December 25, 2023 | Sunfire and Salzgitter AG are continuing to advance the industrial use of innovative SOEC electrolysis to produce green hydrogen. Together with the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, they are validating the latest stacks in the GrInHy3.0 research project.
Green hydrogen plays a central role in the decarbonization of the steel industry. This can be produced particularly efficiently and therefore cost-effectively in high-temperature SOEC electrolysers. Sunfire, Salzgitter AG and the TU Bergakademie Freiberg are now taking an important step towards the industrial use of this technology.
“Due to their unmatched efficiency, high-temperature SOEC electrolyzers will be the preferred solution in many applications where waste heat is available in the future. In preparation for industrial series production, we have further improved the efficiency of our systems and made them more robust. Steel mills are the perfect environment for the use of SOEC electrolyzers. That’s why it’s optimal for us to be able to continue our long-standing partnership with Salzgitter AG and validate the new modules under real operating conditions,” says Christian von Olshausen, CTO of Sunfire.
In the GrInHy3.0 research project, the partners are integrating Sunfire’s latest SOEC stack technology into the hydrogen network of the Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH steelworks. The plant will produce 16.5 kg of hydrogen per hour, which will be used, among other things, for the direct reduction of iron ore in the µDral test facility.
The companies are thus building on their successful collaboration in the GrInHy (“Green Industrial Hydrogen”) project series. In the previous project, Sunfire’s SOEC electrolyzer achieved a record efficiency of 84%el,LHV.
After more than 19,000 operating hours and 190 tons of hydrogen produced, the existing eight modules are now being replaced. Two new test modules with an electrolysis output of 540 kW, which generate important findings for upcoming series production, will be integrated into the existing infrastructure. Commissioning is planned for 2024.
“The careful use of resources, especially the issue of energy efficiency, has been the focus of our company for a long time. With GrInHy3.0 the successful history of the GrInHy project series can be continued. The market maturity of high-temperature electrolysis, which uses waste heat from our production processes to require comparatively little electricity, is now within reach. This makes a positive contribution to our SALCOS® transformation program. I am therefore very pleased that the constructive collaboration between Sunfire and us can go into a third round in order to further advance this future-oriented technology,” explains Ralph Schaper, Head of Energy Economics at Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH.
Hydrogen for green steel production
For Salzgitter AG, the project is an important building block on the path to green steel production, which the group is pursuing, among other things, in its SALCOS® – Salzgitter Low CO2 Steelmaking – program.
The TU Bergakademie Freiberg completes the project consortium. Researchers at the Institute for Non-Ferrous Metallurgy and Pure Materials look at various aspects of sustainability and, among other things, examine options for recycling and reusing the components. They also examine the life cycle of the SOEC stacks.
Since the SOEC electrolyzers split water vapor into oxygen and hydrogen at a temperature of 850 °C, the material is subjected to high stress. That’s why Sunfire has further developed its stacks, particularly with regard to their robustness. Industrial users benefit from the extended service life of the systems.
The GrInHy3.0 research project runs until 2027 and is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection.
“In this part of the project we are already looking at a long-term perspective on how we can minimize the environmental impact of the future waste stream generated from the production and consumption of hydrogen. At INEMET, the focus of our research is not only on developing the recycling strategy for the SOEC stack, but also on creating a simulation-based life cycle assessment for the entire HTC module in order to obtain a comprehensive overview of all required raw materials and mass flows in the system. The methodology used will make it possible to define a closed-loop design to recycle the materials from the end-of-life (EoL) SOEC stacks so that they can be reused in new stacks,” says Prof. Dr. -Ing. Alexandros Charitos, director of the INEMET institute at the Technical University of Bergakademie Freiberg.