Hydrogen can be produced from water splitting with relatively high efficiency using high-temperature electrolysis. This technology makes use of solid-oxide cells, running in the electrolysis mode to produce hydrogen from steam, while consuming electricity and high-temperature process heat. When coupled to an advanced high temperature nuclear reactor, the overall thermal-to-hydrogen efficiency for high-temperature electrolysis can be as high as 50%, which is about double the overall efficiency of conventional low-temperature electrolysis. Current large-scale hydrogen production is based almost exclusively on steam reforming of methane, a method that consumes a precious fossil fuel while emitting carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Demand for hydrogen is increasing rapidly for refining of increasingly low-grade petroleum resources, such as the Athabasca oil sands and for ammonia-based fertilizer production. Large quantities of hydrogen are also required for carbon-efficient conversion of biomass to liquid fuels. With supplemental nuclear hydrogen, almost all of the carbon in the biomass can be converted to liquid fuels in a nearly carbon-neutral fashion. Ultimately, hydrogen may be employed as a direct transportation fuel in a “hydrogen economy.” The large quantity of hydrogen that would be required for this concept should be produced without consuming fossil fuels or emitting greenhouse gases. An overview of the high-temperature electrolysis technology will be presented, including basic theory, modeling, and experimental activities. Modeling activities include both computational fluid dynamics and large-scale systems analysis. We have also demonstrated high-temperature electrolysis in our laboratory at the 15 kW scale, achieving a hydrogen production rate in excess of 5500 L/hr.

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