Thyssenkrupp and Fraunhofer forge ties on SOEC technology for large-scale hydrogen production

Thyssenkrupp nucera, the hydrogen business of German-based engineering company thyssenkrupp, and the German Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) have agreed on a strategic partnership in solid oxide electrolyzer cell (SOEC) technology for large-scale hydrogen production.

Courtesy of thyssenkrupp

Specifically, thyssenkrupp nucera announced that the company is strengthening its technology portfolio with the “highly innovative” high-temperature electrolysis (SOEC) of the Fraunhofer IKTS.

The research institute has been carrying out extensive research and development work in SOEC technology for over 20 years and has done the necessary preliminary work with a view to industrializing this electrolysis technology, thyssenkrupp said, noting that, together, the two parties want to work to take the final steps in high-temperature electrolysis toward industrial manufacturing and application.

As early as the first quarter of 2025, a pilot plant planned and built by Fraunhofer IKTS is scheduled to start operation for the production of high-temperature electrolysis stacks with SOE cells, initially in small quantities, according to thyssenkrupp.

The strategic partnership also includes a license for the production and use of CFY stacks based on the SOEC technology of Fraunhofer IKTS by thyssenkrupp nucera.

The SOEC stack technology is based on a gas-tight oxygen-ion-conducting ceramic electrolyte with screen-printed electrodes and pressed interconnectors made of a chromium-based alloy (CFY), thyssenkrupp explained, adding that the electrolyte-supported cells, the choice of materials used and the design ensure high efficiency, long-term stability, robustness and cost-effective mass production.

The further industrialization of SOEC technology will be based on the results of the research and development activities, thyssenkrupp emphasized.

Werner Ponikwar, CEO of thyssenkrupp nucera, commented: “With SOEC system solutions, we are consistently implementing our company’s growth strategy. With high-temperature electrolysis, we will offer our customers an extremely powerful technology that will be another strong pillar of the new, CO2-free and therefore climate-friendly energy mix of the future without fossil fuels. Through the strategic partnership with Fraunhofer IKTS, we are strengthening our hydrogen product portfolio with a second high-performance technology for industrial scale in addition to AWE technology.”

Alexander Michaelis, Director of Fraunhofer IKTS, added: “In addition to the higher efficiency in electricity-to-hydrogen conversion, high-temperature electrolysis also offers the great advantage that CO2 can be actively extracted from the environment and converted together with green hydrogen into green synthesis gas and downstream products such as e-fuels. This is a key success factor for the energy transition. By upscaling CFY stack production, we are giving our system partners commercial access to this core component.”

To note, as per thyssenkrupp, the high energy efficiency of SOEC technology will primarily benefit industries in which industrial waste heat is generated during production as its use significantly reduces electricity consumption. Waste heat is generated in the production of green steel, ammonia, methanol, fertilizers and energy storage, among other things. In addition, the use of high-temperature technology eliminates the need for rare precious metals.

In the summer of 2023, thyssenkrupp floated thyssenkrupp nucera on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (Prime Standard), supporting the company’s growth in the hydrogen market. Specifically, the gross proceeds from the IPO of around €526 million were reported to go to thyssenkrupp nucera.

At the time, thyssenkrupp pointed out that nucera has an order backlog worth around €1.4 billion and the contracted projects have a combined installed electrolysis capacity of more than 3 GW. They include an electrolysis plant in Saudi Arabia with a capacity of over 2 GW, a 200 MW plant for customer Shell in the port of Rotterdam and a 700 MW plant for a steel mill in Sweden.

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