How the GREEN Framework helps a client identify hydrogen PEM electrolyser material and manufacturing opportunities

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Summary

Hydrogen is seemingly everywhere when it comes to the future of green energy. Advancements in generating green hydrogen from efficient processes such as Alkaline, proton exchange membrane (PEM), and solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) electrolysers are constantly pushing forward towards a competitive market. Hydrogen is also being looked at in applications such as blending into natural gas to be transported using existing pipelines, the development of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) as well as many others, all aiming for a clean energy future. Hence, making it a good time to make the most of the opportunities within this space. 

The Challenge

Our client, with a background in hydrogen infrastructure as well as energy storage projects among various other avenues, wanted to assess the hydrogen technologies complimenting their existing business. They wanted to analyse the current developments in PEM electrolyser stacks and determine the state-of-the-art materials as well as manufacturing processes for the same. They would then use this comprehensive evaluation to understand the potential of the technology and the capabilities of the studied manufacturers and their products. This would lead to a collaboration that creates synergies between skills of different business to create strong value.

Client requirements:

  • Determine state-of-the art technology review for PEM electrolyser stack materials and stack manufacturing methods.
  • Develop comparative standards in order to compare and assess different technologies/bestinclass stack products and suppliers against each other. 
  • Identify PEM electrolyser stack manufacturers to analyse their future developments, competitiveness, supplier base, and availability of the product.
  • Develop insights to take decision for manufacturing vs buying PEM electrolyser stacks.

Our Solution

The client’s requirements led us to leverage the fundamentals of Evalueserve’s GREEN Solution Framework. Our GREEN Framework, which stands for Generate, Refine, Equip, and Engage, has been designed to create insights to support decarbonisation initiatives at each stage from strategy formulation all the way to market execution.

Identification and evaluation of stack materials:

  • To kickstart the project, our team of experts identified PEM electrolyser stack material components for detailed analysis. This was carried out to ascertain the cost associated with PEM stack components.
  • The impact of these costs on electrolyser output are key parameters to identify the stack materials for further analysis. The operational parameters here were current density, voltage range, cell pressure, stack efficiency, and cold start. 
  • Other parameters including life of the PEM stack, physical footprint and electrolyser cost were also studied along with consultations with top subject matter experts from the industry who have exhaustive knowledge and experience across the hydrogen value chain. 
  • In all, our team identified 40 materials. Of the 40, 18 material combinations including under-research and state-of-the-art material combinations were studied in detail. The primary element of the GREEN Framework applied here would be Generate.

Identification and evaluation of manufacturing methods:

  • Subsequently, our experts presented an overview of various manufacturing methods for PEM electrolyser stacks. It included two approaches for the client to follow – procuring components and assembling PEM electrolyser stacks, or in-house manufacturing and assembly. 
  • Proper integration of the various stack components is essential for high performance and efficiency of the electrolyser, decrease material degradation and increase lifetime of the entire PEM electrolyser stack.
  • Here, the key aspects our team focussed on included cost, mass production vs focussed production, technology advancement of a given organisation and control over the manufacturing of key components impacting the PEM electrolyser parameters. 
  • Based on these insights, our team also carried out a focussed and detailed study of manual assembly methods in conjunction with consultations from top subject matter experts. The primary element of the GREEN Framework applied here would be Generate. 

Comparative benchmarking of key PEM electrolyser stacks and their detailed analysis:

  • Combining these earlier insights, our team of experts carried the studied materials and methods in previous phases and delivered a detailed comparison based on benchmarking.
  • This consisted of assessing key PEM electrolyser manufacturers and their stacks, state-of-the art technology parameters and targets by different agencies like FCHJU and DOE, comparative benchmarking, studying the supply chain for stack components and identifying impactful opportunity areas within this chain for our client. Hence, the primary element of the Green Framework applied here would be Refine. 

Focus on PEM stack suppliers:

  • Next, our experts created PEM stack supplier profiles building on the refining of previous aspects of the project.
  • Our team was able to identify, shortlist, and contact more than 30 PEM suppliers, of which seven so far have indicated willingness to supply them with stacks.
  • The profiles analysed a series of parameters for each supplier to assess their conduciveness and capability in matching our client’s requirements.
  • Our experts charted out potential next steps for the client based on this assessment, including handshake agreements with the shortlisted suppliers, analyses of the suppliers, as well as of the market for PEM electrolyser systems. Here, our team delivered on the Equip as well as Engage elements of the GREEN Framework.

Business Impact

Using this methodology and powered by the Evalueserve mind+machine™ needs-tailored process, the team was successful in delivering the following for the client, utilising the GREEN Framework:

Knowledge of key materials and methods

That are needed to build and operate PEM electrolyser stacks and their costs. Three of these materials make up roughly 80 to 85% of the stack cost. Understanding the state-of-the-art materials and methods that could present bespoke opportunities in the near as well as long terms. 

Identification of key potential partners and opportunities for client

Within the PEM electrolyser stack manufacturing and pricing value chain. Key takeaway being the client was able to make a strategic decision of buy vs make and from or with whom. 

Assessment of best-in-class systems

For PEM stacks which would lead to a clear and potentially long term go-to-market (GTM) strategy.

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