Cooperation between the UK and South Korea in the fields of hydrogen and fuel cell research was strengthened on the 6th November with the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU signing took place during the visit to Imperial College of Korean President Park Geun-hye and the agreement aims to leverage funding from governments, industry and academia in both countries to stimulate work between the UK’s H2FC SUPERGEN Hub, led by Imperial College, and Korea’s Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Test Bed Centre, hosted by the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH). Imperial College also signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).
After the signing of the MoU, a series of presentations introducing the current state of fuel cell activity in the two countries from both industry and academia was held; this was followed with a roundtable discussion. The event was jointly chaired by Prof. Taihyun Chang, Provost of POSTECH and Prof. Anthony Kucernak of Imperial College. Prof. Kucernak introduced the H2FC SUPERGEN Hub explaining how its £4 million funding from the EPSRC is divided between four main areas: core research (40%), flexible research (41%), networking activity (16%) and support for PhD students (3%). Future events planned by the Hub include a research conference in December 2013 and the publication of a White Paper on low-carbon heat, due for publication in 2014. More information about the Hub can be found in our recent Analyst View about its activities.
UK-based industrial hydrogen and fuel cell activities were presented by Dr Robert Cunningham from Rolls Royce Fuel Cell Systems Ltd. The UK has a broad range of expertise in this area, ranging from catalyst and MEA development, through to fuel cell stack and system design, hydrogen storage, electrolysis and consultancy. The UK industry also has many domestic and international links to academia. A selection of updates on UK companies followed. LG Fuel Cell Systems is still targeting commercialisation of its megawatt-scale natural-gas-fuelled SOFC and plans to begin demonstration of a small-scale model in the second half of 2014. Ceres Power already has links to Korea through its work with KD Navien, Korea’s largest boiler manufacturer. Intelligent Energy is developing PEMFC systems, focussing on three areas: motive, distributed power and consumer electronics. Ricardo has a long history of engineering consultancy and is currently a member of the Roads2HyCom project which is supporting the European Commission, HFP/JTI, HyRaMP and other stakeholders planning future fuel cell and hydrogen activities. Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells Ltd has a dedicated membrane electrode assembly (MEA) assembly facility in Swindon, UK which has been in operation for ten years, with 150 dedicated staff working on fuel cell development. Air Products has supported hydrogen fuelling projects for the London buses, the Bristol harbour ferry and has a publicly accessible hydrogen station at Heathrow Airport. Finally E4Tech is an internationally-focussed strategic consultancy for green technology, established since 1997 and covers topics as diverse as hydrogen storage, fuel cell business models, fuel cell investments and more recently the emerging area of power-to-gas. It clients range from start-ups through to global corporations.
Korean industrial activities were next on the agenda, introduced by Dr Rak-Hyun Song from the Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER). KIER has been active in this area since 1981 and across Korea as a while more than 100 MW of fuel cells have been installed to date. Korea is very supportive of fuel cell technology and between 2006 and 2012 offered attractive feed-in tariffs for fuel cell installations. From 2012 this incentive evolved into the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) which mandates utility companies producing more than 500 MW per year to generate a set percentage of their electricity using New and Renewable Energy (NRE) sources. Of all the available NRE options, fuel cells enjoy the highest rating, therefore attracting the most credits. Korea also has its million green homes program and public buildings regulations which also support the installation of fuel cells. POSCO Energy currently is installing molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC) technology from FuelCell Energy, but is researching solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology for its next-generation systems which it hopes will have longer lifetimes. Under its current test program, running from 2007 to 2014 it has developed and tested a 10 kW anode-supported SOFC system. SK is Korea’s biggest oil company and is collaborating with Topsoe Fuel Cell on the testing of 1 kW systems. In the future SK hopes to develop in-house technology of up to 3 kW and plans to begin lifetime testing ten of these systems from 2014. KD Navien, as already mentioned, is working on fuel cell micro-CHP systems with UK-based Ceres Power. KoMiCo is currently running a project until 2016 to develop a 700 W SOFC stack for micro-CHP applications. Its technology includes tubular, flat tubular and anode-supported planar SOFC cells.
Switching to academic activities, Dr. David Book introduced the latest information on UK universities working in a number of different areas. Eighteen universities are currently researching hydrogen production, looking at a range of methods including polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) and solid oxide electrolysis, bio-sources, solar water splitting and efficient natural gas reforming. Sixteen universities are working on hydrogen storage, carrying out high-throughput material discovery and characterisation. Seven universities are researching PEM fuel cell technology, searching for non-precious metal catalysts and advanced membrane materials and the same number of universities are investigating solid oxide technology, modelling performance and developing novel materials.
The Korean side of academic research was discussed by Prof Nigel Sammes from POSTECH. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has been developing SOFC technology for more than 20 years; the Korea Institute of Ceramic Engineering & Technology (KICET) has expertise in ceramic materials, electrolytes, sealants and electrodes; the Research Institute of Industrial Science & Technology (RIST) is researching MCFC technology and also has a 10 kW SOFC system planned for testing in 2014; Yonsei University is studying the fundamentals of SOFC technology as is Seoul National University. POSTECH itself is targeting SOFC technology and has developed a 1 kW flat tube SOFC stack. It is also researching catalysts for reforming natural gas and selective methanation.
Overall, there is a massive amount of fuel cell and hydrogen research going in on both Korea and the UK and a wide variety of industrial interests in these topics. During the roundtable discussion the next steps of the MoU were introduced. The need to identify key issues was the main theme, and the organisers solicited responses from the audience via the H2FC SUPERGEN Hub in order for them to target specific areas from where further collaborations can grow. Once in place, more focussed applications can be made to the countries’ respective research councils in the hope to leverage funding to the maximum level possible. Cost, performance and durability were mentioned as the three main deliverables for fuel cell technology. Typically it is possible to achieve two out of the three aspects in a working fuel cell, but a system providing all three has to-date proved elusive.
Korean interest in the MoU stems from its desire to forge stronger links between its schools, universities and industry; it also has a receptive market with strong incentives for fuel cell technology, but little in the way of suitable technology. The UK by contrast has attractive technology, but weaker market support, and so Korea could offer an attractive route to market for collaboratively developed technology.
The event continued the following day with a workshop at St Andrews University entitled, Inspiring Technology: Joint Korea-UK Workshop for Future Energy Solutions.
Dan Carter Manager
Image: President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, speaking at Imperial College, London (Source: Imperial College)