POWER-TO-X

Ohmium eyes global growth after $250m raise

The green hydrogen electrolyser market is on the cusp of rapid expansion. We talk to Arne Ballantine, CEO of electrolyser manufacturer Ohmium, about how it can scale rapidly in an ever-evolving market.

RICHARD HEAP

May 15, 2023

  • Green hydrogen electrolyser makers face prospect of rapid growth
  • Manufacturer Ohmium has raised $250m to support its expansion
  • But its CEO warns of unpredictable demand and changing policies

The green hydrogen electrolyser market is poised for huge growth over the next decade, though exactly what ‘huge’ means here is a matter of much debate.

Analysts’ predictions vary widely. IDTechX has forecast that the global market for green hydrogen electrolysers would be worth at least $120bn by 2033, but we have also seen figures putting this at anywhere from just over $60bn to more than $330bn. There are disparities in the extent to which analysts believe green hydrogen will play a role in the global energy mix, which is a challenge for the industry.

The lack of clarity on how fast the sector will grow is not lost on the manufacturers of green hydrogen electrolysers. We spoke to Arne Ballantine, CEO of Ohmium, to find out more about the company’s growth plans.

These plans got a boost on 26th April, when the firm announced that it had raised $250m in a funding round led by TPG Rise Climate. This included participation from Hanover Technology Investment Management and existing investors Energy Transition Ventures and Fenice Investment Group.

This will support the company’s current priority, which Ballantine says is growing production capacity. Despite this, he says cannot make definite predictions on deal volumes even for this year.

“Our approach is to be ready to ship around 2GW this year, but we’re not expecting to do it. We don’t figure we’ll even see a tenth of that demand this year, but we’re ramping,” he says. Ballantine also shares his views with Tamarindo on challenges for renewables developers in the green hydrogen sector, and global hotspots.

Modular production

Ohmium was founded in 2019 and makes modular interlocking proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers. Ballantine says Ohmium’s management team is experienced in the three main electrolyser technologies – PEM, alkaline and solid-oxide – and the company has focused on modularity in its systems so developers can use its electrolysers flexibly to meet their needs.

“We’ve worked hard to take a page from Henry Ford’s book in terms of having very repeatable modular interlocking assemblies to make our equipment,” he says.

This has enabled the company to accelerate and increase production, while also supporting developers to install Ohmium electrolysers quickly. This is an important consideration from renewable developers that are getting into green hydrogen.

“Developers are used to being able to install very quickly when it comes to solar and wind. Unfortunately, the history of hydrogen-type equipment is that it looks much more like a chemical plant, and that’s a real mismatch,” he explains.

Ballantine adds that developers usually want electrolysers that give them flexibility over how they use them and what fuels they produce. This is crucial as the green hydrogen market is growing fast and he says it’s “unlikely at this moment in time that I’ll meet someone who says, ‘I’m only going to make ammonia with green hydrogen’”. The market is evolving fast and fuel producers need technology that will help them keep up.

Global expansion

While Ohmium is headquartered in the US, it has a global footprint.

It set up the first green hydrogen electrolyser plant in India in 2021; announced a tie-up with US renewables firm Invenergy in 2022 for the Sauk Valley Hydrogen project in Illinois; and this year appointed two executives, Igor Nus and Melchor Gammaro, to drive its growth in Europe. Ballantine says Ohmium’s four main markets at the moment are North America, Europe, India and the Middle East.

He says green hydrogen electrolyser manufacturers should be wary of becoming over-exposed to any one market: “It’s too easy in a situation like this to have the incentives shift and for one market to slow down relative to another. We have internationally set ourselves up to aggressively approach all four of those.”

Green hydrogen producers are also at risk if countries cannot build the pipelines needed to transport e-fuels. Globally, these networks are far less developed than the electricity grids, and this can pose an obstacle for developers in the sector.

The company is particularly interested in countries where renewables might have been over-built in some areas, as developers may look to produce green hydrogen using electricity that would otherwise have been curtailed, such as Spain.

However, while the green hydrogen industry is growing, Ballantine says growth is not going to be smooth or linear. Ohmium wants 2GW production capacity this year so it has the headroom in future years: “The important thing is we want to be ready to ramp non-linearly, which is why we’ve set up in the way we have.”

The $250m fundraising will provide further support for those expansion plans, however smooth the market may be.

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