FuelCell Energy targets cuts in CO2 from coal-fired plant in DOE-backed experiment

FuelCell Energy (Nasdaq: FCEL)  on Oct. 5 announced the completion of awards from the U.S. Department of Energy regarding four previously disclosed projects, including carbon capture utilizing a carbonate fuel cell power plant and three projects related to the commercialization of solid oxide fuel cell technology.

These four projects add approximately $24 million to backlog in the fourth quarter of 2015, which excludes cost share obligations.

“One of our competitive advantages is robust research and development, which, in the case of carbon capture, utilizes our commercial fuel cell plant in an alternate configuration to pursue a potentially sizeable market,” said Chip Bottone, Chief Executive Officer of FuelCell Energy. “Advancing our solid oxide fuel cell commercialization is also exciting as we evaluate host sites and adapt the technology for storage applications.”

The projects include:

  • Carbon Capture
 – This project is to install a 2.3-MW fuel cell plant configured for carbon capture adjacent to an operating coal-fired plant to capture a portion of the carbon emissions and destroy a portion of smog-causing NOx, while also producing ultra-clean electricity. Carbon concentration and capture within the carbonate fuel cell is a side reaction of the natural gas-fueled power generation process. This solution is a scalable and affordable approach incorporating a number of fuel cell power plants adjacent to existing coal- or gas-fired power plants. Flue gas from the adjacent power plant is routed into the fuel cells instead of ambient air, and the carbon is separated, concentrated and captured. The DFC3000-based system installed under this DOE project will be the first of an expected two-phase project at the unnamed site. The second phase would be to install eleven additional fuel cell power plants for a total project of 27.6 MW to capture approximately 700 tons/day of CO2 in total, while simultaneously generating about 648,000 kilowatt hours/day of ultra-clean power. FCE said it is in active discussions with a number of major utility companies to select the best coal power plant site for this system.
  • Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) – FuelCell Energy will install and operate a 400-kW SOFC system at a host site and connected to the electric grid. This project is a significant step in commercializing SOFC technology for sub-megawatt distributed power generation and energy storage applications. FCE recently began operation of a 50-kW system incorporating the stack design and system configuration concepts that will be used for the 400-kW system. Several potential hosts have expressed interest in providing the site for the project, and FCE said it is currently evaluating these options to determine the best location for the project.
  • SOFC Manufacturing
 – This project advances SOFC commercialization by implementing continuous flow manufacturing with consistent high quality and within market-competitive cost parameters. The project targets cost reduction in the design and advances the reliability, robustness and endurance of the fuel cells. It continues DOE-supported efforts which have refined the performance and economics of the SOFC technology. These efforts have led to industry leading levels of performance, durability, and cell size scale-up, which is critical to meeting affordability targets for stationary power generation systems, the company said.
  • Electrolysis for hydrogen production
 – The SOFC stack will be adapted for hydrogen production using electrolysis through a solid oxide electrolyzer cell (SOEC) at very high efficiency and within established cost parameters. Hydrogen produced from SOEC can be stored and used for grid-power, hydrogen fueling stations or for industrial purposes as an alternative to natural gas reforming. SOEC can also be applied as a clean and highly efficient solution for storing excess power produced by intermittent technologies when their output exceeds the needs of the electric grid. 

Direct FuelCell (DFC) power plants combine a fuel such as clean natural gas or renewable biogas with oxygen from the ambient air to efficiently generate power electrochemically, almost completely avoiding the emission of NOx that causes smog, sulfur dioxide (SO2) that contributes to acid rain, or particulate matter that can aggravate asthma. The power plants are fuel flexible, capable of operating on natural gas, on-site renewable biogas, or directed biogas.

Direct FuelCell power plants are generating ultra-clean, efficient and reliable power at more than 50 locations worldwide. With more than 300 MW of power generation capacity installed or in backlog, FuelCell Energy said it is a global leader in providing ultra-clean baseload distributed generation to utilities, industrial operations, universities, municipal water treatment facilities, government installations and other customers around the world.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.