ULC-Energy has signed an agreement with Topsoe and Rolls-Royce SMR to jointly investigate the production of hydrogen using Topsoe’s solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) technology and both electricity and heat produced from a Rolls-Royce SMR nuclear power plant.

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

  • The electrolysis takes place at a high temperature, so less electricity is needed to produce hydrogen.
  • Nuclear power plants are available on average up to 95% of the time, significantly higher than alternative variable energy sources.
  • 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.

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

Topsoe’s SOEC technology is claimed to produce more hydrogen per total power input when compared to the alternatives of alkaline and PEM electrolysis. And 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, according to Jack H. Carstensen, Topsoe’s business development director.

Above: (R) Visualisation of a Rolls-Royce SMR plant; (L) Topsoe's Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell (SOEC) technology