Electrolyser start-up Electric Hydrogen made waves with its $380m Series C funding round this year, with reports claiming it as the first green hydrogen company valued at $1bn.

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So what gives this company — backed by investors such as Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy, Australian mining and energy firm Fortescue, and tech giants Microsoft and Amazon — the edge over other electrolyser manufacturers?

Quite simply, Electric Hydrogen promises to drastically lower the cost of green hydrogen via its proton-exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers. But rather than just focusing on improving efficiency per stack or increasing the range of renewable electricity input, the company takes a bigger picture approach — literally.

“We manufacture very powerful electrolyser stacks, which enables us to think big,” said Omar Shkeir, the company’s business development director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at the Green Hydrogen Summit Oman conference in Muscat last week.

“What we’re trying to do differently is we’re trying to think about everything that you need within a hydrogen plant, and we’re going to provide it to you in a fully integrated manner.”

Electric Hydrogen only offers one product: a standardised 100MW pre-fabricated green hydrogen plant, which integrates both the electrolysers and surrounding balance-of-plant equipment, such as water treatment and thermal management.

“That enables us to essentially reduce complexity and take advantage of supply-chain optimisation that nobody else is doing today in the industry,” Shkeir added, noting that each plant only takes up 6,000 square-metres of space while using far fewer electrolyser stacks than from other manufacturers for the same capacity.

“I think one of the key challenges of this industry is how to really scale up,” he said, adding that the strategy for most developers to-date has been to replicate small-scale projects “tens of times, hundreds of times to reach meaningful scales for industrial decarbonisation”.

“We have to fundamentally change our thinking on that problem, we have to almost start from a blank sheet of paper, really visit those fundamentals and really try to really innovate to reach larger scales at cost. We can’t just install hundreds of stacks to just have a 100MW plant, it will never be economical that way.”

Electric Hydrogen’s approach reduces the final cost of hydrogen in three ways: capital expenditure (capex) on the stack and the balance of plant, and installation, according to Shkeir.

He cited an average total installed cost — including balance-of-plant equipment — of $1,700/kW for Western-made alkaline electrolysers and $2,000/kW for PEM technologies.

“Really, as an industry, we have to cut those costs by half in order to make sense of the economics,” Shkeir said.

Electric Hydrogen claims an all-in capex of just $750/kW, reducing costs to the point where, for example, a premium of $1.90/kg for green hydrogen over grey drops to $0.50/kg.

Most analysts calculate the cost of equipment to only make up around a third of the levelised cost of green hydrogen, with the cost of renewable electricity making up a far greater portion.

However, Shkeir noted that cheap sources of green power, such as wind and solar, are “naturally low capacity factor”, which means that developers have to spend more on storage or upsized renewables capacity in order to firm up production, and less on electrolysers.

Shkeir also confirmed to Hydrogen Insight that the dynamic range of Electric Hydrogen’s electrolysers — ie, how much renewable electricity input can fluctuate while continuing to produce H2 — is 10-100% of their capacity , similar to the ranges advertised for other PEM electrolysers on the market.

When it comes to integrating balance of plant, other electrolyser manufacturers are making similar moves.

Belgium-based John Cockerill this month officially launched its Rely joint venture with French EPC firm Technip Energies, which offers an all-in-one product to developers, while fellow pressurised alkaline electrolyser manufacturer HydrogenPro has partnered with engineering company Andritz to supply a similar turnkey solution.