electrolysis research team

The high temperature electrolysis research team at Idaho National Laboratory is seen in this file photo from the lab.

Idaho National Laboratory is partnering with one of the nation’s leading energy producers to explore the benefits of hydrogen production.

Exelon Generation announced in an Aug. 18 news release that it has received a U.S. Department of Energy grant for a project that will be conducted at Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Oswego, New York.

Exelon is partnering with INL, Nel Hydrogen, Argonne National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to demonstrate integrated hydrogen production, storage and normal usage at the station, the release said.

The project will generate an economical supply of hydrogen to be safely captured, stored and potentially taken to the energy market as a 100% carbon-free source of power for other purposes, including industrial applications such as transportation.

INL’s work on the project is focused on keeping hydrogen production costs low and to give nuclear plants an additional revenue stream.

“This partnership with DOE reflects our continued commitment to innovation and further demonstrates the immense value of our nuclear fleet and its ability to provide carbon-free energy to the communities we serve,” said Dave Rhoades, Exelon’s chief nuclear officer, in the release. “Among our many options, we chose the New York site, recognizing the strong partnership that we have had with the State, including the support for nuclear energy provided through the New York Public Service Commission’s clean energy standard.”

A proton exchange membrane electrolyzer will be installed and will use the station’s existing hydrogen storage system and supporting infrastructure, the release said. Installation and operations are expected to begin in 2022.

Nel Hydrogen said in an Aug. 11 news release that the purchase order of the project is about $2.6 million. The project is funded by the Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, through the H2@Scale Program.

The electrolyzer performs electrolysis, which is an option for carbon-free hydrogen production from renewable and nuclear resources, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Electrolysis is the process of using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolyzers can range in size from small, appliance-size equipment that is well-suited for small-scale distributed hydrogen production to large-scale, central production facilities that could be tied directly to renewable or other non-greenhouse-gas-emitting forms of electricity production.

INL Integrated Energy Systems Lead Shannon Bragg-Sitton said in an email that the laboratory has developed a high-level controller than can interface between the electrolyzer, the nuclear power plant and the energy grid.

The laboratory used a simulation of the grid and historical power prices to optimize hydrogen production by operating the production unit at forecasted times of when electricity costs the least, Bragg-Sitton said. This minimizes production cost and maximizes hydrogen production revenue. INL will use simulations with this controller to understand potential economics of scaling up hydrogen production to approximately 300 tonnes (metric tons) per day.

“Hydrogen is a clean energy source that can be useful in a variety of industries as we focus on reducing carbon emissions,” Bragg-Sitton said in the email. “Siting a hydrogen plant alongside a nuclear plant is a key step in making on-site hydrogen production a reality. In the future, advanced reactors as well as the current fleet could produce hydrogen when electricity demand is low, keeping reactors operating at peak efficiency and giving them another revenue stream. INL is collaborating with companies that are working to mature this technology, providing support for the testing and demonstration of on-site hydrogen production at power plants.”

The Associated Press reported on Aug. 13 that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and can be used to slow the environmentally destructive impact of the 1.2 billion vehicles on Earth, most of which burn gasoline and diesel fuel.

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