Fuel Cells for Cleaner Coal? Key Milestone Achieved in Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Energy Systems

March 30 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 2

future of energy fuel cell

Coal is the world's fastest growing source of energy, and at the center of the debate over advancing our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions even as we attempt to meet the demands of a global doubling of energy consumption in the decades ahead.  

'Clean' vs 'Cleaner'
While one side of the debate spectrum ridicules the concept of 'Clean Coal', the other side is pushing forward down the road to 'Cleaner' ways to convert coal energy into electricity that goes far beyond today's 'coal fire' combustion power plants.

Via a process known as 'gasification' we can remove much of the carbon from coal to create a cleaner hydrogen-rich synthetic gas (syngas). Industrial scale fuel cells can then convert this syngas chemical energy into electricity. The challenge is scaling up fuel cells to meet the challenge!

Key Milestone for SOFCs
The U.S. Department of Energy's Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) has high hopes for fuel cell based energy conversion and has just announced a key 5,000 hour operation and performance milestone based on two stacks developed by FuelCell Energy (FCE) in partnership with Versa Power Systems.

The milestone marks a key step towards non-combustion based conversion using 'low-cost Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) technology for coal-based power plants and other power generation applications' using carbon heavy feedstocks such as syngas, natural gas and biofuels.

Integrated gasification fuel cell plants are expected 'to achieve an overall operating efficiency of greater than 50 percent—15 percentage points higher than today’s average U.S.-based coal-fired power plant—while separating at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions for capture and environmentally secure storage.'

The US Department of Energy hoopes to have a a 250-kilowatt to 1-megawatt fuel cell module demonstration by 2012; a 5-megawatt proof-of-concept fuel cell system to demonstrate system integration, heat recovery turbines, and power electronics by 2015; and then a full-scale demonstration of a 250- to 500-megawatt integrated gasification fuel cell power plant by 2020.

DOE Press Release

 

Versa Power Press Release

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