100% renewable targets will require power storage to manage flows on the net
Electrolysers utilise these intermittent power flows to produce H2 gas from water
H2 gas can be stored in large quantities underground and transported via existing gas pipelines
H2 vehicles recharge faster and are more durable than battery powered transport
Growing H2 demand in industrial processes will reduce costs and increase supply

ITM Power has released an updated cost structure for hydrogen generated by its electrolyser products, one year on from its last update. Efficiency improvements, electrolyser cost reduction and more accurate vehicle refuelling data provided by Hyundai have all helped reduce the projected cost of hydrogen.

This year’s cost structure is based upon a 1 MW, 446 kg/day, HGas system comprising sixteen individual HGas stacks and the accompanying balance of plant. For comparison, last year’s cost structure was based on a 100 kg/day HFuel system. ITM Power’s assumptions for the 2013 HGas system are as follows:

Generation capacity: 446 kg/24 h
Amortisation period: 10 years
Electricity price: 3.5 p/kWh
Water price: 0.13 p/litre
System efficiency: 55 kWh/kg
Annual service: 5% of sale price
Utilisation factor: 70%

With all that in mind, ITM Power projects a hydrogen cost of £4.19/kg within a 10 year capital amortisation period and £2.69/kg thereafter. These are 33% and 23% reductions on last year’s projections, respectively, and represent good progress in terms of efficiency and cost reduction. Importantly, the European cost targets for hydrogen generation (as published in ‘A portfolio of power-trains for Europe’) are €9.90(£8.50)/kg by 2015 and €5.50(£4.72)/kg by 2025.

If ITM Power’s cost projections are accurate then the technology is already meeting 2025 price targets. At the projected cost, the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell would cost 4 p/km to run compared against 7.9 p/km for a 2.0 litre CRDi diesel ix35 (with a diesel price of 139.2 p/litre).

It is worth noting that although the electrolyser may be running in the night when electricity prices are lower, or acting as a form of demand-side management, where electricity prices could be negative or grid balancing payments issued, the average UK electricity price for 2012 was £0.13/kWh.

As well as electricity price, high utilisation is key to making these cost projections realistic. The 1 MW system ITM Power has used in its assumptions could act as a ‘hydrogen energy hub’, undertaking both power-to-gas energy storage and fuel production, and keeping asset utilisation high. This approach requires such hubs to be located in areas practical for vehicle refuelling or that hydrogen generated at the hub be transported to a nearby filling station. Two megawatt-scale power-to-gas projects the company is currently bidding on are well-sited for fuel retail and the concept is gaining recognition.

Photo: Quentin Wilson uses an HFuel at Nottingham University to refuel a Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell (Source: ITM Power)

Reference: ITM Power