Rolls-Royce Leads Consortium to Develop Hydrogen Combustion Engine

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Phoenix project participants will develop components such as the injection system, piston group, ignition system, and a new lubricant for the hydrogen engine.

Rolls-Royce is heading a five-member consortium to develop technologies for a high-efficiency hydrogen combustion engine to drive combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems. The Phoenix project—Performance Hydrogen Engine for Industrial and X—received almost €5 million in funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection.

“We are convinced that combustion engines will remain an essential part of the provision of a reliable energy supply during the energy transition,” said Dr. Jörg Stratmann, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems. “We are making them climate-friendly with sustainable fuels—that's why we are investing in the development of next-generation hydrogen engines. The consortium in the Phoenix project, with its combined expertise, will assist in tackling this major technical challenge."

The consortium plans to develop an engine with the same electrical and thermal energy output as the currently available natural gas-powered CHP units—a higher power range of up to 2.5 MW. Using green hydrogen fuel, this stationary energy plant will operate with total carbon-neutrality. Combustion engine development will occur for a three-year term. Following this term, a technology concept will be selected for use in a prototype engine.


Tobias Ostermaier, President of Stationary Power Solutions at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said,“As soon as the availability of green hydrogen is ensured on a large scale, the technology of highly efficient hydrogen cogeneration plants promoted in the Phoenix project will be ready for use."

Participants in the Phoenix project consortium are Rolls Royce; the Institute for Sustainable Mobile Propulsion Systems at the Technical University of Munich; MAHLE Konzern; Fuchs Lubricants Germany GmbH; the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing; and Robert Bosch AG. These partners will develop components including the injection system, the piston group and ignition system, and a new lubricant.

Advanced combustion systems are how gas turbines are adapting to lower-carbon fuels and helping to decarbonize the energy sector in an efficient and reliable way.

The theme of ASME’s Turbo Expo 2024 Turbomachinery Technical Conference & Exposition in London, held June 24 – 28, is Achievements and Needs to Unlock a Net-Zero Future in Propulsion and Power, with a focus on technology innovations such as new fuel-flexible combustion technologies.

Tuesday’s panel session, The Gas Turbine’s Role in the Decarbonized Power Generation Portfolio, focused on the critical technology development challenges associated with bringing the versatility, flexibility, and reliability of the gas turbine to the clean energy transition with a discussion on:

  • how the introduction of a decarbonized fuel—such as hydrogen or ammonia, and/or carbon capture and sequestration—could transform the utilization of both existing installed and new gas turbine power generation power plants;
  • global and regional market dynamics; and
  • the challenges and opportunities of the required supportive “molecule movement” infrastructure regulatory guidelines.

Technological innovations are accommodating fuel flexibility. However, how these newer systems work with existing installations depends heavily on the specific gas turbine, according to Jason Jermark, VP of Global Service Operations at Siemens Energy, who was a participant in the panel discussion, given the “wide range of over 20 different frames currently in operation, as well as the type of fuel being used—which includes options such as hydrogen co-firing, 100% hydrogen, (fully) cracked ammonia, direct ammonia combustion, methanol, HVO, and FAME,” he said. “Working in combination with various partners, we have recent examples of both pilot applications and scalable solutions. The goal for all new fuel-flexibility developments is to be retrofittable to ensure that they can be seamlessly integrated into the existing fleet with minimal modification.”