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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W003597/1
Title: High efficiency reversible solid oxide cells for the integration of offshore renewable energy using hydrogen
Principal Investigator: Brandon, Professor NP
Other Investigators:
Strbac, Professor G Wang, Dr H
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
BP Cadent Gas Ltd Ceres Power Ltd
Cromarty Firth Port Authority FTI Consulting Health and Safety Executive
INEOS Group National Grid Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
Scottish Power Siemens Energy Simec Atlantis Energy
Simply Blue Energy TechnipFMC plc (UK) The National HVDC Centre
WH Power System Consultant
Department: Earth Science and Engineering
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2021 Ends: 30 September 2024 Value (£): 723,105
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Marine & Hydropower Energy Efficiency
Sustainable Energy Networks Sustainable Energy Vectors
Wind Power
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Energy
Related Grants:
EP/W003694/1 EP/W003732/1 EP/W003686/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
04 Aug 2021 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 4 and 5 August 2021 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The production, storage, distribution and conversion of hydrogen is a rapidly emerging candidate to help decarbonise the economy. Here we focus on its role to support the integration of offshore renewable energy (ORE), a topic of increasing importance to the UK given the falling costs of offshore wind generation (with prices expected to drop to 25% of 2017 by 2023) and Government ambition. Indeed, the latest BEIS scenarios include more than 120 GW of offshore wind, and even up to 233GW in some scenarios. This brings with it significant challenges to the electricity infrastructure in terms of our ability to on-shore and integrate these variable energy flows, across a wide range of timeframes.

Current ORE plants composed of fixed offshore wind structures are sited relatively close to land in shallow water and use systems of offshore cables and substations to transform the electricity produced, transmit it to the shore and connect to the grid. However, in order to exploit the full renewable energy potential and requirements for the 2050 net zero target, offshore wind farms will need to be sited further offshore and in deeper waters. This brings possibilities into consideration in which transporting the energy to shore via an alternative vector such as hydrogen could become the most attractive route. Hence we consider both on-shore and off-shore hydrogen generation.

Not only can hydrogen be an effective means to integrate offshore wind, but it is also increasingly emerging as an attractive low carbon energy carrier to support the de-carbonisation of hard to address sectors such as industrial heat, chemicals, trucks, heavy duty vehicles, shipping, and trains. This is increasingly recognised globally, with significant national commitments to hydrogen in France, China, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Portugal, Australia and Spain in the last three years alone, along with the recent launch of a European hydrogen strategy, and the inclusion of hydrogen at scale in the November 2020 UK Government Green plan.

Most of the focus of these national strategies is on the production of 'green' hydrogen using electrolysis, driven by renewable electricity. However, there remains interest in some countries, the UK being one example, in 'blue' hydrogen, which is hydrogen made from fossil fuels coupled with carbon capture and storage and hence a low carbon rather than zero carbon hydrogen. Today, 96% of hydrogen globally is produced from unabated fossil fuels, with 6% of global natural gas, and 2% of coal, consumption going to hydrogen production, primarily for petrochemicals, contributing around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Currently green hydrogen is the most expensive form of hydrogen, with around 60-80% of the cost coming from the cost of the electrical power input. A critical factor that influences this is the efficiency of the electrolyser itself, and in turn the generator used to convert the green hydrogen back into power when needed. In this work we focus on the concept of a reversible electrolyser, which is a single machine that can both produce power in fuel cell mode, and produce hydrogen in electrolyser mode. Electrolysers and fuel cells fall into one of two categories: low-temperature (70-120C) and high temperature (600-850C). While low temperature electrolyser and fuel cell systems are already commercially available, their relatively low combined round-trip efficiency (around 40%) means that the reversible solid oxide cell (rSOC), which can operate at high temperatures (600-900C) is of growing interest. It can achieve an electrolyser efficiency of up to 95%, power generation efficiency of up to 65%, and hence a round-trip efficiency of around 60% at ambient pressure using products now approaching commercial availability. This project considers the development and application of this new technology to the case of ORE integration using hydrogen.

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