Tech Talk - PEM Electrolyzer Systems - Hydrogen Production Technology Explained - Ellerich Hyfindr

Tech Talk - PEM Electrolyzer Systems - Hydrogen Production Technology Explained - Ellerich Hyfindr

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Hello, my name is Steven. Welcome to  Hyfindr Tech Talk. Today we are going to   talk about Electrolyzers. PEM electrolyzers  for that matter. There are different kinds,   but PEM is one where there is considerable growth  at the moment, and we are lucky to have somebody   here today who has deployed several systems all  around the world. He works for NEUMAN & ESSER and   I'm very pleased to welcome Max Ellerich. Welcome,  Max. Hi, thank you for having me. Perfect. So,   Max, electrolyzers, big topic. Let's  go quickly into this. What is a PEM  

electrolyzer? A PEM electrolyzer actually  is kind of a machine where you enter water   and electricity and get out green hydrogen. The  water is being split and it's feeding hydrogen,   green hydrogen. Okay, it sounds like a magic  shoe box. But please take us one level deeper. What is actually happening inside and  what do you need to do to make it work.   Maybe let's start with a very tiny cell in  the system and then let's get bigger and   bigger. Okay? Absolutely. Because I think  that's the best way of understanding that.  

Yeah. If I'm looking at a cell of a PEM  electrolyzer. We have a cell of it here. Right here, exactly. This is like a cell with  the plates and the membrane and so on. Just   explaining it easily: you feed water to the  cell, and there is a voltage applied to it,   and this voltage in combination with  some catalyst is splitting the water   into oxygen and hydrogen. And what  happens then is very interesting. The hydrogen is being sucked through a  separator, which is a proton exchange membrane,   which is why this is called PEM electrolyzer.  Right there we come from, okay. Because I mean,   the core of a hydrogen atom, the nucleus,  is a proton. Yes. This proton goes through  

the membrane and what you have left then  and the water here on this side is oxygen. So, you have water with oxygen left because  the oxygen cannot pass the membrane and, on the   other side of the membrane, you have the hydrogen.  Okay, so essentially you're pushing in water here   and then, as I see, you coming up with water,  which has well, obviously, water plus oxygen,   because some hydrogen has left now and then  the hydrogen on the other side also with water. Yes. So, there's an effect called water drag.  When the hydrogen passes through the membrane,   it drags water with it. Because of this,  

we have water also on the other side. You  have very, very tiny amounts of oxygen   around the PPM level, so oxygen cannot pass  this membrane. Okay, so this is one cell. And then how does this go in the bigger system?  The point about this one cell is that it's only   producing a little bit of hydrogen. So you need to  have many cells to produce more hydrogen. The idea  

of what you do is you add many cells on top of  one another. So, it looks a little bit like this. It's always repeating adding cells here.  Okay. You're basically putting the one on   top of the other until you're stacking them. And  that's where the famous word “stack” comes from,   right? Perfect, exactly. Because this kind  of stack cells, you stack like between maybe   100 and 200 cells to one stack and then push a  lot of water in parallel through all the cells. Then on the other end, you get out water  with oxygen and water with hydrogen. Alright,  

okay. I read from time to time that, you  know, all of this we're talking about,   you know, megawatts system big,  so there's probably lots of water   going in and lots of hydrogen coming out.  How does it look to make all this work? Yeah. The point is, as you say, I need to have a  pump or a system that pushes the water through,   that separates the hydrogen from the water,   that releases the oxygen and so on. So maybe  I can explain the system a little bit on how   such a system can look like. Okay. What do  you have here? I know that this may... this   looks already very technical, but I know we  have some pictures of the system later, so… Yeah, okay. So please take  us through this quickly. Yes,  

yes, it won't take too long. The stack  which we saw before, it is exactly this   one here. This is the module. Actually,  what you need to have like a water tank   where you have the water stored and you  have to pump the water through the stack.

Yes. This is happening here, like there's  a pump, a process pump, feeding it and then   getting the oxygen out. Okay. This is called  “oxygen separator”. Why? Because you have to   get rid of the oxygen. Otherwise, the oxygen would  always enrich and enrich in the process. Yeah. So,   there's like a vent or something and you're  usually venting the oxygen to the atmosphere. Doesn't the oxygen go up and  the water stay down. Yes,  

exactly. But then you must relieve it.  Okay, yeah. But this is exactly the idea.   On the bottom you have water and on top of  that you have oxygen. Alright, okay. So,   the oxygen is leaving here. You are mostly cooling  it down to recover some residual water and oxygen. But this is the general idea of this one.  However, the water is super critical for   PEM electrolysis process, like the water must be  in the right temperature, in the right amount,   in the right quality, like there are no  particles or ions or anything allowed in   the water. I couldn't just take water  out of the river. No, please don't. You only do it once. Please don't.  For at least this process here,  

for our system in general, it is okay. Yeah.  Because the system that you usually built,   you have like a water purification at  the very beginning, at the very front.   You get then some water like tap water or  something. That's what we're going to see. Exactly. It's being cleaned and then  it's being fed here. The point is,   what you will also have to do is, you will  have to cool down the water. Because when  

the water is going through the stack, there are  some electrochemical things happening. There is   heat generated, because you don't have an  efficiency of 100% due to the dissipation. But it doesn't boil, does it?  No, no, no. It's around 60, 70,   80 degrees. Right, okay. So you want to  then going in with a cooler temperature   like around what kind of temperature? You  have a delta T of five degrees maybe. In  

this area over the stack. But the point is,  you must get rid of the heat and the water. Yes. Right. Because otherwise, the water  would heat up more and more and you would   exceed these 60, 70, 80 degrees, which is  why there's a second loop which you see here,   cooling down some of the water. Yes.  Here. And then you're polishing the  

water. Polishing practically means when  your water is passing by the pipes. Yes. It catches some ions from the stacks and  from everything it touches, and it can catch   ions. Ah, you’re deionizing. Exactly. And we  have ion catchers here. Deionizing the water   and feeding it back into the separator. Alright.  So, that's in general. So purification, so water   comes from here, purification in there in the  tank, cooling and then loop through the system.

And this is the hydrogen side of it. Exactly,  what you see here is the hydrogen side. Because   on one side, you have the oxygen and  water coming up and then you have the   hydrogen popping up. Exactly. So, you have  just two outlets here. Just one inlett,   but two outlets here. And then for the  hydrogen, we do exactly the same kind.   We have a hydrogen separator and the water  is on the floor and the hydrogen is on top. And then you relieve the hydrogen and  this is your product of your process. So,   what's quite interesting, this hydrogen is usually  at around 30 bars, maybe even higher of pressure,   because in this membrane, in this stack, it is  building up pressure for the hydrogen side. So,  

you get all your pressurized  hydrogen coming up from such pump. The pressure comes from the actual electrolysis  process? Exactly. In this one membrane, so per   membrane, there’s a delta pressure of the  membrane of around 25 bars or something to   resist this pressure. And you can take that  pressure. Yes. Because not only the membrane,  

you also have some layers above  it, on top of it and below it. That’s essentially your hydrogen side here and  then what, I mean, just being curious, what do   you have over here. This is the electrical aspect?  Exactly, it’s the electrical section because you   need like direct current on your stack. So there’s  usually first, a transformer and then a rectifier   on your system. Okay. Now we've understood  the basic process that you have several loops. Can we see how this looks in a real  system? Like one that you build? Yes,   sure, of course. I brought here just an image  from the two megawatt electrolyzer. We have both  

like this. Two megawatts? So sorry to interrupt  you, it's one megawatt per stack? Yes, exactly. I   recognize these ones. These are the stacks.  Exactly, this is the stack that we saw before. You actually see some screws here. Yeah. It's just  to tighten everything together. Because as I said,  

you have 30 bars in there, so things want to go  apart from one another. This is really a crucial   aspect here. And the stacks are usually,  nowadays, in the 1, 1.25, 1.5 megawatt   range. How many cells are we talking here?  In between 100 and 200 usually in this range. Alright. So this is what you would find  here. But, so you add - you grow bigger   by numbering up your stacks. Yes, yes.  You should find the stacks here. This   is this water separation vessel that we saw  before for the oxygen. You pump the water,  

filter it again, because I said that  the water quality is very important. Polishing? The polishing is here. This is the  filter. This is just for catching very tiny   parts that could be in the water, maybe from  some components. What happens when the water  

is not as pure? What happens? Your stacks  will degrade over time, like the PEM Stack,   the membrane, the catalysts and so on. If,  for example, you have ions in your water,   they will bind to the catalyst and  then the degradation will increase. Okay. Degradation means  basically, you know, it's being,  

it's no longer as good or something.  Like a battery, a battery degrades   over time and actually it’s the same what's  happening here. Okay, so essentially you're   doing that to keep the stacks long and happy  life. Yes, exactly. And this is, as I said,   the system layout and how you build the system  is very crucial to the longevity of these stacks. Okay, right, right. You have  this one here, so filter, stack,  

back again to this vessel. Yes. Venting the  oxygen. Yes. And then here, we have a pump,   heat exchanger, have these resins to water  polishing and feed back the water to here. Yeah,   that was the ion removal. Then you have another...  this is a fresh dionized water tank, I see. Exactly. So, as we said, we are losing water.  Yeah. Because of water splitting up. Oh yes,   obviously. The more water that's  being lost, the more hydrogen we get.  

Exactly. So, yes, good news. Yes. So we have  to feed in new water to the system. We have   the water treatment. What we discussed before,  and the water is just stored here in this tank. And then we're using this water from the tank  to re-supply this O2 separation vessel with   water. Tell me, a container. What kind  of water can I put in there? Well, okay,  

river water maybe on one extreme, but what kind  of water am I putting in there? So it depends,   of course. I mean, you can actually  purify nearly every water at the end. Yes. The question is just how big is the  water purification system that I have   there? So most water we are using, like  here in Europe, tap water or something,   but still, you have to react to different  water qualities so that you are happening   to find it at the spot where you want  to deploy the electrolyzer. Okay, cool. And then over here. Exactly. So over here is the  hydrogen side of the system. So the water side,  

as one could say, water tank,  hydrogen side, stacks. Okay.   Exactly. And this is the water treatment  at the beginning. Okay. So it's like… okay,   from water to hydrogen. Oh, yes. Yeah,  perfect. Yes, exactly. But I mean,   what you have to do, you have to separate water  from hydrogen as well, as we discussed before. This is happening here, by the way, this  is smaller than this because the pressure   is higher. So you need less volume actually,  for doing this. So you separate here and then   you go to the H2 purification. So why do you  need this? When I'm doing a PEM electrolyzer,  

my quality of hydrogen after this  one here is already at 99.9%. But if you want to use hydrogen, especially for  mobility, for fuel cell or something, you need   99.999%. Exactly. So out of the stack, I'm getting  three 9s or maybe even four? After this separation   here, cool it down a little bit and then you have  three 9s. Three 9s, okay. So here, how do you,  

just very quickly, how do you get the other two 9s  in there? It's a PSA, a pressure swing adsorption. You have like two vessels and, in each,  there is like a granular. Okay. And then   the hydrogen passes by, the water  is being sucked in this granular   and then the hydrogen goes out like  dry. Like the silica gel. You know,   the one you sometimes find in your clothes.  Yes, yes. So like this is being in there.

So we have two columns usually because this  one is being loaded with water, obviously,   when hydrogen is flowing through there  and there's more and more, more, more,   more water. And then there comes a time when  it's fully loaded. So what's happening then,   your process is turning to the  other column. Then the water,   the hydrogen is being fed through this one and  the second one is being regenerated in this time. So one is always in the regeneration  phase meaning, sweating out the   water. The water that was collected before  and then you always go back and forth,   right. Which is why this is called a pressure  swing adsorption, it swings. Ah, alright, okay. So   that's probably a lot of control going on there. You have to have some, let's say, programming  

and computer systems to do the automation that  control that, you know, and all the measure. I   have two questions. So we said, at 30 bar? Or at  what pressure are we getting hydrogen out here,   out of this container? We are getting  out of this container hydrogen at 30 bar. At the outlet of the container that means in the  container you’re already at higher pressure. But   30 bar is the outlet pressure. And that 30 bar  was mainly generated within the stack? Exactly.   Within the cell. In the cell, you’re generating  it. Another question I have to ask you and this  

is because I've had an interesting conversation  on another video about cell voltage monitoring. Do you guys have that in there as well?  Okay. It's mostly so the stack suppliers.   So we are integrators. The stack suppliers  usually supply you cell voltage measurement   and then you can measure the voltage of each  cell and also track it over time. Because the   degradation that we were talking about before  will be reflected in a higher voltage per cell.

So the voltage will increase  from time to time. Okay. So Max,   I know you brought another model with you,  it's like this system. I don't know whether   we can get that on. Let me try. We had  that over here and then we got,… oh,  

yeah. So that.. Because I found that  pretty impressive but maybe you could   tell us.. Take us through how something like  this would look if it's in my backyard now. Yes, so what I showed you before  was a two megawatts system,   alright? So this here is like now a five  megawatt system that we're having. Like  

you have these three containers. This one is  for the power electronics. So we have what? We   have three containers? One which is kind of  shaded here. We have this one and this one. Exactly. The one we just saw before,  which one would that be? It’s a mix  

between these two. Because when you have  only two stacks, you can merge like both   containers into one. Okay, where you go  from water to hydrogen. Exactly. But now   this is happening in both containers. So you  have all the stacks here and the balance of   plant elements. Exactly. So what you will see  there, for example, is the water treatment. That's the gas treatment and so on.  Processwise, it's nothing different   from what we saw before. Okay. But to be  honest, I thought that you're making these  

containers because you want standard,  you know, like, kind of containers,   basically standard systems. Yeah. And now isn't  this like a deviation from the standard when you   say this could be a little bit different, now I'm  going to make two containers and then... Oh, okay. Very good question. So actually we have  two standards for two different sizes.   You standardize the five megawatt, which  is like what you see here. This is five   megawatt? This is five megawatt. Exactly. You  can count here. Okay. You should see… one, two,  

three, four, five stacks. Alright. So like  we add five stacks to five megawatt here. This green one you see is the oxygen  separator. It's really big right now,   as you see. But for the 5 megawatt,  this is a standard platform. And also,  

if we would do a project with 10 or 20 megawatt,  we would do multiples of this one. So it would   be twice these container arrangements. Okay, but  this is a standard for the five megawatt setup. And the other one is a two megawatt  setup. Exactly and that's it. So   these are the two standards we go with  and all the sizes that we need to do,   we do with these two platforms. They  would be multiples of this. Exactly,   yes. What you see here on top, what is new,  what we didn't discuss before, is a dry cooler. For just getting off the heat from your water.  Okay. So essentially the outside part of that, the  

heat exchanger, which we saw on the PnID before.  Exactly, exactly. So that's big. They get pretty   big. And this is also for the cooling? This is  like the pump and everything that you need there. And also there's a chiller. I don’t know where you  can see this, but all the cooling components are   usually, obviously, placed outside of the system.  Okay, tell me one. So, this we talked about,   you said this is a power... What's going on in  there? It's a power box. What you need to do,   you need a transformer to transform your  voltage from your grid to a lower voltage.

Okay. Because the stack runs at maybe 300  or 400 volts, rather like 300 volts roughly.   So adding five stacks would lead you to 1500  volts. So you need to transform power from the   grid usually down, and then you need to rectify  it because you need to get from AC to DC. Okay. So that's all what happens in there.  Yes. Okay, so just for your part,   the PEM electrolysis, which is your  specialty, this is what you do,... this,  

you know? When we do a project, we offer like  everything as a turnkey solution. We supply   with all of this. Yeah. I mean obviously we  do not, we would not build this ourselves. Also me personally, I really don't understand  what's happening in there and just understand   you get DC. You have the requirement of what  current you want, basically. Yes, exactly. Okay,  

perfect. That's it. Max, we have little time  left, but in the presentation, I think we had   some photos still of some real system. If  I'm not mistaken, so let me pull this up. Yes, sure. So this is how it looks  in real. Exactly. So this is one,   this is a megawatt system. This is how it would  look in real from the outside. Yes. So, yeah,   practically what you see here on top is  a little bit. Yeah. This is a dry cooler,   all the pipings and it's really a  container stuffed with technology.

So yeah, lots of things happening in there. Isn’t  it hard to keep this running? I mean, how long can   this run? Can it run by itself? Yes. In general,  it can run by itself and it's usually I mean,   for such a system, it's best if it just keeps  on running. I mean, like with everything, like   also with your car or something, the best is just  to keep it running and never turn it off again. Okay, so but then come the humans who only  sometimes need it. You need to do service  

from time to time. But in general, you want  to keep the system warm, you want to keep   everything running. Oh, okay. Okay.  It's just a picture from the inside,   so you get a little bit an idea.  There are valves, piping, sensors,... This is essentially what you put together for  an entire system and then your customer in the   end is getting hydrogen or he’s getting that  plant. Exactly. You get that plant. Exactly.   So he can then operate it. Exactly. So  he's not getting a stack only from us,  

or only to take care of the plant or something. He's really getting everything and  can start operating and producing   hydrogen themselves. Okay. So I know I said this  in a certain way, your customer, but essentially,   I mean, it's about understanding how these PEM  electrolyzer systems work and then we see that,   you know, it's you can't just put  a cell on the table so I can now   start doing electrolysis, you  need a whole system around it.

I quite like this picture that you've brought  here. Can you just tell us about this very,   very quickly? So this is our first operating  system. It is in Brazil. It is close to Fortaleza,   like in the north of Brazil. So  which is what you're seeing here,   and actually it's an electrolyzer,  1.3 megawatt in this case. Okay. Which is here. By the way,  this is this power container that  

we were discussing before. Yes. And it's  being implemented in a hard coal plant,   power plant. Oh, so this is a coal power plant in  the background. They're having the electrolyzer   now for producing green hydrogen because they  need hydrogen for the process to cool down. But it wasn't a problem to put that beside a coal  plant? I mean, with all the pollution and all   that. I mean of course you have to comply  with safety regularities and everything,   but I mean these are all ATEX protected things  that you're using in your system. Then you  

also have a fence, I mean, here you see it, I  think, around it. I was just thinking about it. Sometimes when the systems operate, they  have certain air quality, but you don't   have much air going in? It's more water. Yeah,  exactly. We need the water quality is what is   really important. Max, can you just, as an  outlook, tell us where is this going? I mean,   it's great that you guys have now, you know, the  standardized model, two megawatt, five megawatt. So what's your vision of the future and how  do you see things going at the moment? What   I see is we need a numbering up and we will do  a numbering up of these systems. Right? I mean,   these systems will get slightly bigger, but  especially they will get more in numbers.  

It's very important to get these systems  industrialized, so you will be able to produce   one by one and not doing a project individual  job always, but it has to be a standard system. And then, I mean, there are so many demands for  hydrogen. I mean, you know, better than I. These   systems can really help in order to fulfill  that. What I would say is that, you know,   we had a bit of conversation before this. I know  you are a production guy, actually. Yeah. So it's  

actually good for all the hydrogen people out  there. But the production guys are coming in   because I think you've got to help us serialize  this more and get like many more out there. I think container, just like they did in  the shipping industry, can do a lot to, to   standardize things and get things going. Max, it  has been an absolute pleasure having you on here!   Thank you for explaining us, taking us through an  entire system. And thank you for watching. And,   if you've enjoyed this, please give us a like. If  you want to know more about the hydrogen economy,  

there's more videos here, on this channel. You  can also go on where you find all   the technology that you need to make the hydrogen  economy work including such electrolyzers. Thank   you for watching. Please follow us or give  us a like or whatever and just enjoy your   day building the hydrogen economy or what else  you're doing. Thank you very much for watching. Thank you Max. Thank you very much. Goodbye.

2024-04-08 19:34

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