The FuelCell Energy carbonate Direct FuelCell® (DFC®) technology is versatile and capable of producing multiple value streams including the on-site production of high purity hydrogen in addition to ultra-clean electricity and usable heat. The ‘Direct FuelCell’ terminology reflects how readily available fuels, such as clean natural gas or renewable biogas, are fed directly into the fuel cell, where the fuel is converted to hydrogen before reacting electrochemically to generate power. See How Fuel Cells Work here.
The fuel cell power plant can be configured to produce additional hydrogen beyond what is needed for power production, with the excess hydrogen available for industrial or transportation applications. This configuration utilizes the commercial DFC® product line, transforming the distributed power generation system into one which is also a low-cost and efficient distributed hydrogen production system.
This application helps to address the need for a hydrogen fueling infrastructure by cleanly and affordably generating high-purity hydrogen in urban locations. An ideal application is at wastewater treatment facilities to utilize renewable biogas as the fuel source and generate power and heat for the water treatment process and zero-carbon hydrogen for transportation. Price points are competitive with existing hydrogen generation technologies and the environmental profile is much more attractive than traditional hydrogen generation technologies. This reflects the virtual absence of pollutants by fuel cells and low carbon footprint when utilizing natural gas and carbon-neutral when fueled by renewable biogas.
This renewable vehicle fueling solution was demonstrated for three years at the Orange County Wastewater Treatment Plant in Fountain Valley, California. In this project, renewable biogas from the wastewater treatment process is converted to ultra-clean power and renewable hydrogen, which is provided to a fuel cell vehicle fueling station at the plant. The demonstration project utilized conventional mechanical systems for purifying the hydrogen and compressing it to the level required by the application. FCE is also developing advanced electrochemical technologies that utilize electrochemical cells to purify the hydrogen stream and to compress the hydrogen to high pressures. These electrochemical systems have the potential to reduce the cost and parasitic power requirements of hydrogen purification and compression.
In addition to hydrogen vehicle filling stations, another market for the technology is distributed hydrogen production for industrial applications, such as metal heat treating, glass manufacturing, petrochemical applications and material handling.
FuelCell Energy is demonstrating this application at the Company’s North American manufacturing facility. The ultra-clean electricity powers the manufacturing process, the heat is used for facility and water heating, and the high-purity hydrogen is used in the process ovens, replacing purchased hydrogen.
This Advanced-Factory enables cost reductions while enhancing reliability of supply of these multiple value streams, and delivered in a manner that promotes sustainability initiatives.