Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), the U.S.-based global leader in the deployment of fourth-generation gas-cooled microreactors, Hyundai Engineering (Representative Director Hong Hyun-sung) and SK ecoplant (Representative Director Park Kyung-il) are teaming up to conduct research and development for carbon-free hydrogen production. The three companies signed an MOU on April 20th for the construction of a “Hydrogen Micro Hub” at the SK ecoplant headquarters in Seoul’s Jongno district.
The “Hydrogen Micro Hub” is a facility that produces hydrogen by applying a high-temperature electrolysis process of solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOEC) to the electricity and high-temperature steam generated by USNC’s Micro-Modular™ Reactor (MMR®). This is a carbon-free hydrogen production method that extracts hydrogen by decomposing water with electricity generated from nuclear power.
Under the agreement, the three companies will jointly conduct research and development on the MMR-SOEC integrated plant for the next five years. Through this, they plan to examine the establishment of a competitive hydrogen production system, and promote continuous research and development and verification for future hydrogen production and supply businesses.
Hyundai Engineering will oversee the MMR-related BOP (Balance of Plant) and EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) activities, while USNC will be responsible for MMR design, manufacturing, and supply. SK ecoplant will establish a nuclear power-based hydrogen production system using Bloom Energy’s SOEC and supply hydrogen production equipment.
In this project, Hyundai Engineering and USNC will utilize a micro modular nuclear power plant based on the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) being demonstrated at the Chalk River Laboratories Campus in Ontario, Canada. Compared to commercial pressurized water reactors, this technology can generate relatively high-temperature steam, enabling the use of SOEC operating at high temperatures, which can maximize hydrogen production efficiency with less energy.
Meanwhile, SK ecoplant has successfully tested hydrogen production through electrolysis using a 130 kW-scale SOEC facility located at the Bloom SK Fuel Cell manufacturing plant in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do, in cooperation with Bloom Energy and Bloom SK Fuel Cell. It is also participating in a government-led green hydrogen production demonstration project, having been recognized for its unique technological capabilities in efficient hydrogen production. The company is also pursuing a project to convert green hydrogen into ammonia or methanol, which have high storage capabilities. It is evaluated as having a complete renewable energy-based green hydrogen value chain, from renewable energy project development to related equipment production and EPC to green hydrogen production. In addition to this Hydrogen Micro Hub cooperation, SK ecoplant is diversifying its “zero carbon emission hydrogen production model” to include pink hydrogen, which is produced by electrolyzing water using electricity from nuclear power generation.
Hong Hyun-seong, CEO of Hyundai Engineering, said, “We have signed a three-party agreement to develop an environmentally friendly business that economically produces and supplies hydrogen by combining MMR and SOEC technologies.” He also stated that Hyundai Engineering is making efforts in various fields such as recycling plastic waste, resource utilization, offshore wind power, solar power, and expanding infrastructure for electric vehicle charging, to leap forward as a global eco-energy company.
Park Kyung-il, CEO of SK ecoplant, said, “SOEC is a good partner that can take advantage of MMR’s advantages by operating at high temperatures and producing high-efficiency hydrogen with minimal energy consumption,” and added that the company will lead the production of zero-carbon emission hydrogen, including economically feasible nuclear power utilization hydrogen production, in addition to the renewable energy-based green hydrogen value chain model that it has secured.
Francesco Venneri, CEO of USNC, said, “The Hydrogen Micro Hub is an efficient and economical hydrogen production plant that can produce hydrogen on a scale required at the local site.” He also said, “The three companies, SK ecoplant, Hyundai Engineering, and USNC, will contribute to the efficient establishment of a hydrogen economy based on the MMR-SOEC integrated plant.”