Fuel Cell Focus

Fuel Cell Focus

1 December 2007

Wärtsilä fuel cell prototype starts up

I n October the Wärtsilä fuel cell programme reached a significant milestone in its development of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology. The first Wärtsilä WFC20 fuel cell, a 20 kWe alpha-prototype micro CHP plant, was heated up for the first time in the Wärtsilä Fuel Cell Laboratory in Espoo, Finland. After the unit reached its operating temperature of 750°C it was due to start generating electricity.

The WFC20 alpha-prototype developed by Wärtsilä is the first SOFC power unit ever build in Finland and globally one of the first units based on planar SOFC technology in this power range.

Wärtsilä has been developing fuel cell technology for decentralised power generation and marine applications since 2000. In 2004, Wärtsilä started the operation of a 5 kW SOFC test system, which served as a reference point for the WFC20 alpha-prototype. The WFC20 alpha-prototype is an integrated power unit that uses natural gas as fuel. The cell and stack technology used in the unit is based on the planar SOFC technology developed by Wärtsilä's long-term partner, Topsøe Fuel Cell A/S (TOFC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Haldor Topsøe A/S. As well as TOFC, Wärtsilä also acknowledges the contribution of VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland) in getting tothis stage.

Koreans go for MCFC

Doosan recently announced that it has been selected by the Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy as the main contractor for a US$ 55.6 million national project to develop a 300 kW class fuel cell system for power generation – in collaboration with the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), the Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER), and Korea Midland Power.

The technology will be of the direct-internal-reforming MCFC (molten carbonate fuel cell) type – suitable for direct use of carbonaceous fuels – which typically have an operating temperature in the range 600-700°C.

Doosan says it plans to build the research facilities for development of the fuel cell system by the first half of 2008. It hopes to have developed the fuel cell by 2010, with commercialisation by 2012.

From 2015 variations on the basic product will be offered, including "a large scale system for combined cycle plants" – to which the relatively high temperature of the MCFC lends itself.

The project builds on a 25kW fuel cell that Doosan has developed.

CFCL starts up powder plant...

C eramic Fuel Cells Limited (CFCL), a developer of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) for micro CHP, has announced that it has completed the commissioning of its 20 t/y high quality ceramic powder plant in Bromborough, Merseyside, UK. The plant has successfully produced yttria stabilised zirconia (YSZ), a highly engineered ceramic powder required in precise formulations and quantities for the manufacture of many types of SOFC.

...and finalises partnerships

G ledhill Water Storage has been selected as the "appliance partner" to join CFCL and E.On UK in their collaboration to develop micro CHP for the UK domestic marketplace. The CFCL/E.On project to develop and deploy 1kW micro combined heat and power units for the UK market was announced earlier, in July 2007.

The three companies will now work together to develop a fully-integrated micro CHP unit, incorporating CFCL's fuel cells, for the residential market.

CFCL will supply a NetGen+ unit for operation with a boiler and a specially designed thermal store to produce an 'Alpha' prototype which will then be deployed in a field trial. The current project remains on schedule for the NetGen+ unit to be delivered by December 2007 and the Alpha unit to be developed in the second quarter 2008, said CFCL.

Mark Foster, Managing Director of Gledhill Water Storage, said the selection of his company recognised "the key role of intelligent thermal storage systems in maximising the performance of alternative energy sources."

Brendan Dow, Managing Director of CFCL, said the Gledhill agreement completed the company's "initial partnering objectives in Europe, with four utility and four appliance [ie domestic boiler] partners in place across four key markets." This is in accordance with the company's model of working in '3 way' partnerships in moving from field trials into product development, deployment and sales.

The other three agreements are with: GdF and De Dietrich Thermique (France); EWE and Bruns Heiztechnik (Germany); Nuon and De Dietrich-Remeha (Benelux).

FCE’s flow of waste-water orders

F uelCell Energy of the USA – which can claim to be one of the very few companies in the world offering fuel cells commercially for distributed generation – has announced the sale of three of its DFC300 power plants to Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) in California. The power plants will supply 750 kW of the electricity needed to run the EMWD waste-water processing facility while reducing local greenhouse gas emissions by 10 400 tons annually, says FCE, helping the district meet California's CARB 07 requirements – some of the most stringent in the USA.

Using anaerobic digesters for biosolids treatment, EMWD generates methane gas. The DFC power plants will purify 100% of this gas and use it for fuel. The EMWD power plants will also capture heat generated by the DFC fuel cells and use this thermal energy in the wastewater treatment process itself – thus eliminating a boiler and the gas-fired equipment that previously were used as heat sources, further contributing to reduced emissions.

The California Self-Generation Incentive Program will provide $3.375 million for this project through Southern California Edison. Alliance Power will serve as project manager and is expected to install the three power plants in the first half of 2008.

FuelCell Energy's fuel cells operate with an electrical efficiency of 47% and when the DFC power plant's heat is also used, system efficiency can be as high as 80%. Fuel cells running on digester gas are categorised as renewable in California. The company reports that its products are gaining market share in California and currently orders and installations in this state represent 43% of its total business, with waste-water treatment customers representing 40% of the Californian backlog plus installed base.

Among recent DFC300 orders for other applications was that for an isolated US Navy base in Hawaii – the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, where traditional energy sources are expensive and logistically difficult to obtain. FCE's distribution partner will own and operate the plant.

Fuel cell sector revenues grow, but still no profits

Aggregate revenues for publicly-traded companies in the worldwide fuel cell sector rose 59% in 2006 over 2005 to a record high of US$416 million, according to the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers annual fuel cell survey, released in October. Continuing a trend begun in 2003, the survey found sales revenues exceeded spending on research and development (R&D).

The PricewaterhouseCoopers 2007 report, released in conjunction with the Tenth Grove Fuel Cell Symposium in London, examines the 2006 year-over-year financial results of the world's 26 publicly-traded companies whose primary business involves one or more of fuel cell production, systems integration, and/or related fuelling infrastructure.

Almost all of the revenues reported in the survey were from North America-based companies. Quantum Fuel Cell Systems (US$193 million) retained its spot as top revenue earner in the PwC fuel cell list for the second consecutive year, followed by Ballard Power Systems (US$50 million), and Distributed Energy Systems Corp (US$45 million). Outside North America, German company Smart Fuel Cell reported the most revenues (US$8 million), followed by Heliocentris Fuel Cells, also of Germany (US$2.1 million), and UK-based Proton Power Systems plc (US$1.9 million).

But none of the companies in the 2006 survey reported profits. Aggregate losses of the sector increased to US$644 million in 2006 from US$371 million in 2005.

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