The transformation of the energy sector into an energy industry based on renewable energy sources is a societal challenge that can only be solved with the development of suitable dynamic storage systems, in particular because the supply of photovoltaic and wind energy in is extremely volatile and the power grid can only absorb so much excess energy. Electrolysers and fuel cells are suitable electrochemical systems for environmentally friendly storage and recovery of high volumes of energy. Project VOMPELS pursues the development of highly efficient high-pressure electrolysers capable of feeding the produced hydrogen directly into a pipeline network, thus making excess energy available in an efficient way.
Water electrolysis is a procedure, which separates water into its two basic elements, hydrogen and oxygen; it is a suitable electrochemical method to store high volumes of energy from renewable energy sources, especially volatile solar and wind energy. The produced gases can be stored long-term in great volumes in caverns, pipelines or big pressurized containers. Recovery is pollutant-free and highly efficient, and with the use of fuel cells, it can be achieved in a decentralised manner, with efficiencies comparable to the most modern gas and steam turbines. Electrochemical energy converters based on polymer electrolyte membranes are also capable of dynamically adapting to changes in supply and load in the power grid. Project VOMPELS contributes to the development of industrial high-pressure electrolysers. A novel stack concept based on hydraulic compression makes possible a modular configuration with considerable advantages over commercially available electrolyser systems. Notionally, the hydraulic compression of single cells means that there are no limits to the maximum amount of possible active cell area, and therefore future growth in all dimensions is possible. Moreover, the concept can be operated as a high-pressure electrolyser with output values of over50 bar. Cost and efficiency advantages are to be expected thanks to the application of thinner membranes. This novel concept will be tried out for the first time at close to industrial scale, so that the partners from the industry can carry out a commercial analysis. The challenging technical objectives contemplate the development of an electrolyser cell with an active area of about 600 cm² and a power input of up to 4.8 kW; the construction of a module with at least four cells; hydraulic compression and tempering, and the development of modular power electronics. The instrumentation and the process automation system must be compliant with the requirements of modern systems engineering, and safety aspects are paramount when considering operating approaches.
The project began in spring of 2016. The project tasks area carried out by a strong consortium of three companies from North-Rhine-Westphalia and the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences. The primary project management and the systems engineering have been assumed by the company iGas Engineering. Two spin-offs from the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences, the companies ProPuls and Obitronik contribute their expertise in process control engineering and power electronics. The project aims are based on numerous inventions of the university, which are internationally protected by patents and patent applications.
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Westphalian Energy Institute
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Information on funding and further project participants
Funding code: EFRE-0800099