SOEC: Creating a Positive Change in the Global Fuel Consumption Trend

soec electrolyzer market

A SOEC or solid oxide electrolyzer cell is a type of solid oxide fuel cell, that achieves the electrolysis of water or carbon dioxide, using the solid oxide. It operates in the regenerative mode to achieve the electrolysis. SOEC also uses ceramic electrolytes to obtain hydrogen and oxygens. The SOEC uses less electricity to produce hydrogens and it is also beneficial in reducing the consumption and costs of the electricity. The SOEC has an electrical efficiency of about 90%, producing excess heat, and the efficiency can reach 100% when heat is generated.

There are various types of electrolytic cells, like alkaline electrolytic cells (AECs), proton exchange membrane electrolytic cells (PEMECs), and solid oxide electrolytic cells (SOECs). The major function of the electrolytic cells is to split liquid or vapor water to produce hydrogen and oxygen gas. The global demand for hydrogen gas is increasing significantly, as it can not only produce energy and heat that can used in various industries like automotive and heavy industries but is also used to produce ammonia for fertilizers.

The heavy industry sector globally is supported by the availability of electrolytic cell technologies. Various countries all across the globe are pushing their industries to attain net zero in carbon emissions, which creates the demand for hydrogen gas globally as an alternate fuel. The SOEC electrolyzers help industries in fuel production, by creating hydrogen gas from splitting water, recycling carbon dioxide, and synthesizing chemicals.

Global Production Trends

In the current scenario, hydrogen has become one of the most efficient and demanded fossil fuel alternatives, majorly because of its application across various industries. Especially, various countries in Europe, have pledged an aim to attain zero carbon emissions in the next few years. This can become a significant milestone, as most of the heat and electricity produced in the region uses various forms of fossil fuels, like coal and natural gases, with high carbon emission rates. The government of Germany finalized its plan to provide a subsidy of about US$ 17 billion to the country’s natural gas-powered power plants, which can switch to hydrogen gas-powered power plants.

Furthermore, the demand for hydrogen fuel as an alternative to battery-powered electric vehicles is also increasing swiftly. In February 2024, Honda a Japanese automotive giant debuts their latest hydrogen fuel-cell car CR-V e: FCEV, at the H2 & FC Expo, in Tokyo. The demand for hydrogen-powered vehicles is gaining speed in the Asia Pacific region, as the technology of FCEVs does not depend on limited resources like lithium-ion. In March 2022, the Union Minister for Road and Transport, India launched Toyota’s Mirai in the country, which is said to be the most advanced FCEVs available in the global market.

SOEC Use Case

With the increasing adoption of hydrogen as an alternate fuel, the demand for related technologies also increased in various industries. The use of electrolyzers increased significantly mainly because of their wide-area application in multiple industries, like fuel production CO2 recycling, and chemical synthesis. Especially the demand for the solid oxide electrolyzer increased owing to its major advantage over another electrolyzer, which is its high rate of electricity efficiency, which is close to 100%.

In the fuel production sector, the SOECs have the ability to electrolyze water and carbon dioxide simultaneously, to produce syngas, which is a mixture of CO and H2 gas, which can be further used to create various synthetic fuels and chemicals. The SOEC electrolyzers are very efficient in the use of electricity and heat, and they have the capability of directly producing syngas, with high reaction rates.

Market Dynamics and Drivers

Hydrogen is considered one of the most suitable alternatives for fossil fuels like crude oils, coals, and natural gases. Hydrogen gas has applications across all major industries that require any type of fuel to operate and is also termed the key enabler of the global energy transition. In heavy industries like refineries and power plants, all across the globe, hydrogen gas has a vital application as these industries require a high volume of fuel to operate and emit large quantities of carbon dioxide in the environment. The introduction of hydrogen in such an industry will cut emissions and will ensure a renewable and sustainable supply of fuels.

The automotive industry witnessed a major change in its hydrogen landscape, with the introduction of hydrogen-based fuel-cell electric vehicles in the global market. The electric automotive market generally consists of battery-operated and fuel-cell-operated EVs. The major problems with the BEVs are the limited range, longer charging time, and high recycling cost. The FCEVs solve these problems and provide consumers with an emission-free commute.

Figure 1: Global Sales of FCEV, in Unit, 2020 to 2023

sales of fcev

Source: Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership

According to the data published by the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership, a government and industry collaboration organization, the sale of FCEVs skyrocketed globally, from just 937 vehicles sold in 2020 to 2.978 vehicles sold in 2023. This increase in sales suggests the increasing adoption of hydrogen-based technology by consumers.

Key Developments

  • In April 2024, Mitsubishi Heavy Industry begins operations of a new 400kW SOEC test module for higher hydrogen efficiency. They begin this operation at their Takasago Hydrogen Park, in Japan. The company claims to achieve overall efficiency of 90%. During the operations of the projects, the electrolytic efficiency of the module was about 3.5kWh/Nm3, achieving 101% higher HHV, with higher heating values.
  • In March 2024, Topsoe, a Danish technological company demonstrated their new achievement by unveiling the first batch of results, which involved 12 stacks and 1200 cells of SOECs, that operated successfully at a combined power of 35kW, and this power was maintained for over 2250 hours.
  • In March 2024, Bloom Energy, a hydrogen tech firm, signed an agreement with Shell Plc., to study large-scale decarbonization solutions, which will utilize the properties of SOEC hydrogen technology.

In conclusion, the SOEC electrolyzer market presents significant opportunities for growth and innovation, driven by the increasing adoption of hydrogen as an alternate fuel. While facing various technological challenges such as the development of new and more effective electrolyzers to produce hydrogens, the industry is poised to capitalize on technological advancements and innovations to meet the needs of a growing global demand for the SOEC electrolyzer market.