28 February 2006 – The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced Monday a third project selected under its new Fuel Cell Coal-Based Systems programme. FuelCell Energy, Inc., of Danbury, Conn., will conduct research ultimately leading to the development of near-zero emission fuel cell power plants that efficiently convert coal to electricity.
FuelCell Energy joins two other research teams-one led by General Electric Hybrid Power Generation Systems and the other by Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation-in leveraging knowledge gained in DOE’s Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) programme and extending solid oxide fuel cell technology to large coal-based central power generation stations.
Coal is a cost-effective energy source and, with approximately 250 years of reserves, is America’s most abundant fossil fuel. Improving the ability to use this domestic energy supply reduces America’s dependence on foreign markets and increases energy security.
Fuel cell systems are ideally positioned to capitalize upon the Nation’s coal resource. Fuel cells do not rely upon combustion, enabling them to produce affordable, highly efficient and environmentally friendly electricity from coal. As a result, fuel cells are one of the most attractive power generating technologies for the future.
Advances made under the Fuel Cell Coal-Based Systems programme are expected to become enabling technologies for FutureGen, a planned DOE demonstration of advanced power systems that emit near-zero emissions, have double today’s electric generating efficiency, co-produce hydrogen, and sequester carbon dioxide.
FuelCell Energy, along with GE Hybrid Power Generation and Siemens Westinghouse, will research, develop, and demonstrate fuel cell technologies that can support power systems with capacities of 100 megawatts or more. The key system requirements to be achieved are:
• At least 50 per cent overall efficiency in converting the energy contained in coal to grid electrical power.
• Capture of 90 per cent or more of the system’s CO2 emissions.
• Cost of $400 per kilowatt, exclusive of the coal gasification unit and CO2-separation subsystems.
The research will be conducted in phases, with Phase I focusing on the design, cost analysis, fabrication, and testing of large-scale fuel cell stacks amenable for incorporation into 100 MW systems. The resolution of technical barriers associated with the manufacture and performance of larger-sized fuel cells is central to the Phase I effort.
Phases II and III will focus on the fabrication of aggregate fuel cell systems and will culminate in proof-of-concept systems to be field tested for a minimum of 25 000 hours. These systems will be sited at existing or planned coal gasification units, potentially at DOE’s FutureGen facility.
The Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage the Fuel Cell Coal-Based Systems programme and projects. The FuelCell Energy project is described below:
• Coal-Based Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Power Plant Development-FuelCell Energy will partner with Versa Power Systems, Nexant, and Gas Technology Institute to develop an affordable fuel-cell-based technology that will operate on synthesis gas from a coal gasifier. One of the key objectives is the development of fuel cell technologies, fabrication processes, and manufacturing infrastructure and capabilities for scale-up of solid oxide fuel cell stacks for large, multi-megawatt base-load power generation plants. The other key objective is the implementation of an innovative system concept in the design of a power plant larger than 100 megawatts, with anticipated efficiencies approaching 60 percent of the higher heating value of coal. Combined with existing carbon dioxide separation technologies, the power plant is expected to achieve greater than 50 percent overall efficiency while emitting near-zero levels of emissions of sulfur dioxide, NOx, and greenhouse gases to the environment. (DOE Phase I award: $7.5 million; Phase I duration: 24 months).