ITM Power, Ørsted and Element Energy have won funding of £499,905 from BEIS for a feasibility study for ‘Gigastack’, aimed at demonstrating the production of bulk zero-carbon hydrogen. The project aims to dramatically reduce the cost of electrolytic hydrogen, using gigawatt-scale polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM), manufactured in the UK.
In Phase One (feasibility), ITM Power will develop the designs and finalise the material requirements to deliver a low-cost 5MW stack. It will also refine concepts for a proposed semi-automated manufacturing facilitywith an electrolyser capacity of up to 1GW/year. The aim is to increase throughput and cut labour costs to meet the demands of bulk hydrogen supply. Ørsted will investigate potential synergies between offshore wind farms and electrolysers. Element Energy will conduct market analysis of potential end-users, explore business models for the operation of large electrolysers in the energy system and define a rollout strategy for the first 100MW electrolysers (using 5MW electrolysers).
In Phase Two, the 5MW stack would be built and tested both in-house and in a representative windhydrogen scenario. Construction of the semi-automated manufacturing facility would also begin. Finally, the business case for large electrolysers would be refined, enabling commercialisation.
The participants said that deployment of PEM electrolysers on such a large scale has not been possible to date, as it requires low-cost stack modules which are easily integrated into larger electrolyser systems and much larger automated manufacturing facilities (the largest electrolyser factories globally are capable of less than 30MW of capacity output per annum).
ITM Power believes innovations in stack design and manufacturing techniques will reduce the cost of installing an electrolyser, so that the cost of hydrogen production is dominated by the cost of electricity used.
Climate change minister Lord Duncan said: “This innovative project from Ørsted and ITM Power will help our efforts to roll out hydrogen at scale by the 2030s – a crucial step towards the end of the UK’s contribution to global warming.”
Matthew Wright, UK managing director at Ørsted, said: “We’ve seen the cost of offshore wind reduced dramatically thanks to industry and government working together, and I hope this project can be the start of a similar journey with green hydrogen.”