and decrease labor costs.
  • Deployment of very large scale and hence low cost 100MW+ electrolyzer systems using multiple 5MW units.
  • Innovations in the siting and operation of these large electrolyzers to exploit synergies with large GW scale renewable energy deployments.

The deployment of PEM electrolyzers on such a large scale has not been possible to date, as it requires low-cost stack modules which are easily integrated into larger electrolyzer systems, and much larger automated manufacturing facilities (the largest electrolyzer factories globally are capable of less than 30MW of capacity output per annum).

ITM Power’s proposed innovations in stack design and manufacturing techniques will address these issues and reduce the cost of installing an electrolyzer such that the capital cost contribution to the eventual cost of hydrogen becomes less significant, being dominated by the cost of electricity.

Ørsted will demonstrate the synergy between GW scale offshore wind energy deployments and hydrogen that will enable the continued decarbonization through renewables and a continued cost out of offshore wind power projects.

This project brings together; ITM Power a developer and provider of world-class hydrogen systems with 16 years of experience; Ørsted, the global leader in offshore wind; and Element Energy, a low carbon, sustainability and consumer behavior consultancy and engineering practice with 15 years of experience in initiating and analyzing hydrogen technology projects.

In Phase One (feasibility), ITM Power will develop the designs and finalize the material requirements to deliver a low-cost 5MW stack. ITM Power will also refine concepts to maximize the throughput of the proposed semi-automated manufacturing facility to meet the demands of bulk hydrogen supply. Ørsted will investigate potential synergies between offshore wind farms and electrolyzers to identify scenarios that can provide affordable electricity and a sufficient load factor to allow economic operation of the electrolyzers.

Finally, Element Energy will conduct market analysis of potential end users, explore business models for the operation of large electrolyzers in the energy system and define a roll-out strategy for the first 100MW electrolyzers.

In Phase Two, the 5MW stack would be built and tested both in-house and in a representative wind-hydrogen scenario. Construction of the semi-automated manufacturing facility would also begin. Finally, the business case for large electrolyzers would be refined, enabling commercialization. This project is a unique opportunity to develop green hydrogen production for the UK and establish the country as a center of excellence in electrolytic technology. A portfolio of solutions is required to ensure reliable volumes of hydrogen and security of supply and this study will advance the development of green electrolytic hydrogen.

Climate Change Minister Lord Duncan said: “Using the power of hydrogen could help cut emissions, create jobs and make industrial processes cleaner and greener, benefiting the whole economy as we work towards net zero by 2050. “This innovative project from Ørsted and ITM Power will help our efforts to roll out hydrogen at scale by the 2030s – a crucial step towards the end of the UK’s contribution to global warming.”

Matthew Wright, UK Managing Director at Ørsted, said: “We must continue taking urgent action to limit the damaging effects of climate change. The UK already leads the world in deploying renewable energy and accelerating the use of new technologies, such as green hydrogen, has a crucial role to play in decarbonizing industrial processes.

“We’ve seen the cost of offshore wind reduced dramatically thanks to industry and government working together, and I hope this project can be the start of a similar journey with green hydrogen.”

Anders Christian Nordstrøm, Vice President for Hydrogen at Ørsted, said: “Combining renewable power with flexible green hydrogen production is a key part of decarbonizing energy systems across Europe and ultimately creating a world that runs entirely on green energy.

“Hydrogen production by electrolysis is a technology with great potential and this Gigastack project is an important step forward as we look to reduce costs and make green hydrogen a viable solution for the UK’s energy transformation. It is great to have this support from the UK Government for the project.”

Dr Graham Cooley, CEO, ITM Power said: “The Gigastack Project seeks to significantly lower the cost of producing green hydrogen by scaling the individual electrolyzer stacks and the production process to 1GW (1,000 MW) of electrolysis per annum. We are delighted to be working on this important initiative, backed by the UK Government, with Ørsted the largest supplier of offshore wind in the UK.”