NuScale Small Reactor Has Non-Energy Applications

NuScale Small Reactor Has Non-Energy Applications

Brian Wang |
October 18, 2019 |

NuScale small modular reactor can be used for flexible power operations, hydrogen production, process heat and power for oil refineries, and water desalination. Its technology is so far the first and only SMR undergoing the US regulatory process.

NuScale has also studied the potential for hydrogen production for fuel cell vehicles and other industrial applications. One 60 MWe NuScale Power Module (NPM) could power about 70,000 fuel cell vehicles, he said. Similarly, coupling of a NuScale plant to a 250,000 barrel per day oil refinery could bring a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Load Following and Industrial Heat

Each NPM can bypass 100% of its steam output to its condenser or to an industrial process, such as hydrogen production or industrial heat. By adjusting the valve position on the steam turbine, the NPM electrical power output can increase from 12 MWe (20%) to 60 MWe (100%) in 27 minutes or reduce power from 100% to 20% in 10 minutes, he said. In this mode, the thermal power of the NPM – 200 MWt – remains constant, which permits the transition from electric power production to thermal power production for industrial processes.

This feature also allows for rapid load following.

Hydrogen production

Given the currently low cost of natural gas in the USA, he said, steam-methane reforming is the most common method there of producing hydrogen.

“It requires combustion of roughly 10-15% of the methane in the feed stream to generate the heat and steam necessary to split the remainder of the methane; consequently, the resulting emission of CO2 is a concern,” he said. “Alternatively, electrolysis can dissociate water or steam into a clean source of hydrogen and oxygen.”

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High-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) is an emerging technology, he said, and is about 40% more efficient than conventional water electrolysis. NuScale worked together with researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to study the technical and economic feasibility of producing hydrogen using the HTSE process coupled to a six-module NuScale plant.

“Based on the analysis performed by INL, it was determined that a six-module NuScale plant implementing 50 MW modules would produce approximately 190 metric tons of hydrogen and 1500 metric tons of oxygen per day,” he said. “Of significant interest was the result that only 1.15 MW, or only 2.4% of the total power output, was required to raise the steam outlet temperature from 300 degrees Celsius to 800 degrees at the mass flow rates required for the HTSE process.

Oil refineries

NuScale Power and Fluor Corporation conducted a preliminary technical and economic assessment to evaluate the feasibility of using NPMs to support oil recovery and refining processes, reducing the overall carbon footprint of these industrial complexes and preserving fossil resources as feedstock for higher value products. Their assessment considered a representative refinery sized to process 250,000 barrels/day of crude oil.

The 10-module NuScale plant is competitive with the reference case for natural gas prices as low as USD5/MBtu even with no CO2 tax.

The capital investment for the NuScale plant can be recovered in 25 years if the natural gas cost exceeds USD9.5/MBtu without a carbon tax, or USD7.5/MBtu with a USD40/Mt CO2 penalty.

By providing both process steam heat and electrical power, a 10-module NuScale plant would reduce CO2 emissions from the refinery by about 40% or roughly 200 Mt/hr.

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NuScale is about USD900 million into the development of its SMR design and they have 485 patents.

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