The US Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office has granted Cummins $5 million for the automation of solid oxide electrolyzer cell (SOEC) and stack assembly.
This initiative adds to the company’s efforts as a pioneer in green hydrogen technology and a leader in alternative energy.
Cummins’ three-year initiative seeks to automate the manufacturing of SOECs in order to increase the efficiency of electrolyzer system production while lowering capital costs and easing the hydrogen economy’s scale-up.
The Biden Administration’s commitment to addressing the climate issue, as well as Cummins’ own sustainability plan, includes scaling clean hydrogen production and technologies that use it.
“We think green hydrogen will be crucial to a decarbonized future, particularly for difficult-to-abate sectors,” Amy Davis, Vice President and President of Cummins New Power, stated. “To achieve ambitious climate objectives and substantially decrease greenhouse gas emissions, we must invest now in expanding electrolyzer manufacturing and green hydrogen generation to establish a sustainable zero-emissions environment. Rapid innovation like this will hasten the energy transition in the United States and throughout the world.”
Electrolyzers use a process called electrolysis to convert water into hydrogen. SOECs are one of three types of electrolyzers, each of which performs differently depending on the electrolyte used to speed up the electrolysis process. Alkaline electrolyzers utilize an electrolyte solution, such as potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide combined with water, whereas proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers use a solid polymer electrolyte. Cummins produces both PEM and alkaline electrolyzers at the moment.
SOECs, which employ a solid ceramic electrolyte, are the third type of electrolyzer. SOECs run at significantly greater temperatures than PEM and alkaline electrolyzers, making them more efficient, especially when used in conjunction with industrial operations that use steam or high-grade heat. As a result, SOECs might be a useful tool in attempts to decarbonize industrial sectors like steel manufacturing and e-fuels like ammonia.
When an electrolyzer is fueled by renewable energy sources like wind, sun, or hydro, “green” hydrogen is produced. This carbon-free fuel source may be employed in a wide range of applications and industries.
The Cummins project aims to automate the construction of an SOEC stack with little direct worker input, higher cell throughput, and a 100% quality control check. After successful development, the automation idea should be able to produce more than 100 MW of electrolyzer capacity.
The DOE is investing $52.5 million in 31 initiatives to promote next-generation clean hydrogen technology. The Cummins project is one of 19 linked to hydrogen and fuel cell research and development that have been funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The DOE has allocated $5 million to the Cummins initiative, making it the largest of the 19 programs.
These programs also assist the DOE’s recently announced Hydrogen Energy Earthshot, which aims to lower the cost of clean hydrogen and speed up breakthroughs. All 31 initiatives aim to close technological gaps in hydrogen generation, storage, distribution, and usage technologies, paving the path for the power sector’s decarbonization by 2035.
Cummins’ project grant is in addition to other DOE funding for the development of a high-power density inverter, demonstrating the company’s pioneering work to identify new methods to cut emissions across global power and energy solutions.