Nov 7, 2023 | Marine fuel & lubricant news

Carbon emission reduction technology company Topsoe, ULC-Energy, a nuclear energy development and consultancy company, and Rolls-Royce SMR, which delivers nuclear Small Modular Reactor (SMR) solutions, have signed a memorandum of intent (MoI) to investigate the production of hydrogen based on Topsoe’s Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell (SOEC) technology along with electricity and heat from an SMR nuclear power plant.

Hydrogen produced based on nuclear will have significantly lower carbon intensity compared to conventional hydrogen and can therefore contribute to lowering global greenhouse gas emissions in hard to abate industries including long-distance transportation such as shipping.

Sundus Cordelia Ramli, Topsoe CCO Power-to-X, said: “We’re excited to investigate the potential of hydrogen from nuclear SMRs and our SOEC electrolysis technology together with ULC-Energy and Rolls-Royce SMR. With our SOEC technology, we can produce more hydrogen relative to influx of renewable power input when compared to competing electrolysis technologies. To enable net zero by 2050, we need to look into all possible technologies, and we’re confident that our electrolysis technology will be one of the key components in the race for net-zero.”

Dirk Rabelink, CEO ULC-Energy, said: “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.”

Harry Keeling, Rolls-Royce SMR Head of Industrial Markets, said: “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.”

Nuclear energy combined with SOEC technology has the potential to produce hydrogen more cheaply than alternative electrolysis processes because:

  1. The electrolysis takes place at a high temperature, which means that less electricity is needed to produce hydrogen;
  2. The nuclear power plants can produce energy on average up to 95% of the time, significantly higher than alternative variable energy sources;
  3. 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. This is expected to be a competitive solution compared to alternatives, like long duration energy storage solutions or hydrogen combustion for electricity generation. The cooperation will include a valuation of the operational flexibility of the Rolls-Royce SMR/Topsoe SOEC combination in the future energy market.

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