Electrolyzers 101: What they are, how they work and where they fit in a green economy

Cummins electrolyzers - Hero image

As Cummins looks to the future, we see a shift in the energy market. With that change comes new possibilities and opportunities beyond our traditional product set. To better serve our customers and our planet, Cummins is innovating new, sustainable forms of power and bringing a wide range of new possibilities to the New Power product portfolio, providing a way to produce clean hydrogen to power hydrogen fuel cells, supply industrial processes or produce green chemicals like fertilizers, renewable natural gas and methanol. 

Cummins offers a variety of hydrogen-based technologies, including electrolyzer systems, and recently announced it will provide its 5-megawatt PEM electrolyzer to convert surplus hydro power to clean hydrogen for the Douglas County Public Utility District in Washington state (USA). But what exactly is an electrolyzer, how does it work and where does it fit in our green economy? 

What is an electrolyzer and how does it work?

Electrolysis - ElectrolyzerAn electrolyzer is a system that uses electricity to break water into hydrogen and oxygen in a process called electrolysis. Through electrolysis, the electrolyzer system creates hydrogen gas. The oxygen that’s left over is released into the atmosphere or can be captured or stored to supply other industrial processes or even medical gases in some cases.

The hydrogen gas can either be stored as a compressed gas or liquefied, and since hydrogen is an energy carrier it can be used to power any hydrogen fuel cell electric application — whether it’s trains, buses, trucks, or data centers. 

In its most basic form, an electrolyzer contains a cathode (negative charge), an anode (positive charge) and a membrane. The entire system also contains pumps, vents, storage tanks, a power supply, separator and other components. Water electrolysis is an electrochemical reaction which takes place within the cell stacks. Electricity is applied to the anode and cathode across the proton exchange membrane (PEM) and causes the water (H20) to split into its component molecules, hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2).

Are there different kinds of electrolyzers? 

Yes, they range in size and function. These electrolyzers can be scaled to meet a variety of input and output ranges, ranging in size from small industrial plants installed in shipping containers to large-scale centralized production facilities that can deliver the hydrogen by trucks or be connected to pipelines.

There are three main types of electrolyzers: proton exchange membrane (PEM), alkaline and solid oxide. These different electrolyzers function in slightly different ways depending on the electrolyte material involved. Both alkaline and PEM electrolyzers can deliver on-site and on-demand hydrogen, pressurized hydrogen without a compressor and 99.999% pure, dry and carbon-free hydrogen.

The difference between the three main kinds of electrolyzers include:

Alkaline ElectrolyzerAlkaline Electrolyzers

  • Uses a liquid electrolyte solution such as potassium hydroxide (KOH) or sodium hydroxide (NAOH), and water. 
  • The hydrogen is produced in a “cell” which consists of an anode, cathode and membrane. The cells are typically assembled in series in a “cell stack” that produces more hydrogen and oxygen as the amount of cell increases. 
  • When current is applied on the cell stack, the hydroxide ions (OH-) move through the electrolyte from the cathode to the anode of each cell, with hydrogen gas bubbles generated on the cathode side of the electrolyzer and oxygen gas at the anode, as represented here.

 

Proton Exchange MembraneProton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Electrolyzers

  • PEM electrolyzers use a Proton Exchange Membrane which use a solid polymer electrolyte.
  • When current is applied on the cell stack, the water splits in hydrogen and oxygen and the hydrogen protons pass through the membrane to form H2 gas on the cathode side.

 

 

 

 

Solid Oxide ElectrolyzerSolid Oxide Electrolyzers (SOEC) 

  • Uses solid ceramic material as the electrolyte
  • Electrons from the external circuit combine with water at the cathode to form hydrogen gas and negatively charge ions. Oxygen then passes through the slid ceramic membrane and reacts at the anode to form oxygen gas and generate electrons for the external circuit
  • SOECs operate at a much higher temperature (above 500C) than alkaline and PEM electrolyzers (up to 80C) and have the potential to become much more efficient than PEM and alkaline.

 

How are electrolyzers commercialized based hydrogen production?

There are four main ways that electrolyzers can be commercialized:

  1. Power to mobility: Hydrogen can be used as fuel at refueling stations for fuel-cell electric vehicles such as buses, trains, and car.
  2. Power to Fuel: Be used in refineries to remove sulfur from fossil fuels. 
  3. Power to Industry: Be used directly as an industrial gas in the steel industry, flat glass plants, semi-conductor industry, etc.  It can also be injected directly into the natural gas grids for lower carbon heating and other natural gas applications.
  4. Power to Gas: Be used in the production of green chemicals such as methanol, fertilizers (ammonia) and any other liquid fuel, even jet fuel!  

Electrolyzer - Power to Industry

What’s so unique about hydrogen fuel cells?

The hydrogen produced from an electrolyzer is perfect for use with hydrogen fuel cells. Working much like a battery, fuel cells do not run down or need charging and produce electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied. You can learn more about batteries and fuel cells here. The fuel cells use the hydrogen to generate electricity with zero emissions at the point of use. That means no fossil fuels or harmful emissions come from the tailpipe.

Even better, when the electrolyzer system is powered by a renewable energy source, such as a hydropower from the Columbia River Dams, the hydrogen produced is considered renewable and CO2-free from well to wheel. Learn more about well to wheel emissions in all-electric and fuel cell applications.

Why is hydrogen such a good option for clean energy?

Hydrogen presents an opportunity for mass market change in the energy industry. Energy systems across the globe are undergoing a fundamental transformation to focus on lower emissions and less negative impact on the environment.

To decrease the negative impacts of climate change and decarbonize the power sector, renewable technologies like wind and solar have emerged as key ingredients to providing a solution. But integrating these intermittent energy sources into the power grid can be challenging.

Hydrogen can act as an energy storage medium to address these grid challenges, allowing renewable power to be more easily used outside the electric power grid. Hydrogen is a stable way to store and transport renewable electricity efficiently over long periods of time. That way, renewable electricity generated by wind and solar that isn’t being used right away can be used another time or in another place. Hydrogen’s potential for storing and transporting energy makes it a key enabler of a global transition to renewable energy.

What is Cummins doing with electrolyzers?

Cummins made a bold entry into the hydrogen economy in September 2019 with the acquisition of Hydrogenics, a global hydrogen fuel cells and electrolyzer technology manufacturer. Cummins continues to make quick progress in innovating new products and applications in the hydrogen space, and currently, there are two different types of electrolyzers offered by Cummins:

  1. The HyLYZER® Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) Electrolyzer uses an ionically conductive solid polymer and is better suited for large-scale hydrogen production.
  2. The HySTAT® Alkaline Electrolyzer uses a liquid electrolyte and is well-suited for small- to medium-scale hydrogen production. 

Cummins is proud to be leading the charge in new hydrogen technology. With a century of experience in a multitude of power sources and drivetrains, we work with our customers to provide the right solution for the right customer at the right time. Whether it’s battery power, diesel, natural gas or fuel cells, your power is your choice.
 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

5 businesses that can benefit from selling Cummins generators

Cummins dealer discussing home generator

Ninety percent of American business are small- and medium-size. They are the true engines of our economy, employing millions of workers. With many of them looking for new ways to expand their services, generate income and grow their businesses, Cummins home standby and portable generators could be a new source of revenue. 

A Silver Lining in Dark Clouds

According to the Associated Press, power outages from severe weather have doubled over the past two decades, straining our country’s aging power grid. This has increased the frequency and duration of power outages. These frequent outages create a need for reliable backup power for households and other businesses. And for enterprising small- and medium-size businesses, satisfying this need with Cummins generators is a huge opportunity.   

Which businesses could benefit the most from becoming Cummins authorized dealers? Here are our top five:

1. General Contractors — When natural disasters such as ice storms, hurricanes, high winds, forest fires or earthquakes hit, lost power isn’t the only challenge customers face. There is often physical damage to property that must be repaired. When they are helping customers to rebuild, general contractors have an opportunity to estimate home or business’s energy needs and suggest adding a Cummins QuietConnect™ Home Standby Generator. If the customer agrees, the general contractor not only profits from the sale of the generator, but also the labor to install it.

2. Electricians — A good electrician is a trusted source of information. Not only are they experts with the flow of electrons, they often know their customer’s specific electrical setups. After a prolonged power outage, many are often asked “Is there anything you can do to keep my electricity on the next time the power goes out?” Electricians who sell and install Cummins QuietConnect Home Standby Generators can say, “Yes, yes there is.” Installing home standby generators can be another valuable service that electricians provide.

3. Heating & Cooling Contractors — During a power outage, one of the most critical systems knocked offline for home and business owners is their central heating and cooling system. Going without heat or cool air for a long period of time is not only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous if the temperatures are extreme outside. So, naturally, once power is restored, finding a way to keep the HVAC system on during the next power outage becomes top-of-mind. Since heating and cooling contractors are experts at installing large systems in homes and businesses, adding Cummins QuietConnect standby generators to homes and businesses is a natural way to add another profit center to their businesses.

4. Online Retailers — Up until now, we’ve been discussing standby generators. For businesses that don’t specialize in installing generators permanently into place, Cummins portable generators can be a moneymaker.  While portable generators can be used during power outages, they are better suited to smaller tasks due to their portability. This makes them ideal for camping, tailgating, construction worksites and more. With Cummins’ rugged and reliable reputation, our portable generators are ideal for retailers focused on these market segments.

5. Solar Panel Installers — Most home solar panels are connected directly to the power grid. So, when the power goes out, the solar panels stop providing power. For a backup source of electricity, solar panel installers can either install a solar battery backup, which gets charged by the solar panels, or a home standby generator. Typically, solar battery backups can only power a home for a few hours, so if an area is prone to weather-related outages, a home standby generator such as the Cummins QuietConnect is the better choice.

The Time is Now

With more people than ever looking for backup power generation, now’s a great time to expand your company’s offerings by becoming a Cummins authorized dealer. To learn more visit, cummins.com/partners/dealers.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Ten ways to prepare for rolling blackouts

Cummins service disconnect box mounted on side of house

Heat waves that cause excessive demand for electricity…droughts that make hydropower less available…power grids near active wildfires shut down for safety…aging, overstressed power grids…high winds that snap powerlines…these are all reasons why some parts of the country may face planned power outages this year.  

If you live in an area prone to rolling blackouts, here are some tips to help you ready your family for them: 

  • Sign up for notifications from your local electricity utility — If this service is available from your local utility, it can give you a warning to start preparing before the power goes out. 
  • Download our Power Outage Ultimate Checklist — It provides in-depth information about what to do before, during and after an outage. It even shows you what to do for children, pets and family members with medical needs. You can download it here
  • Stockpile nonperishable food and water — Make sure you have a manual can opener, too. Plan to have enough for everyone so your family can stay hydrated and nourished during the blackout. 
  • Make or purchase ice and coolers — If you have enough warning, make or purchase ice so you can pack some of your perishable food in coolers to preserve it. (A refrigerator will only maintain its internal temperature for about four hours, a freezer for about 48 hours.) 
  • Buy flashlights and extra batteries — Blackouts can be, well, black. Flashlights can be used for safety if you need to move around at night but use them sparingly. Make sure you have enough for every family member.
  • Keep mobile phones charged and gas tanks full — Your phones and your vehicles are your lifelines to the outside world. If you have an EV, make sure it’s fully charged. 
  • Practice manually opening garage doors — If you need to drive somewhere, you first need to be able to get your car out of the garage. 
  • Plan for medications that require refrigeration — You may need to store them in a cooler like your refrigerated food until the power returns. 
  • Invest in a whole-home standby generator — For the ultimate peace of mind, consider one of the Cummins QuietConnect™ home standby generators. In the event of a power outage, your generator will automatically switch on and keep your home powered.  
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups — Place them in central locations on every floor so if any carbon monoxide gets in the home, you are immediately alerted. 

Rolling blackouts seem to be becoming more and more common. Fortunately, there are ways to plan ahead and keep them from completely disrupting your life. To see the different ways that Cummins can help your family keep the power on during these planned power outages, visit us at cummins.com/na/generators/home-standby/whole-house-and-portable or find a local dealer at cummins.com/na/generators/home-standby/find-a-dealer

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Cummins Turbo Technologies gears up to launch the 8th Generation Holset Series 400 Variable Geometry Turbocharger

8th generation HE400VGT

As emission regulations become more stringent, Cummins Turbo Technologies (CTT) is committed to helping customers reduce emissions and advance fuel economy through innovative new air handling technologies.

Built on 70 years of innovation and dependability, CTT and Holset have introduced a wide range of industry leading air handling technologies. In 2021, CTT launched the 7th generation 400 series Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT) to help engine manufacturers meet future emission standards and offer best in class fuel economy. At Cummins, innovation never stops as we continue to advance our current technologies, while developing new ones. With this philosophy in mind, CTT is now preparing to introduce the 8th generation HE400VGT. It is specifically engineered to have top of class performance, reliability and durability for the 10-15L heavy-duty truck market.  

CTT has made significant improvements in turbocharger performance with its latest generation of products. The 8th generation turbocharger will have 5 percent improved efficiency over the previous 7th generation turbo.

In addition to offering improved turbocharger efficiency, which helps customers in engine downsizing, the HE400VGT will have a better transient response, enhanced compressor side oil leak robustness and dual sourcing on key components for supply chain flexibility.

Key highlights of the Holset HE400VGT include a new bearing system and near zero clearances to enhance performance and transient response. These enhancements are achieved by tighter clearances on the compressor stage, lower radial movement on the turbine stage, improved surface finish and new aero designs.

Scheduled to be launched in 2024, this turbocharger incorporates a next generation smart electric actuator and speed sensor with the latest chipset to enhance performance and durability. The dual sourcing strategy helps mitigate any unforeseen electronics shortages that have recently plagued the industry.

Along with the performance enhancements, the latest generation turbocharger will offer best-in-class performance for on-highway heavy-duty trucks coupled with improved fuel economy at key vehicle running points.

“CTT has incorporated exciting new technologies in our latest HE400VGT to help engine customers meet strict emissions requirements and reduce their total cost of ownership,” said Matthew Franklin, Director – Product Management & Marketing. As customers establish their strategies for upcoming emission regulations, CTT continues to build on the success of previous turbocharger launches to deliver innovative products that meet the challenges of our customers’ engine development needs without compromising on performance. 

Want to learn more about CTT’s products and technical innovation? Sign up for our quarterly newsletter today.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Rebuild masterstroke pays off for miners

belt buckle with text reading "Cummins 300th QSK60 MCRS Upgrade"

A masterstroke by Cummins engineers in Australia and the US has resulted in major cost reduction and environmental benefits for mining companies electing to rebuild their QSK60 engines under a special upgrade program.

The engineers focused on rebuild possibilities for the early generation QSK60, and how it could be upgraded to the latest diesel technology at overhaul time with no major change to the base 60-litre V16 design – a feat that eluded other engine manufacturers.

The key technology upgrade is to fuel injection, with the early unit injection system (HPI) replaced with the high-pressure modular common rail system (MCRS) that is now featured on all of Cummins’ latest generation high horsepower engines.

The 300th upgraded engine, rated at 2700 hp, recently rolled off the production line at the Cummins Master Rebuild Centre in Brisbane, highlighting yet another successful step in the evolution of the QSK60 and why it is the foremost high-horsepower diesel engine globally in mobile mining equipment.

“Reduced fuel consumption and longer life-to-overhaul are keys to lower total cost of ownership, and they were the initial aims behind the engineering of the upgrade program for the QSK60,” says Greg Field, mining business development manager for Cummins Asia Pacific.

“Innovation is at the core of Cummins’ long history, and it has certainly played its part in the QSK60 rebuild options we can offer our mining customers.”

The bottom line is impressive: Diesel particulate emissions are slashed by up to 63% through in-cylinder combustion technology with no aftertreatment. There’s also a plus for maintenance with less soot loading in the oil.

Fuel savings up to 5% are consistently reported in the field for significant greenhouse gas emissions reduction, while life-to-overhaul is extended by 10%, translating to fuel consumption of more than 4.0 million liters before rebuild is required.

Apart from the fuel system upgrade to MCRS, the QSK60 with single-stage turbocharging also features other Cummins innovations in combustion technology that were engineered for Tier 4 Final and Stage V emissions compliance, the most stringent off-highway emission standards in the world.

The rebuild upgrade package can be applied to the two variants of the QSK60 – one with single-stage turbocharging (known as ‘Advantage’) which can be rated from 1785 to 2700 hp, the other with two-stage turbocharging which can be rated at 2700, 2850 or 3000 hp.

The 300th upgraded QSK60 went to Boggabri Coal in the NSW Gunnedah Basin for installation in a Komatsu 930E haul truck. The engine has proved its worth in both coal and iron ore mining in Australia.

yellow QSK60 engine

Tags
Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Redirecting to
cummins.com

The information you are looking for is on
cummins.com

We are launching that site for you now.

Thank you.