UK-based Rolls-Royce SMR and Sumitomo Corporation have conducted a joint feasibility study that demonstrates the potential of Rolls-Royce small modular reactors (SMRs) in enabling the production of low-carbon hydrogen.
The study, based on real-world data, examined the use of heat and power generated by the Rolls-Royce SMR to power electrolysers for hydrogen production. It concluded that hydrogen production powered by a Rolls-Royce SMR offers the greatest overall advantage when considering factors such as cost, availability, and carbon emissions, compared to other available sources.
The Rolls-Royce SMR design is a 470MWe factory-built reactor based on a small pressurized water reactor. Its compact footprint and modular design make it suitable for co-location with energy-intensive industrial processes, including hydrogen production. The reactor’s thermal output can be harnessed to enhance the overall efficiency of the hydrogen production cycle, particularly when using Solid Oxide Electrolytic Cell (SOEC) technology. The design has successfully completed the first step of the UK’s Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and is expected to complete the second step by July 2024.
Harry Keeling, Rolls-Royce SMR’s Head of Industrial Markets, highlighted the versatility of the Rolls-Royce SMR, stating that its ability to deliver large quantities of low-carbon, always-on power while being flexible enough to be located close to industrial sites is one of its major strengths. He emphasized that low-cost hydrogen production is a crucial step in decarbonizing society as a whole.
Sumitomo Corporation will utilize the findings of the feasibility study to support site suitability evaluations and further explore the potential of integrating Rolls-Royce SMRs with clean hydrogen production facilities in the UK.
The integration of Rolls-Royce SMRs into hydrogen production has the potential to revolutionize the low-carbon hydrogen sector. By leveraging the reliable and efficient power output of the SMRs, the production of hydrogen can be decarbonized, enabling the transition to a cleaner energy landscape. The use of SMRs offers advantages in terms of scalability, flexibility in siting, and potential cost-effectiveness, making it an attractive solution for meeting the growing demand for low-carbon hydrogen.
However, there are potential challenges and considerations that need to be addressed. These include regulatory and licensing requirements, public acceptance and perception of nuclear energy, waste management, and ensuring the safety and security of SMR facilities. It is essential to conduct thorough assessments and engage stakeholders to address these challenges and build confidence in the deployment of SMRs for hydrogen production.
The completion of the feasibility study and the ongoing progress in the UK’s Generic Design Assessment process are positive developments that pave the way for the commercialization of Rolls-Royce SMRs and their integration into clean hydrogen production facilities. If successfully implemented, this technology could play a significant role in achieving decarbonization goals and driving the transition to a sustainable and low-carbon future.