China is currently the world’s largest energy consumer. Of all energy consumption, fossil energy accounts for 85%. China’s energy endowment is “rich in coal but short of oil and gas”. Coal accounts for the largest share of its fossil energy consumption. This has led to China’s CO2 emissions, which will reach 12.1 billion tons in 2022, accounting for 32.88% of the global total.
Against this backdrop, China’s energy restructuring is imperative, and a diversified energy structure must be developed. Hydrogen energy plays an active role in the process of “replacing coal and reducing carbon emissions”.
In particular, green hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy does not emit any CO2 during its production and use.
The domestic hydrogen energy “hotness” is also rising. In March 2022, the National Development and Reform Commission officially released the “medium and long-term plan for the development of hydrogen energy industry (2021-2035)”. Clearly defined the strategic position of hydrogen energy in China’s energy green low-carbon transformation. Fuel cells can directly convert chemical energy in fuel into electricity. According to the different electrolytes, there are mainly alkaline fuel cells (AFC), proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC), phosphoric acid-type fuel cells (PAFC), molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFC). And solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and other types.
SOFC is an all-solid-state fuel cell, also known as ceramic fuel cell. Its main advantages are that it does not use precious metal catalysts, high operating temperature, wide range of fuel applications, high waste heat temperature, and suitable for cogeneration. In recent years, the development speed of SOFC is the highest among all types of fuel cells. It can not only make green and efficient use of hydrogen energy, but also realize the efficient and clean use of traditional fossil energy.
Current status of foreign industry development
1.1 United States of America
In 1937, the first SOFC was manufactured in the U.S. In 1962, the U.S. Westinghouse began researching SOFCs, and a breakthrough was achieved in the 1980s. In 2000, Siemens-Westinghouse manufactured a 200kW SOFC power plant. The U.S. leads the world in terms of cumulative installed SOFC capacity. And its main application scenarios are medium and large industrial/commercial power supply.
Bloom Energy is currently the strongest company with relatively mature technology and good operational reliability. The main product specification of SOFC developed by the company is 50kW module. And through the combination of multiple modules, it can maximize the fuel cell system of tens of megawatts. Its products have been applied in many companies such as Apple, Google, etc. Bloom Energy cooperates with Samsung Heavy Industries and expects to realize an annual installed capacity of 300MW for marine applications by 2022. And cooperate with South Korea’s SK Group in 2021 to increase the installed capacity of at least 500MW in 2022-2025.
Another famous company in the global fuel cell field is the U.S. Fuel Cell Energy, Inc. It has developed a 250KW SOFC system capable of operating as an electrolyzer for hydrogen production or as a fuel cell for power generation. And it is also capable of using a variety of fuels, including natural gas, renewable biogas or hydrogen.
Germany’s Sunfire is a global leader in the production of industrial electrolyzers based on alkaline as well as solid oxide technology. Its SOC (Solid Oxide Cell) stacks generate electricity in the forward direction and electrolyze hydrogen in the reverse direction.
Sunfire is rapidly expanding its production capacity and has raised additional capital in recent years, securing $215 million in Series D funding in 2022 and signing agreements for up to 640 MW of electrolyzers.
Ceres Power is a leader in next-generation, low-cost fuel cell technology, with its unique Steel Cell technology, originating from Imperial College in the UK. With the advantages of fast start-up and high power density. Ceres Power products are commercially available in residential, commercial power generation and transportation applications.
Italy’s Solid Power mainly develops micro-CHP systems, and its 2.5KW scale ENGEN2500 system has been developed with a total efficiency of about 90%. More than 1,000 BlueGEN power generation systems have been sold as of 2018.
Hexis Switzerland is one of the world’s leading companies in the field of high temperature fuel cell technology. It designs and produces fuel cell-based micro CHP units for single-family homes, multi-family apartment buildings.
Estonia Elcogen’s SOFC has set a world record of 74% in converting fuel to electricity. Elcogen’s products are SOFC monolithic cells and electric stacks. Elcogen plans to produce about 50 MW of cells per year starting in 2021. Whatever, For SOFC systems, it is working with Magnex.
Bosch of Germany is also actively laying out the SOFC industry chain, investing in British electrostack manufacturer Ceres Power twice in 2018 and 2019 to introduce electrostack production lines. And it has developed a 10kW SOFC cogeneration system with a power generation efficiency of 60%.
Japan’s SOFC industry is developing rapidly under the leadership of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). In particular, there is a government-subsidized household fuel cell cogeneration (ENE-FARM) program. Then Its small household SOFC cogeneration technology is mature and reliable, and the number of holdings ranks first in the world. Japan’s major SOFC companies are Kyocera, Osaka Gas, Mitsubishi Hitachi, Aisin Seiki and so on.
Japan’s Kyocera began developing fuel cells in 1985, and has been challenging the development of small SOFC technology. Kyocera’s battery stack installed in Japan’s household SOFC power generation system in 2011. It has now realized the third generation of more miniaturized products, product power generation power of 700 W. Achieved 90,000 hours of continuous operation, 360 times the start and stop, 12 years of design life.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries began developing SOFC technology in the 1980s. And in 2001 developed a 10kW-class tube-type SOFC power generation system. 2013 saw the successful operation of a 200kW SOFC+MGT composite power generation system. And 2014 saw the establishment of Mitsubishi-Hitachi Power Systems, Ltd. to focus on the development of SOFC combined cycle large-scale power generation systems. 2018 saw the announcement of the realization of the commercialization of a 250kW and a 1 MW combined cycle large-scale power generation system. 250kW and 1 MW co-generation products.