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Study reveals low cost of nuclear H2


15 mei 2024

ULC-Energy has announced the results of a study - supported by 12 external organisations – which assessed the cost of hydrogen produced by a Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR) combined with Topsoe’s high temperature Solid Oxide Electrolyser Cell (SOEC) technology.

The study involved SOEC electrolyser manufacturer, Topsoe, nuclear technology provider, Rolls-Royce SMR and Dutch energy market consultancy, KYOS.

The study revealed significant advantages of the SMR-SOEC combination:

·       A Rolls-Royce SMR power plant can operate 24/7, with 95% availability

·       ’SOEC electrolysis can produce more hydrogen per total power input when compared to conventional electrolyser technologies

·       Steam can be supplied directly from the nuclear power plant heat exchangers

·       H2 production can take place ‘off-grid’

The results revealed that hydrogen can be produced by the SMR – SOEC combination for less than €3.50/kg (2024€), significantly better than alternatives that lack the continuity and flexibility of nuclear energy. This cost can be driven down to less than €2.00/kg (2024€) by 2050 by taking into account the value of the flexibility to curtail hydrogen production and deliver electricity to an increasingly intermittent grid.

The study also demonstrated that the SMR – SOEC combination produces the highest annual quantity of H2 as a result of higher process efficiency and a high availability.

“The large-scale production of clean hydrogen is an extremely important driver of decarbonisation. At ULC-Energy we believe strongly that nuclear can and will play a major role to produce clean hydrogen and derivative clean fuels. ULC-Energy has been working closely with Rolls-Royce SMR in the Netherlands since 2022 when it selected Rolls-Royce SMR as its preferred SMR technology for deployment in the Netherlands. The study that is now completed clearly demonstrates the capability of nuclear to deliver low cost, clean hydrogen at an industrial scale. Importantly it also shows the additional value associated with the flexibility to switch between energy markets such as electricity, heat and, in this case, hydrogen. Topsoe SOEC and Rolls-Royce SMR are both highly modularised solutions that are factory manufactured can be scaled rapidly.” said Dirk Rabelink from ULC-Energy.

Sundus Cordelia Ramli, CCO Power to X, Topsoe added: “Topsoe’s state of the art SOEC technology has been under development for over 15 years. Last year, ground was broken at the 500 MW SOEC manufacturing facility and SOEC will be commercially deployed as production is ramped up. The high capacity factor of nuclear power plant, together with a direct source of heat, makes combinations using nuclear power plants and SOEC extremely interesting and we look forward to continuing our work with ULC-Energy and Rolls-Royce SMR.”

Alan Woods, Rolls-Royce SMR’s Director of Strategy and Business Development, said: “Rolls-Royce SMR believes one of its powerful advantages is that it can produce clean energy cheaply and extremely reliably, but can also direct its output to meet demand. This operational flexibility will be increasingly valuable as intermittent energy sources, such as wind and solar, expand. We are excited by the results of ULC-Energy’s study and look forward to taking next steps.” 


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Figure 1: Topsoe SOEC electrolyser and two Rolls-Royce SMRs

About ULC-Energy

ULC-Energy B.V. is a nuclear energy development company, established in 2021 in the Netherlands and based in Amsterdam. ULC-Energy's mission is to accelerate decarbonisation in the Netherlands by developing nuclear energy projects that efficiently integrate in energy networks. ULC-Energy and Rolls-Royce SMR entered into an exclusive agreement in 2022 to work together to deploy Rolls-Royce SMR power stations in the Netherlands.


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About Rolls-Royce SMR

Rolls-Royce has been a nuclear reactor plant designer since the start of the UK nuclear submarine programme in the 1950s.  Rolls-Royce SMR, a majority owned subsidiary of Rolls-Royce PLC will draw upon standard nuclear energy technology that has been used in 400 reactors around the world.  


The Rolls-Royce SMR power station will have the capacity to generate 470MW of low carbon energy, equivalent to more than 150 onshore wind turbines and enough to power a million homes. It will provide consistent baseload generation for at least 60 years, helping to support the roll out of renewable generation and overcome intermittency issues.


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About Topsoe

Topsoe is a leading global provider of technology and solutions for the energy transition. Topsoe combats climate change by helping its customers and partners achieve their decarbonization and emission reduction goals. Based on decades of scientific research and innovation, Topsoe offers world-leading solutions for transforming renewable resources into fuels and chemicals for a sustainable world, and for efficient and low-carbon fuel production and clean air. Topsoe was founded in 1940 and are headquartered in Denmark, with over 2,800 employees serving customers all around the globe.


Topsoe’s SOEC electrolysis technology is a modular design that operates at significantly higher temperatures compared to other electrolyzer technologies – a tested and proven process that enables industrial-scale production of green hydrogen using renewable electricity.


When coupled with heat supply, Topsoe’s SOEC technology can produce more hydrogen per total power input when compared to conventional electrolyzer technologies at the lowest levelized hydrogen cost.


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