EXCLUSIVE | Enapter targets 83% cost reduction for its unique AEM hydrogen electrolyzers by 2025

Italian electrolyser manufacturer Enapter will be able to reduce the cost of its anion exchange membrane (AEM) machines by 83.5% over the next three years thanks to economies of scale and automation of its new plant in Germany, the company announced. Reload.

Currently, Enapter only produces its highly modular electrolysers in small quantities – 20 to 30 MW per year at a plant in Pisa, Italy. But its new campus, currently under construction in Saerbeck, western Germany, will have an annual generation capacity of at least 300 MW.

“At the moment, we don’t produce our stacks in an automated way,” Chief Strategy Officer Thomas Chrometzka said. Reload. “At the Enapter campus, at first we probably won’t go into full automation, but soon the goal is for the electrolyser stacks to be fully automated in their production. It will be essential for us to reduce stack costs. And finally it’s obviously a huge lever [for cost reduction].”

Enapter explains that the price of its electrolysers will increase from €3,333/kW currently to €550/kW in 2025.

“We are confident that we can reach these figures by reaching a production capacity of 300 MW per year, perhaps a little more. We don’t need to go to 5GW to get there,” he said, referring to the factory sizes some manufacturers are planning.

Enapter has long claimed that its unique AEM technology will be able to produce green hydrogen cheaper than the alkaline and PEM electrolyzers that currently dominate the market, due to its relative efficiency and lower cost materials.

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Enapter electrolysers can produce a kilo of hydrogen from 53.4 kWh – and are therefore more energy efficient than average alkaline or PEM electrolysers (see below) – while the technology is also able to respond quickly to ups and downs of variable renewable generation in a manner similar to more expensive PEM machines.

This means that by 2025, a 1 MW AEM multi-core unit could produce green hydrogen at $2.26 per kilogram, using renewable electricity at an average price of €30 ($30) per MWh. , with a load factor of 98%. This figure rises to €3.33/kg with an average electricity price of €50/MWh.

“If your electricity cost is in that range, then the bottom line is that the competitiveness is close to or even already there compared to pre-gas crisis gray hydrogen prices.

“For our modular units [the 2.4kW EL 4.0], we are not necessarily in competition with large industrial hydrogen production. If you can place an electrolyser next to a refueling station, you are in competition with hydrogen which is sold at the pump for 10-12 €/kg.

He continues: “A lot of people are saying that we need to get funding for all these green hydrogen projects, that we need governments to approve the budgets. But we say we don’t have to wait two or three years. Green hydrogen can already be competitive – we have customers around the world using our devices today. They are used in gas stations today. And we’re bringing prices down fast. So let’s go, there’s no need to wait.

“The bottom line is that in 2025 we expect to achieve many of these cost projections in industry reports for 2030.”

Enapter has long said it believes its AEM technology and highly modular approach – all of its units are built from standardized 2.4kW fuel cells – will produce green hydrogen at a lower levelized cost than electrolyzers. alkalines and PEM which currently dominate the market.

“The materials we use in an AEM electrolyser are not very different from an alkaline electrolyser. But it has all the capabilities of a PEM electrolyser — it works much better with renewable energy; going up and down is not something that large-scale, cheaper alkaline chlorinators are very good at,” says Chrometzka.

Thomas Chrometzka, Chief Strategy Officer of Enapter. Photo: Enapter

“We think in the long term, when we go to very high volumes, we might be able to compete with the alkalines. This is because we are building more compact and less complex machines. We produce hydrogen with a dry cathode unlike alkaline electrolyzers, so our hydrogen requires no cleaning, KOH [ie. electrolyte] washing, purification, drying as far as an alkaline electrolyser needs it.

He explains that production of electrolyzers will begin at his Enapter campus next year, with the first 1 MW multi-core units expected to start shipping in the second half of 2023.

The German plant was designed to produce 10,000 cells per year, with an annual capacity of around 300 MW.

“But we believe that with a few more adjustments – and we have enough space available – the plant is probably already capable of producing around 1 GW per year,” says Chrometzka.

He explains that this is because the company has not yet decided whether it will assemble its 1 MW multi-core units on site.

“We make everything ourselves, we make our own electrodes, we build the cells and the batteries, we will certainly produce our own EL 4.0 single-core electrolysers. We do not plan to outsource anything. But when it comes to building megawatt units, it’s not clear if we would outfit all of those containers ourselves, or maybe outsource that to a build partner.

“And that would obviously have significant implications. If we were using the factory floor space just for battery production and the single cores, then we would have a much higher capacity than if we were outfitting 40ft containers for our multicore units there.

What is AEM and how is Enapter different from other chlorinator manufacturers?

“We basically take the efficient cell configuration of a PEM to produce hydrogen in a compressed but very pure way, but we can do it with very cheap material costs, which we usually only know from technology. alkaline. So it’s a bit of a mix,” Chrometzka said. Reload in July last year.

“In our case, our membrane is conductive of anions [ie, negatively charged ions] and the EMP would conduct protons [ie, positively charged ions].”

Because PEM electrolyzers use a very acidic electrolyte, the bipolar plates that house the electrolyte and separate the cells in a cell require expensive titanium to protect the cell and prevent corrosion. However, Enapter’s AEM machine uses a 1% alkaline solution of potassium hydroxide (i.e. 99% water), which allows the use of much cheaper steel.

Enapter said last year that its bipolar plates would cost $20/kW in a 1 MW electrolyzer in 2025, compared to $190/kW for a PEM machine.

Cost savings are also due to Enapter’s new modular approach to electrolyser production.

Rather than producing a 1 MW or 5 MW electrolysis unit, as most manufacturers do, the Italian company will mass-produce a small 2.4 kW electrolyser. Thus, each 1 MW “multi-core” electrolyser would require 420 batteries.

“We looked at economic history and asked ourselves ‘what has produced the fastest results in terms of cost reduction?’ We saw that these were standardized products that could be mass-produced,” Chrometzka said last year, citing the example of data centers using hundreds or thousands of computer hard drives and farms. panels made up of thousands of polysilicon panels.

“So our approach is to use a standardized product and then stack it very smartly, instead of building ever larger electrolysers. With this approach, we believe that economies of scale are more important.

He explained that by using several small batteries, Enapter can “borrow” electrical equipment already used in the PV and battery sectors.

“It’s inherently cheaper than developing custom MW-scale power units, as is often the case with larger PEM stacks,” Chrometzka said. “On top of that, we’re also using a lot more standardized units of this type, and the prices scale significantly with the number of units. Where our competitors could source hundreds or thousands [of power-supply units]we’re looking at hundreds of thousands and millions.

He also points out that AEM technology does not require the very expensive iridium or platinum used as a catalyst in alkaline and PEM electrolyzers, although he concedes that the amounts used in these are so small that it is only a minor advantage over cost savings. power packs and remove the titanium.

“We don’t see how a PEM electrolyser can be cheaper than an AEM electrolyser,” he said. Reload last July.

Chrometzka added that while AEM and alkaline electrolyzers are both constructed using similar low-cost materials, AEM is a simpler system that requires less material and does not require post-production purification of hydrogen.

Enapter’s technology also has an advantage in terms of energy efficiency, the company says, saying it requires 53.4 kWh of electricity to produce 1 kg of hydrogen, compared to an average of 56.7 kWh for PEMs and 55.3 kWh for alkaline electrolysers.

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