Pune-headquartered H2e Power Systems Pvt is setting up an electrolyzer manufacturing plant in Maharashtra, of 1GW capacity, and expects it to be producing solid oxide electrolyzers by 2023, the company’s Founder President & CEO, Siddharth Mayur said.
The company, which is financially backed by the Poonawalla family of the vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, will invest $40million for setting up the plant. The plant will come up either in Pune or close to a port, Mayur said. The latter option is attractive because of the immense export opportunities, he said.
He said that company has been developing vendors for nearly four years. Around 370 components go into the manufacture of electrolyzers, which are machines that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. These include the ‘stack’, (which is the core of the system containing the electrodes and membranes), ‘balance of plant’ (peripheral components such as blowers and pumps) and power electronics.
All these components will be manufactured within 200 km of H2e Power’s upcoming plant, Mayur said.
Set up a decade ago to manufacture fuel cells, H2e Power developed its own technology in collaboration with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute. Today, the company owns all the key patents.
But the upcoming factory in Maharashtra will not be its first; the company has manufacturing facilities in Germany and Switzerland — in 2020, it acquired a Swiss fuel cell company called Hexis AG. From these plants, the company is already supplying to customers in the US and South Korea, Mayur said.
The Poonawalla family invested (an undisclosed sum for an undisclosed stake) in H2e Power in January 2020; the company is now looking for another round of funding, from strategic investors, he said.
H2e Power is among just a handful of companies in the world that produce solid oxide electrolyzers —the other major companies include Sunfire of Germany, Bloom Energy (founded by an India, K R Sridhar) and OxEon, both based in the US, Elcogen of Estonia and Kyocera of Japan.
‘Solid oxide electrolysis cells’ (SOEC) is one of the three incumbent electrolyzer technologies in the market today. The other two are the age-old ‘alkaline technology’ and the ‘proton exchange membrane’ or PEM technology. All these are the reverse of fuel cells — in fuel cells, you put in hydrogen to get electricity, while in electrolyzers, you put in electricity to get hydrogen. SOEC cells typically have a solid electrolyte, which is the medium through which ions pass, and operate at very high temperatures of between 600°C and 1,000°C. SOEC electrolyzers consume less power to produce a kg of hydrogen— 37 kWhr, compared with 55-60 kWhr for other technologies.
A fourth technology is arriving on the scene — Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM). Mayur says that H2e Power already has AEM technology under its belt and is in fact setting up a demonstration plant for Oil India Ltd to produce hydrogen that would be mixed with OIL’s natural gas piped to customers.
Apart from the 1 GW SOEC electrolyzer plant, H2e Power will also set up another factory, of a capacity of 200 MW, to manufacture AEM-based electrolyzers, Mayur said.