Bloom Energy teams up with Shell to look at large-scale hydrogen projects

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Bloom Energy is going to be working with oil and gas company Shell to study how the former’s proprietary hydrogen electrolyzer technology could offer decarbonization solutions. 

The two companies are aiming to develop replicable, large-scale solid oxide electrolyzer systems to generate hydrogen that will then be used by Shell – a technology that “could represent a potentially transformative moment for opportunities to decarbonize several hard to abate industry sectors,” according to K. R. Sridhar, founder, chairman, and CEO of Bloom Energy.

“Green” hydrogen is generally defined as hydrogen produced using renewable energy and water electrolysis technology, as opposed to other forms of hydrogen that are derived from fossil fuels. 

Bloom’s electrolyzers are manufactured in California and Delaware, and can be used for many industrial applications, such as refineries, ammonia, steel processing and cement plants, Rick Beuttel, the company’s vice president, hydrogen business, told pv magazine USA

“Currently in the United States, the industrial sector contributes a significant amount of carbon emissions. They need innovative new technologies to help them decarbonize some of their processes, where electrification is not readily available or even feasible,” Beuttel said. 

That’s where green hydrogen could come in. The American green hydrogen industry has seen strong policy support this year, due to its role in providing long-duration energy storage capabilities as well as potentially decarbonizing industries that would be hard to electrify. A report from the Deloitte Center for Sustainable Progress released last June took a closer look at the potential of green hydrogen to meet the demands of heavy industry, and found global market milestones of $642 billion by 2030 and $1.4 trillion by 2050.

However, green hydrogen production is expensive, said Beuttel, and government policies and  regulations help to enable the green hydrogen market and drive down production costs to provide solid business cases for companies to make investment decisions in green hydrogen projects.

In this context, Beuttel noted that Bloom Energy’s technology is 15% to 30% more efficient than competing, low-temperature technologies – and with electricity accounting for around 70% of the cost of producing green hydrogen, “solid oxide technology will make a meaningful improvement in driving down the cost of green hydrogen and helping to decarbonize heavy industry, transportation, and produce the liquid fuels of the future with no carbon footprint,” he said. 

Scaling up electrolyzer capacity will be a key part of growing the green hydrogen industry in the U.S.; a large chunk of electrolyzer production is currently outsourced to manufacturers overseas, experts say, and one of the key challenges to bringing more of that manufacturing capacity back to the U.S. is finding the capital needed to build infrastructure. 

Last May, Bloom Energy launched the world’s largest solid oxide electrolyzer installation at a research facility in California, a unit that the company says produces up to 25% more hydrogen per megawatt than other commercially demonstrated, lower temperature electrolyzers. The 4 MW electrolyzer system was installed and brought online in two months, and has the capability to produce over 2.4 metric tons per day of hydrogen.

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