The quest for sustainable and environmentally friendly industrial practices has led to innovative collaborations, and one such project is spearheaded by the Bay Hydrogen Hub consortium in the UK. Comprising EDF Energy, Heidelberg UK, the National Nuclear Laboratory, and Vulcan Burners, the consortium aims to transform the asphalt production industry through the power of hydrogen. At the heart of this transformation is FuelCell Energy, Inc., which has been contracted for its hydrogen production technology.
The project’s objective is clear: to explore the feasibility of using hydrogen to decarbonize asphalt production, a sector known for its significant carbon footprint. Traditional asphalt production relies heavily on fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative, supported by the UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, is set to disrupt the status quo.
FuelCell Energy, Inc., known for its expertise in fuel cell technology, is taking a pioneering step in the world of hydrogen production. At the core of this endeavor is FuelCell Energy’s 1-Megawatt Solid Oxide Electrolyzer Cell (SOEC). This technology holds the potential to revolutionize the way hydrogen is produced, with a focus on efficiency and sustainability.
What sets the SOEC apart is its ability to produce hydrogen from nuclear power sources. Nuclear power plants generate not only electricity but also waste heat. This waste heat, which is typically underutilized, can be harnessed to enhance the efficiency of the SOEC. This results in a cost advantage, making the hydrogen production process more economically viable.
FuelCell Energy’s Vice President of Business Development, Andrea Miserocchi, emphasized the efficiency of SOEC compared to other low-temperature electrolysis systems like alkaline and PEM. SOEC outperforms these systems by producing up to 35% more hydrogen for the same power input. In practical terms, this efficiency translates to significant cost savings. With electricity costs at 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, using FuelCell Energy’s SOEC can result in $1 to $1.50 lower hydrogen production costs per kilogram.
The Bay Hydrogen Hub project envisions a greener future for asphalt production. Here’s how it works: FuelCell Energy’s SOEC will be integrated into the Nuclear Power Plant in Heysham, located in Northwest England. The idea is to leverage nuclear-generated heat and electricity to produce hydrogen in bulk.
This hydrogen will then be distributed to various asphalt production sites via high-volume tankers. This method not only reduces the carbon footprint of the asphalt industry but also addresses the challenge of transporting hydrogen to dispersed locations.
The UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has allocated £6.1 million ($7.4 million) for the Bay Hydrogen Hub project. This funding, matched by project partners, is part of the UK government’s £1 billion ($1.2 billion) Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP). The NZIP aims to support low-carbon technologies and systems that contribute to a sustainable future.
In the coming months, project partners will work on integrating FuelCell Energy’s electrolyzer system into the hydrogen generation and compression station. Additionally, they will scope and estimate the necessary work at the Heysham Nuclear Power Plant. The project’s future will be determined based on these developments.
FuelCell Energy’s partnership with the Bay Hydrogen Hub consortium represents a significant stride towards decarbonizing the asphalt industry and embracing sustainable practices in one of the world’s most carbon-intensive sectors. As this project unfolds, it could serve as a model for other industries seeking to reduce their environmental impact and transition to cleaner, more efficient energy sources.