Argonne National Laboratory has partnered with Constellation Energy Corp to develop zero-carbon power generation technologies, including a project focused on hydrogen production from nuclear power plants, while Bloom Energy and Excel Energy have announced plans for hydrogen production at a nuclear power plant in Minnesota. Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has submitted applications for a $7 billion program to create regional clean hydrogen hubs.
Under the new collaborative research and development agreement, Argonne and Constellation — the largest producer of zero-carbon energy in the United States with the nation’s largest nuclear fleet — will work together to assess trends in the nation’s energy system and develop technologies for a more efficient, zero-carbon energy generation .
One of the projects supported under the agreement, which runs until October 2028, focuses on the use of hydrogen from nuclear power to store and transmit energy in backup power, transport and a variety of other applications. Argonne researchers are already working with Constellation to assess market demand for hydrogen and the environmental and economic impacts of hydrogen production, storage and delivery, the partners said.
“Clean hydrogen, derived from zero-carbon nuclear power, has the power to transform hard-to-decarbonize industries. By combining Constellation’s nation-leading zero-carbon energy resources with electrolysis technologies and the engineering expertise of Argonne National Laboratory, we have the opportunity to provide real-world solutions to combat the growing threat of climate change,” said Colleen Wright, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Constellation .
Mark Petri, head of network security and resiliency at Argonne, said the agreement would help the lab align its research and development with industry needs while giving industry access to the lab’s technical capabilities and expertise, describing Constellation as an ideal industrial partner. “We can immediately transfer our projects to field studies, pilot projects and adoption. We want to make a difference and help the nation solve problems related to climate change, but we can’t do it without industry,” he said.
Electrolyser for Prairie Island
On Sept. 19, Bloom Energy announced plans to install an electrolyzer at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear power plant in Minnesota, which it says will create “immediate and scalable ways to produce cost-effective, clean hydrogen.”
Bloom’s solid oxide-based electrolyzer operates at high temperatures to convert water into hydrogen and will use the high heat and steam generated by the nuclear facility to produce carbon-free hydrogen more efficiently than low-temperature electrolysis alternatives such as polymer electrolyte membranes or alkaline, the company said.
Construction for the 240kW demonstration is currently underway, with construction expected to start in late 2023 and commissioning in early 2024, Bloom said.
The DOE earlier this year announced plans to develop regional clean hydrogen hubs — H2Hubs — as an initiative under the bipartisan infrastructure bill. H2Hubs will create networks of hydrogen producers, consumers and local connection infrastructure to accelerate the use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier.
The $7 billion funding opportunity announced today is part of the larger $8 billion hydrogen hub program funded by President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill and described by the DOE as one of the largest investments in its history becomes. They are a unique opportunity to lay the foundation for a clean hydrogen future, said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
For this initial funding opportunity, the DOE aims to select between six and ten hubs. Other funding opportunities may follow to accelerate and expand the network of clean hydrogen projects.