Air Pollution Control Equipment Services

Fuel cells running on landfill gas provide power without pollution

Issue 5 and Volume 99.

Fuel cells running on landfill gas provide power without pollution

A PC25(TM) fuel cell power plant, supplied by International Fuel Cells Corp. (IFC), is producing electricity from landfill gas, the first such application of landfill gas as an energy source for a commercial fuel cell, according to IFC. The project, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), uses a commercial PC25 phosphoric acid fueled cell power plant installed at the Penrose Landfill in Sun Valley, Calif.

“By using a fuel cell to convert waste methane in landfill gas into clean energy, air emissions are reduced, thereby mitigating global warming, acid rain and other harmful environmental emissions,” said John Trocciola, IFC program manager.

“An exciting dimension of the PC25 operating on landfill gas is that, unlike internal combustion engines and turbines, the unit has significant siting characteristics due to its low levels of emissions, noise and vibration. It can be located remote from the landfill using gas piped from the site. Its thermal energy, as well as its power, can be put to constructive use at a customer`s building.” The cells produce 200 kW of electrical power and 760,000 Btu per hour of thermal energy with negligible pollutant emissions.

Operation of the landfill unit began in December 1994. The PC25 power plant is designed to run on pipeline natural gas, but can be configured to run on peak shaved gas or liquid fuel, on waste methane from a wastewater treatment plant or coal mine, agricultural crop residue or animal waste.

As part of the EPA program, IFC constructed and tested an on-site system to clean the landfill gas to a quality suitable for fuel cell use. The Penrose site collects gas from three nearby solid waste landfills, providing fuel cell operation on gas of varying composition.

Other participants in the project included the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, TRC Environmental Corp. and Pacific Energy. There are 50 PC25 fuel cell power plants installed and operating on pipeline natural gas in the United States, Europe and the Pacific Rim, accumulating more than 500,000 operating hours with an average fleet availability of 95 percent. The power plant used in the landfill project was manufactured by ONSI Corp., a subsidiary of IFC.

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