Home>Industry News

Partners to study hydrogen production using Rolls-Royce SMR

(WNN) | Updated: 2023-11-06
2023-11-06 (WNN)

ULC-Energy of the Netherlands has signed an agreement with Denmark's Topsoe and the UK's Rolls-Royce SMR to jointly investigate the production of hydrogen using Topsoe's Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell (SOEC) technology with both electricity and heat produced by a Rolls-Royce SMR nuclear power plant.


How a Rolls-Royce SMR might look (Image: Rolls-Royce SMR)

The joint investigation will include a valuation of the operational flexibility of the Rolls-Royce SMR in combination with Topsoe's proprietary SOEC technology in the future energy market.

According to ULC-Energy, nuclear energy combined with SOEC technology has the potential to produce clean hydrogen more cheaply than alternative electrolysis processes. It says this is because: the electrolysis takes place at a high temperature, which means that less electricity is needed to produce hydrogen; nuclear power plants can produce energy on average up to 95% of the time, significantly higher than alternative variable energy sources; and nuclear energy can supply heat as well as electricity. By using heat directly, energy losses in the steam turbine can be avoided thus increasing the effective energy capacity of the nuclear power plant above its electric power rating.

Furthermore, the Rolls-Royce SMR nuclear power plant can, when required, switch to deliver power to the grid, providing back-up to variable power sources when these sources are not available. ULC-Energy said this is expected to be a competitive solution compared with alternatives, like long-duration energy storage solutions or hydrogen combustion for electricity generation.

"Hydrogen will play an increasingly important role in balancing future energy markets," said ULC-Energy CEO Dirk Rabelink. "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."

"At Topsoe, we are excited to be part of this study demonstrating the synergy between Topsoe's SOEC technology and nuclear. SOEC is a modular design that leverages high-temperature electrolysis that enables industrial-scale production of clean hydrogen using clean energy," said Topsoe Business Development Director Jack Carstensen. "When coupled with a heat-producing technology such as nuclear, SOEC allows for the lowest levelised hydrogen cost with the highest level of energy efficiency."

Harry Keeling, head of industrial markets at Rolls-Royce SMR, added: "The production of low-cost hydrogen is a critical step on the pathway to decarbonising 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."

In August 2022, Rolls-Royce SMR signed an exclusive agreement with ULC-Energy to collaborate on the deployment of Rolls-Royce SMR power plants in the Netherlands. ULC-Energy - established in 2021 and based in Amsterdam - aims to accelerate decarbonisation in the Netherlands by developing nuclear energy projects that efficiently integrate with residential and industrial energy networks in the country.

The formal planning phase was to start this year, and ULC's timeline sees site selection and contract negotiations taking place in 2024, with a formal licensing application the following year and construction of a first SMR unit beginning in 2027, with a start-up date in the 2030s.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News