Sunfire receives German government for industrialisation of hydrogen technologies

Source: press release, 6 January 2022

Sunfire HyLink alkaline electrolyser
Sunfire HyLink alkaline electrolyser (illustration: Sunfire)

Due to its enormous potential for decarbonising energy intensive industries, green hydrogen has evolved from a contentious “new hope” to a fixed building block of the energy transition. It is no surprise that demand is rocketing for electrolysers, which split water into hydrogen using renewable electricity. According to the plans, installed capacity in the EU alone is set to rise from the current 0.2 GW to 40 GW by 2030.

Sunfire – one of the world’s leading developers and producers of electrolysers – is therefore rapidly expanding its manufacturing capacities. Together with partners from research and industry, the German-based company is preparing its technologies for industrial production at gigawatt scale. To this end, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing a grant of EUR 60 million for the lead project H2Giga.

The funding commitment will accelerate time-to-market of innovative high temperature electrolysers (SOEC). Under the leadership of Sunfire, 15 associated partners will be receiving EUR 33 million to establish manufacturing processes and optimise systems. By using off-heat from industrial processes, Sunfire’s SOEC electrolysers require up to 30 % less electricity from renewable energy sources than other technologies to produce a kilogram of hydrogen. “The new generation of our SOEC technology will be even more powerful and durable than today,” says Christian von Olshausen, CTO of Sunfire.

“We will redesign individual components to last longer, and we will simplify the design of the systems,” adds the Sunfire CTO. “With our optimised high-temperature electrolysers, our industrial customers will be able to produce green hydrogen more efficiently – and therefore more cost-effectively. To further reduce the price of our product, we will be developing process chains for industrial series production.”

Sunfire is embarking on the challenging path to gigawatt-scale production together with several partners the company has already been working with on various projects in the past. For example, the company will be drawing on the expertise of XENON Automatisierungstechnik GmbH to help set up a pilot line for automated production. Both companies are already collaborating in making SOEC electrolysers for the refinery of fuel producer Neste in Rotterdam. “We are really happy to cooperate with partners like XENON. They offer invaluable experience in the field of industrial manufacturing and are open to contributing this expertise to help drive the development of new technologies,” explains Christian von Olshausen.

But the development of SOEC technology is not the sole target of support: BMBF is also providing funding for the industrialisation of pressurised alkaline electrolysers. Although these robust systems have already proved themselves for decades in industrial hydrogen projects, they have not yet been manufactured in series production. Sunfire and its eight associated partners have been granted total funding of EUR 27 million to transform the production of this technology to gigawatt scale.

“We will be establishing manufacturing processes and finalising the new design of our pressurised alkaline electrolysers,” explains Christian von Olshausen. “In comparison to the predecessor models, these will be yet another step forward in terms of energy consumption and longevity.” This will give a further boost to the process of alkaline electrolysis – which is already well established as the most cost-effective electrolysis technology currently available.

The commitment from the German Government under the program Wasserstoffrepublik Deutschland (The Hydrogen Republic of Germany) is designed to accelerate the development and expansion of technologies to enable energy-intensive industries to produce and use green hydrogen fast and at scale. In the lead project H2Giga, around 30 independent alliances are now working on transforming electrolysis technologies to the gigawatt scale. In addition to the public funding, Sunfire will also be investing significant amounts of its own funds in the industrialisation process.