MoU covers microreactor-based clean hydrogen production

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), a U.S.-based specialist in the deployment of fourth-generation gas-cooled microreactors, Hyundai Engineering and SK ecoplant announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the construction of a Hydrogen Micro Hub at the SK ecoplant headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. The objective of the MoU is to conduct joint research and development that will lead to the commercialization of Hydrogen Micro Hubs.

Francesco Venneri, CEO of USNC, Hong Hyun-seong, CEO of Hyundai Engineering, and Park Kyung-il, CEO of SK ecoplant after signing an MOU for the construction of the Hydrogen Micro Hub. (Photo: Business Wire)

The Hydrogen Micro Hub will be used to produce hydrogen by applying a high-temperature electrolysis process of solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOEC) to electricity and high-temperature steam generated by USNC’s Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR), the announcement stated. This carbon-free hydrogen production method extracts hydrogen by decomposing water with electricity generated from nuclear power.

According to Hong Hyun-seong, CEO of Hyundai Engineering, the agreement between the three parties will “develop an environmentally friendly business that economically produces and supplies hydrogen by combining MMR and SOEC technologies.” Over a five-year period, the companies will jointly conduct research and development on the MMR-SOEC integrated plant. Hyundai Engineering will oversee the MMR-related BOP (Balance of Plant) and EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) activities, and USNC will be responsible for MMR design, manufacturing and supply. SK ecoplant will establish a nuclear power-based hydrogen production system using Bloom Energy’s SOEC and supply hydrogen production equipment.

For the project, Hyundai Engineering and USNC will utilize a micro modular nuclear power plant based on the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) being demonstrated at the Chalk River Laboratories Campus in Ontario, Canada, the announcement noted. This technology is designed to generate relatively high-temperature steam that will enable use of SOEC operating at high temperatures for more energy-efficient hydrogen production.

SK ecoplant has already successfully tested hydrogen production through electrolysis using a 130 kW-scale SOEC facility located at the Bloom SK Fuel Cell manufacturing plant in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do, in cooperation with Bloom Energy and Bloom SK Fuel Cell.

“SOEC is a good partner that can take advantage of MMR’s advantages by operating at high temperatures and producing high-efficiency hydrogen with minimal energy consumption,” said Park Kyung-il, CEO of SK ecoplant.

Francesco Venneri, CEO of USNC, added, “The Hydrogen Micro Hub is an efficient and economical hydrogen production plant that can produce hydrogen on a scale required at the local site. The three companies, SK ecoplant, Hyundai Engineering and USNC, will contribute to the efficient establishment of a hydrogen economy based on the MMR-SOEC integrated plant.”

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