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Idaho National Lab and Bloom Energy produce hydrogen at record rates

Bloom Energy Corporation revealed the preliminary results of its ongoing demonstration with Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the nation’s foremost nuclear energy research facility.

Bloom’s high-temperature electrolyzer produces hydrogen more effectively than other commercially available electrolyzers, including PEM and alkaline, after approximately 500 hours of full-load laboratory operation.

Bloom Energy’s solid oxide electrolyzer has been undergoing a variety of tests at INL’s Dynamic Energy Testing and Integration Laboratory, including steam and load simulations that replicate nuclear power station conditions. This is an important step in validating the electrolyzer’s full compatibility with a nuclear facility. Pilot results indicate that the Bloom Electrolyzer produces hydrogen at 37.7 kWh per kilogram of hydrogen and 88.5 percent LHV (Lower Heating Value) to DC while operating at high temperatures and high availability. Dynamic testing has also been performed, which involved ramping the system from 100 percent of rated power to 5 percent in less than 10 minutes with no negative system effects.

“The Bloom Electrolyzer is, without a doubt, the most efficient electrolyzer we have tested to-date at INL,” said John Wagner, director, Idaho National Labs. “When hydrogen is produced from a clean, 24/7 source, like nuclear, it can help us address some of the significant challenges we face around decarbonization. Pairing the research and development capabilities of a national laboratory with innovative and forward-thinking organizations like Bloom Energy is how we make rapidly reducing the costs of clean hydrogen a reality and a real step toward changing the world’s energy future.”

Continuously operating and supplying high-quality steam input, nuclear power facilities are well-positioned to use electrolyzers to create considerable quantities of pure hydrogen with no disturbance to current operations. By 2050, the global demand for hydrogen and its future applications is expected to expand by a factor of 10 or more, exceeding the present infrastructure for generating and transporting hydrogen. As the use of hydrogen extends beyond conventional industrial applications to the fuel of a clean future, it is imperative that it be produced in greater amounts and from low- and zero-carbon sources.

Cost, however, is one of the key obstacles to scalable and plentiful hydrogen production; up to 80 percent of the cost of producing hydrogen by electrolysis is comprised of energy. Because the Bloom Electrolyzer runs at high temperatures, it uses less energy to split water molecules than low-temperature PEM and alkaline electrolyzers. The Bloom Electrolyzer, which produces hydrogen up to 45 percent more effectively than PEM and alkaline electrolyzers when paired with external heat, increases the affordable accessibility of hydrogen.

“We are proud to have partnered with Idaho National Laboratory on this landmark demonstration. By combining our Bloom Electrolyzer with steam, the laboratory has been able to validate that the DC electrical efficiency for our electrolyzer is better than any reported commercial or demonstration unit in the world for hydrogen production. This is an important milestone as we work to build a hydrogen economy,” said KR Sridhar, founder, chairman and CEO, Bloom Energy.

The successful partnership is a significant step toward the objective of replacing fossil-based fuels in commercial and industrial applications with pure hydrogen. Given their substantial energy requirements and growing commitments to produce low-emissions commodities and fuels, industrial companies are ideally suited for low-cost, large-scale hydrogen utilization. They account for more than a third of global energy consumption and a quarter of global CO2 emissions.


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