Achieved connection No 29 SUMMER 2007 : FUEL CELL POWER :: Future Energies :: The future of energy
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Fuel cells No 29 SUMMER 2007 : FUEL CELL POWER
Posted by on 2007-09-07 12:41:35
contributed by gfoat

This is critical time for the future of the UK’s energy supply. Several environmental groups have withdrawn support from the Government’s public consultation on nuclear energy because they feel it is not properly balanced. The Energy White Paper in 2003 stipulated that there should be more backing for renewable energy rather than nuclear power, but this has not materialised! Earlier this year a High Court Judge agreed with Greenpeace that the Government’s procedure had been unfair and that a full public consultation was needed before any new nuclear power stations could be commissioned. Future Energies asks why the UK has not carried out a proper programme to develop energy saving and small scale renewable energy technologies, which could contribute to the UK’s energy security and help us to meet C02 reduction targets. Why is there so little progress in improving building insulation? Why have we not, like several European countries, introduced renewable energy feed-in tariffs (REFIT), which would make it economic to invest in micro energy technologies? Why doesn’t the UK have an integrated public passenger transport system?

There is the possibility of change, as the Government is getting two new advisers, who may help to start a first class programme to develop and implement the new future energy technologies which are so much needed. Robert Watson, formerly Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, proposed strong action by governments to deal with climate change.

We are therefore delighted to welcome Prof Watson to the UK where he will be at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change and act as Chief Scientific Adviser to DEFRA. It has also just been announced that Johan Eliasch, who set up ‘Cool Earth’ to reduce emissions of global warming gases, will act as an adviser to the Prime Minister on deforestation and green energy.

An important meeting is taking place in London this month to provide information about future energies, that will contribute to future energy security and help to combat climate change. Fuel cells are beginning to be used around the world as they are very efficient and help to conserve fossil fuels. They can be powered by energy from waste, which would otherwise add to global warming gases. Fuel cells may also be powered by hydrogen which can store electricity if there is no electricity grid. This would make it possible for people in the UK or around the world to generate their own energy and store it for use when there is no wind or sunlight.

Details of the London meeting and an outline of recent developments are given in Fuel Cell Power newsletter below.

Fuel Cell Power Newsletter

A British fuel cell company called Intelligent Energy will be displaying a selection of its fuel cell power systems at the Grove Symposium, including a 10kW automotive system designed with an operating temperature range of -20C to 37C, which is capable of starting from -20C in 2 minutes. The company will also be showing its multi award winning ENV, the world's first purpose built hydrogen fuel cell motorbike.

London preparing for future transport

Earlier this summer Intelligent Energy displayed its award winning ENV hydrogen fuel cell motorbike in London’s Trafalgar Square as part of the Revolve Eco Rally event. The Brighton to London Eco Car Rally was launched in Brighton by Quentin Wilson, TV personality and motoring journalist. There was a pit-stop en route in central Croydon where the Minister for Science and Innovation, Malcolm Wicks MP, led a public address. At the finish line in Trafalgar Square, the vehicles were welcomed by London’s Deputy Mayor, Nicky Gavron, who said: “As the Chair of the London Hydrogen Partnership I want to show that new vehicles using alternative fuels and new technologies can offer the potential for lower carbon emissions and help to prevent runaway climate change. The Brighton to London Eco Car Rally is a great way to demonstrate the vehicles of the future”. The events were staged in association with Transport for London and organized by Revolve, which champions sustainable transport.

Related events, included a pre-rally exhibition at Hampton Court Palace attended by HRH the Prince of Wales. A range of vehicles were showcased, from scooters to vans to limousines, that use potential future fuels and technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen internal combustion engines, hybrids/batteries and biofuels.

In Trafalgar Square, Dr Jon Moore of Intelligent Energy discussed the merits of hydrogen fuel cells with London’s Deputy Mayor, Nicky Gavron.

At the Paris Air Show

Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell, fuel processing and hydrogen refuelling technologies excited much interest from visitors at the Paris Air Show this summer. Hydrogen and fuel cells are likely to be important components of the aviation and aerospace industry of the future. In the near term they will facilitate cleaner airport environments as zero emission ground vehicle propulsion and generator systems, whilst in the longer term they will provide distributed and efficient on-board aircraft auxiliary power. Their PEM fuel cells are also ideally suited to a wide range of un-manned vehicle applications, from small hand launched systems to those that operate at high altitude and require long endurance.
Intelligent Energy has appointed Andrew Spooner as Head of Group Operations and John Clark as Group Engineering Director in readiness for future growth, as the Company moves towards the commercialisation stage of its business plan. Andrew joined Intelligent Energy from Rolls-Royce plc, the power systems company, where he restructured the supply chain to meet changing business needs.
John Clark also came from Rolls-Royce plc where he was programme Director and Chief Engineer for the Royal Navy’s in-service gas turbines. He was formerly responsible for assessing and developing emerging power system technologies, in particular fuel cells, where he led a series of design studies, competitive and market evaluations and focussed the direction of Rolls-Royce’s fuel cell strategy. John will lead the engineering and product development activities required to bring Intelligent Energy’s technology to market in the form of dependable, service-ready products which meet the needs of their partners and customers.


New home fuel cell

E.ON UK, the Company which runs Powergen, has announced an agreement with Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd (CFCL) to develop and deploy a prototype fuel cell combined heat and power unit in the UK. The companies will work together to develop a micro CHP unit, incorporating CFCL’s fuel cell, which can be used in people’s homes. CFCL will supply its NetGen+ unit later this year and an Alpha prototype is scheduled for next spring. Further discussions will centre on the development and deployment of Beta CHP units comprising CFCL’s fuel cell fully integrated with a condensing boiler, as well as commercial targets for fuel cell micro CHP units for the UK residential market. Brendan Dow, Managing Director of CFCL said “As climate change emerges as one of the greatest challenges for modern society, we believe that CFCL is well placed to deliver energy-saving initiatives to reduce carbon emissions in the home.” See the future for home power generation at the Grove Fuel Cell event.

Ford sets land speed record

Ford Motor Company made history by reaching over 207mph with the Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999, the world’s first production-based hydrogen fuel cell car. The car raced to 207.297 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah to set the record. The car was designed and built by Ford engineers in collaboration with Ohio State University, Ballard Power Systems and Roush. The Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999 is Ford’s latest environmental innovation, another step on the road toward commercially viable hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Ford Motor Company currently has a fleet of 30 hydrogen-powered Focus fuel cell vehicles on the road as part of a world wide, seven-city program to conduct real world testing of fuel cell technology. The 30-car fleet has accumulated nearly 580,000 miles since its inception in 2005.

Wall-mountable Fuel Cell CHP Unit

Ceres Power has designed and built an integrated, wall-mountable combined heat and power (CHP) unit which demonstrates the commercial potential of the product and also represents an important milestone in the Company’s residential CHP programme with British Gas. The compact and wall-mountable design will enable access to residential mass markets in the UK and overseas.

The integrated CHP Unit is capable of generating electricity and all of the central heating and hot water requirements of a typical home, avoiding the need for a separate boiler, and so can address new build and replacement markets. The CHP Unit uses the same natural gas, water and electricity connections as a boiler, and is thus easy to install. The Ceres fuel cell operates on widely available fuels like natural gas and LPG, as well as on hydrogen.

Key balance of plant components within the CHP programme have been developed in partnership with well-established volume manufacturers from industries including automotive and white goods. The operating temperature (500-600°C) of the unique Ceres Power fuel cell technology has enabled the use of widely available and cost effective raw materials, components and manufacturing equipment. The Company is now focused on value engineering of the CHP Unit and the scale-up of core manufacturing processes to meet expected customer demand.

Earlier this summer, Ceres Power was awarded a £500,000 grant from the South East England Development Agency. This will contribute towards the development and commissioning of fuel cell manufacturing machinery and processes in Ceres Power’s Product Facility, prior to the company’s planned investment in a mass manufacturing plant in 2008.

The Company is inviting analysts to its Crawley headquarters during September for a CHP demonstration, management presentation and tour of the facilities. Later in the month, the Company will showcase its CHP hardware at the London Stock Exchange. Peter Bance, Chief Executive of Ceres Power, commented: “Building on our established technology leadership, we have now developed the product engineering capabilities and supply chain relationships that have enabled us to demonstrate an integrated wall-mountable CHP Unit. Achievement of this important milestone is a significant step forward in the commercialisation of our unique technology.”

GM begins preparations for future production

General Motors has moved 500 of its fuel cell experts to core engineering functions in order to prepare for future production. 400 fuel cell engineers will report to GM’s Powertrain Group to begin production engineering of fuel cell systems. Another 100 will transfer to GM’s Global Product Development organization to start integrating fuel cells into future company vehicles. 150 fuel cell scientists and programme support staff will remain at GM’s Research and Development center to continue advanced research in hydrogen storage, fuel cells and commercialisation. Larry Burns, GM Vice President Research and Development, said that this signified another important milestone as they move fuel cell vehicles closer to future production.

GM unveiled its fifth-generation fuel cell powered E-Flex version of the Chevrolet Volt at the Shanghai Auto Show in April. This latest system is half the size of its predecessor although it provides the same power and performance. GM sees a market for various forms of electric vehicles, including fuel cells and battery systems for electric vehicles using gas and diesel engines to extend the range.

2007 Chevrolet Volt Concept Chassis - E-Flex System fuel Cell Propulsion System Variant

General Motors’ new E-flex system enables multiple propulsion systems to fit into a common chassis, using electric drive to help the world to diversify energy sources. It can produce electricity from gasoline, ethanol, biodiesel or hydrogen and can be tailored to meet the specific needs and fuel infrastructures of a given market.

This is one of the initiatives in GM's commitment to displace petroleum usage in the auto industry through a range of propulsion alternatives. For example, somebody in Brazil might use ethanol to power an engine generator and battery and a customer in Sweden might use wood to create bio-diesel. A customer in Shanghai might get hydrogen from the sun and create electricity in a fuel cell.

Larry Burns, GM's vice president of Research and Development explained "The beauty of our E-Flex strategy is that it allows us to package various propulsion systems into the same space depending on what energy is available locally. It also provides flexibility in the sources of energy. We can obtain hydrogen or electricity from a myriad of renewable sources - wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and biofuels - or from traditional sources such as natural gas, clean coal, nuclear or even gasoline. Our progress has made us increasingly confident that our fuel cell propulsion system will be automotive-competitive, but before this technology can be made widely available, governments, energy suppliers and infrastructure companies around the world need to collaborate with GM and the auto industry to develop a market for fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen fuel."

‘Bow Wave’ of the future of commercial shipping

There would be numerous advantages if we use fuel cell systems in ships says Jan Fredrik Meling, CEO of Eidesvik Offshore ASA. His company is part of a consortium, including Det Norske Veritas, Vik-Sandvik, Wartsila Ship Automotion and CFC Solutions GmbH, which is developing a completely integrated hybrid fuel cell system in ships. Fuel cell technology is inherently silent and vibration-free, which increases passenger comfort and improves the working environment for the crew. Fuel cells are modular so that systems can be configured for efficient use of onboard space. The simpler designs with fewer moving parts require less maintenance. Fuel efficiency is good, emissions are low, even if natural gas is the fuel, the carbon dioxide in the exhaust can be halved.

Results from the initial research phase conclude that fuel cell technology can be applied in commercial shipping in the near future and on this basis a full-scale demonstrator of an auxiliary power plant of 330 kW is planned for late 2008 on an Eidesvik offshore vessel. Kjell Sandaker of Eidesvik AS will give a brief presentation on the project at Canada Workshop, Canada House, London on September 24th.


The Pure Energy™ System is the world’s first community owned renewable hydrogen facility. It is based in Unst, the most northerly part of the British Isles. Its main purpose is to help overcome the limitations of the current approach of industrialised countries to delivering energy security, which can best be achieved if consumers take responsibility and share ownership of energy production and supply facilities.
The Pure Energy Centre Team realises how much energy is present in the natural environment and, working with others in the Unst Partnership, has established renewable energy technologies combined with hydrogen production and storage systems which will lay the basis of a future hydrogen economy. Ross Gazey is seen here with a 5 kW fuel cell from Plug Power.
Ross Gazey showed members of Fuel Cell Power how the electrolyser produces hydrogen from the electricity generated by a small wind turbine system. This provides electricity for the Pure Energy Centre offices and also powers the company’s hybrid fuel cell car.
The Pure Energy team give training courses which help participants to understand the development principles behind their project and their impact on the community. They explain the different planning issues related to a renewable hydrogen project and define the different organisations to be contacted when developing a hydrogen infrastructure. Renewable power may also be obtained from solar, hydro, wave or tidal energy sources.

Pure Finance

The Pure Energy team advise upon the quantifiable realisable income streams from small scale renewable electricity generation and supply. They provide information on the capital and operating costs of their system and give an understanding of the value of local hydrogen production and potential renewable hydrogen market opportunities. They explain the economic implications of increased costs of hydrocarbon based energy and the decreasing costs of renewable hydrogen based energy. They offer an off-the-shelf system which enables renewable energy to be stored as hydrogen for a variety of applications at remote sites, for balancing power systems, for environmentally protected areas, for off grid energy systems, or where carbon dioxide emissions must be eliminated. Visit the Pure Energy stand at the Grove Exhibition in September.


Transforming urban waste to urban asset

The City of Rialto is working with Chevron and FuelCell Energy in a project which will generate energy from thousands of gallons of fats, oils and grease from restaurant grills and pans. The environmentally friendly system will increase municipal revenues, reduce landfill wastes and lower greenhouse emissions by over five million tons annually, equivalent to removing over a thousand cars from the road each year. The system, which includes a 900 kW fuel cell power plant from FuelCell Energy, will decrease the city’s energy costs by about $800,000 a year.
“Through energy efficiency, renewable power and innovation, this system solves a messy problem for cities” said Jim Davies, President of Chevron Energy Solutions. “By looking at wastewater treatment operations holistically, we’re helping Rialto and other cities transform an urban waste into an asset.” The Rialto facility will provide a revenue stream to the city through ‘tipping fees’ usually paid for disposal.

Rialto is a suburb of Los Angeles with 100,000 residents and required upgrading of its wastewater treatment facility. The total cost of the project was $15 million, of which $4 million was a rebate on the fuel cell plant cost from California’s Self-Generation Incentive programme administered by Southern California Gas. The remaining cost will be funded by energy cost savings and revenues from the waste disposal stations. Local taxpayers will not have to contribute.

Chevron Energy Solutions will proceed with the engineering and construction of the project over the next few months. Project highlights include installation of the watery waste receiving station; repairs to the current digester equipment; a new automation system and controls; a high–efficiency boiler; and three 300 kilowatt Direct FuelCellÒ units that will convert methane into hydrogen and then use the hydrogen to generate power electrochemically. The residual waste heat from the fuel cells will be put to work to warm the digesters to human body temperature in order to stimulate further methane production. The plant will provide base-load power around the clock and because of its ultra-clean emission profile, it will meet California’s stringent air quality standards.

Scale–up for hydrogen production

FuelCell Energy has announced that it has received funding for work to scale up its electrochemical hydrogen separation (EHS) system, which uses renewable fuel sources such as anaerobic digester gas as well as conventional hydrocarbon fuels. Unlike other compression-based methods of separating hydrogen, FuelCell Energy’s EHS has no moving parts, resulting in higher efficiency and reliability. Compared to conventional hydrogen separation processes, the system offers up to 50% savings in operating costs. It will significantly reduce NOX, SOX and particulate emissions as well as our carbon footprint.

New orders over 5 Megawatts for South Korea

FuelCell Energy’s first commercial sale of its DFC3000ä fuel cell is to a private Independent Power Producer (IPP) in South Korea. The IPP was considering meeting its renewable energy commitments via solar power and/or through the purchase of renewable energy credits, but elected to purchase a DFC power plant instead after realizing it offered more favourable financial returns.

A subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Company will purchase a 2.4 MW fuel cell which will export sufficient electricity to the grid for approximately 2,000 households. A DFC 300ä power plant will go to another subsidiary.

Benjamin Toby, Vice President of Business Development for FuelCell Energy said that under the leadership of their strategic alliance partner, POSCO Power, South Korea has emerged as one of their fastest growing overseas markets. Supplying their products to Korea’s top utility companies clearly demonstrates how utilities around the world can employ ultra clean fuel cell power plants to economically generate base load power while helping to support greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Reducing global warming gases

Due to FuelCell Energy’s successful record in building megawatt-class systems, the DOE selected it to take part in its Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) programme along with Versa Power Systems Inc.. They have completed evaluation of a prototype 10kW solid oxide fuel cell six months ahead of schedule and now plan to apply this technology to developing large-scale, multi-megawatt power plant systems that run efficiently on coal. The prototype met all DOE specified targets including power output, system efficiency, availability, overall system endurance and system cost. SECA fuel cells will substantially contribute to higher power plant efficiency, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to less than 10% of current power plant levels. Christopher R Bentley of FuelCell Energy said that this project was established to prove that efficient and environmentally friendly fuel cell technology is the best way to reduce emissions from future central generation power plants, and is a critical part of the solution to the reduction of global warming.


Preparing to meet customer specifications

Bac2, developers of the electrically conductive plastic ‘ElectroPhen™’ have opened a new test facility in Southampton. State-of-the-art test equipment from H2Economy will enable the company to accelerate development of customized versions of ElectroPhen. Recent independent tests by the University of Portsmouth have confirmed ElectroPhen’s technical suitability as a fuel cell material. It is made from readily available low-cost constituents and can be pressed or moulded to complex shapes suitable for use in harsh environments.

Bac2’s CEO, Mike Stannard, said “We believe that a component supplier to an industry on the cusp of large scale expansion should play its part in releasing components and materials that have been tested in a properly recorded in-cell environment. The test equipment investment not only means that we can do this, it means that we can do it quickly and accurately, something that will be of vital importance to companies entering the increasingly competitive fuel cell market.” ElectroPhen is easily manufactured economically in bulk and the cost and performance advantages it offers have the potential to accelerate the adoption of fuel cell technology for powering everything from notebook computers to buses and cars.


Cenergie’s proof of concept facility for its alkaline fuel cell technology is moving into a larger building in the Commune of Meyrals in southern France. This facility will enjoy the support of the local communal Government, along with the Economic Development Office of the Perigord region and the Conseille Regional. A new Company, Electricité de Perigord, is being formed in the area by two Cenergie investors in order to focus on community based distributed electricity generation and agricultural applications.
Over the past two years, Cenergie has developed new alkaline fuel cell technology. The stack is seen here under test. Testing, systems design and production machine fabrication will remain in Ste Alvere, which is only a short distance away from Meyrals, and the first fully French manufactured product will start to be delivered during September.

This will be a milestone for Cenergie, as it will represent the first product to be manufactured in France as part of continuous production, and will set the basis for production in other planned manufacturing plants as they come on line. Cenergie is not aiming at the expensive automotive and power back-up markets, but are building cheaper fuel cells, not dependent upon supplies of precious metals, for the community electricity generating markets in Europe and the USA.
A Cenergie operative sets up a test stand in Romoland, California. The State of California provides a cash rebate of 50% for each kW installed rather than direct aid to fuel cell companies. This eminently sensible policy will be adopted in Europe later this year. One of Cenergie’s competitors, FuelCell Energy, backed by the US Government, has succeeded in opening up new markets for fuel cells powered by energy from waste. The State of Washington has a considerable resource in its timber industry, with access to a large and inexpensive supply of green waste for the production of hydrogen by wood gasification.

The UK is now offering a number of commercial opportunities with both urban and agricultural take-up of between 150kW to 500kW projects. Cenergie has partnered with developers and architectural firms to provide strategic project plans, which will have a significant bearing on the future of the UK Zero Carbon housing policy. Cenergie’s hydrogen fuel cell systems can store energy from micro wind energy collectors and solar panels, so that electricity is available when there is no wind or sunlight. Cenergie Nordic has won a contract to supply Vardar AS, an electricity utility, with a 10kW stack for testing. This is the first of a series of anticipated sales in Norway, which is a valuable entrance to the Scandinavian markets.


In June the American Society of Mechanical Engineers held the Fifth International Conference on Fuel Cell Science, Engineering and Technology in Brooklyn, New York. The conference papers ranged from solid oxide (SOFC) fuel cells in multi-MW power plants to polymer electrolyte (PEM) fuel cells in cars and buses as well as in a large hybrid diesel-electric locomotive. Work was also reported on PEM fuel cells in both unmanned light aircraft and in future NASA space missions.

New developing technologies depend on advances in research. A large number of papers reported work on electrochemical materials and processes as well as on hydrogen production and storage. Delegates from institutes and universities from North America, Europe and the Far East as well from large firms such as United Technologies, General Motors and General Electric presented papers. Progress is being expedited by state support in New York, Connecticut and California as well as the federal Hydrogen Fuel Initiative.
One of the highlights of the conference was the awarding of the second Bacon Medal to Dr Nguyen Minh (centre) of GE Global Research for his outstanding contribution to solid oxide fuel cell research. The Bacon Medal is named after Dr F.T. Bacon and was presented at the conference by his son, Edward Bacon (left). Dr Hans Maru of FuelCell Energy (right) was the winner of the first Bacon Medal. *( pic to be added soon )

Building a new energy infrastructure

Pinakin Patel of FuelCell Energy Inc (FCE) said that a number of organizations in the USA, Europe and Asia are actively developing technologies for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and the implementation of a reliable and cost-effective hydrogen infrastructure is an important need for widespread deployment of these vehicles. FCE is engaged in technology development for co-production of hydrogen and electricity, using high temperature fuel cells such as carbonate or solid oxide systems. These high temperature fuel cells produce hydrogen internally from hydrocarbon fuels and then convert the hydrogen to electricity. Excess hydrogen is separated and compressed for refuelling fuel cell vehicles. FCE’s sub-megawatt fuel cell can produce 250kW of electricity and up to 135 kgs hydrogen/day for fuel cell vehicles or for on-site use. This system can provide electricity for a community of 200 homes or support a fleet of up to 300 fuel cell vehicles.

Low cost on-site hydrogen generation from natural gas is now commercially available at scales appropriate for vehicle refuelling for both demonstration and commercial refuelling stations said Frank Lomax of H2Gen Innovations Inc. Their technology offers a low cost market entry for hydrogen vehicles and also a low carbon footprint.

Research continues into reforming renewable feedstocks such as ethanol and biogas as well as cost reduction of the complete refuelling system, including gas compression and storage. Joshua Walter of Purdue University outlined development work with hydrogen generation from catalyzed solutions of sodium borohydride, which are non-flammable, stable in basic solution and offer a volumetric hydrogen density of 63gH2 per litre.

Darren Brown of the University of Delaware discussed the design of their 22 passenger fuel cell hybrid electric transit bus which was constructed at Ebus Inc. The prime mover is a 21kW Ballard PEM fuel cell. The energy storage system consists of two parallel strings of 300V nickel-cadmium batteries. The traction motor has a peak power output of 75kW which enables a maximum vehicle speed of 62kph. The bus can store 16 kgs of compressed hydrogen gas at 350 bar which enables an average driving range of about 400kms. Their computer simulations enable them to make significant improvements in vehicle performance.

Jon Bereisa of General Motors said that all the major global car companies are aggressively pursuing fuel cell technology development. Recent advances in fuel cell performance and power density are encouraging and, combined with efficient electric drive systems and improvements in on-board hydrogen storage, mean that practical vehicles can now achieve 300 mile driving range. However, for commercial viability, further advances are required in durability and cost, both of which depend upon materials development.

Catching up with the internal combustion engine

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) programme aims to reduce the cost of production and delivery of hydrogen, reduce the cost and improve the durability of fuel cells and develop hydrogen storage technologies that enable greater than 300 mile driving range for vehicles. Patrick Davis said that key activities include reducing membrane costs for both fuel cells and electrolyzers; improving renewable hydrogen production technologies such as photo-electrochemical materials, high temperature thermochemical reaction systems, renewable liquid reformation and electrolysis technologies; and tailoring identified hydrogen storage technologies to operate at the required temperatures and pressures. Demonstrations with the auto and energy industries will focus on meeting the 2,000 hour durability target by 2009 and completing R & D on the high pressure hydrogen refuelling system. 2015 targets include 3kWh/kg hydrogen storage, a fuel cell cost of $30/kW and fuel cell durability of 5,000 hours.

Frank Preli of UTC Power Corporation outlined improvements in the reliability and durability of PEM fuel cells for stationary and transportation applications. For residential and commercial combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cells must achieve 40,000 to 80,000 hours of life, with at least 5,000 hours between forced outages, in order to compete against internal combustion engines. For transport, fuel cells must achieve 5,000 to 25,000 hours in transient operation.

Nguyen G Minh of GE Global Research, the winner of this year’s Bacon Medal, said that solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology is being developed for a broad spectrum of stationary power generation applications. SOFC systems range from small 5kW systems for residential power or automobile auxiliary power units to large multi-megawatt base load power plants. The key features of this technology include all solid-state construction and high temperature electrochemical based operation. These features lead to the fuel cell’s promising clean and efficient generation of electricity from a variety of fuels.

Europe’s hydrogen infrastructure

Europe’s approach to the hydrogen era was explained by Dr Heinrich Lienkamp of Infraserv GmbH & Co. The European Union needs affordable, secure and sustainable flows of energy. The Zero-Regio Project is co-financed by the European Commission to develop and test zero emission road transport systems in European cities. There are two different sources of hydrogen, one is a by-product from a chlorine plant at Frankfurt-Hoechst and the other is an onsite reformer in Mantova, Italy. They are developing and testing the pipelines carrying hydrogen from the source to the refuelling stations, with different refuelling systems at the service stations. In Frankfurt-Hoechst there are dispensers for liquid hydrogen as well as for compressed gaseous hydrogen at pressures of 350 and 700 bar. The fleets of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be operated in Frankfurt airport and around the city of Mantova. Information will be widely disseminated and will help to expedite the market introduction of new products, projects and services.

Thomas Foerde of the Institute for Energy Technology described how, with associated workers, he had integrated a PEM fuel cell with a metal hydride container. By using water warmed by heat dissipated from the fuel cell they were able to keep the metal hydrides at a constant temperature of 30C, which facilitates absorption and desorption of hydrogen. The water-heated metal hydride tank, with a capacity of 200g hydrogen, has a smaller surface area than a comparable air-heated tank. The 1.2 kW water cooled PEM fuel cell stack was built by H T I Biel of Switzerland.

Innovative fuel sources
David Palmer of the United States Merchant Marine Academy described the solar hydrogen fuel cell home which creates electricity to power the home during the daytime and hydrogen to provide electricity at night. There is also sufficient hydrogen to supply the typical daily needs of an environmentally friendly hydrogen powered car.

The optimum size of the solar array and fuel cell to meet the requirements of a typical home and daily commuting are being explored in order to help meet greater social needs for sustainability and energy independence.

Electricity from domestic and industrial waste waters
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) represent a new approach to renewable bioenergy production based on the direct conversion of organic matter to electricity said Bruce Logan of Penn State University. Certain bacteria can oxidise organic matter and transfer electrons outside the cell to the electrode (anode) under anaerobic conditions. The electrons flow to the opposite electrode (cathode) where they combine with oxygen and protons from the anaerobic chamber to form water.

Microbial fuel cells can be used to directly generate electricity from virtually any biodegradeable organic matter. Power can be generated using organic matter in wastewater at the same time as treating the wastewater. Agricultural waste can also be used in these systems. Although the power densities produced with MFCs are lower than power densities from fuel cells powered by hydrogen, they will make it possible to transform wastewater treatment centres and farms into power plants. MFCs can also be modified to produce hydrogen instead of electricity from domestic and industrial wastewaters and other biodegradeable materials.

Reducing air pollution from urban rail

A North American industry/Government consortium is developing two prototype fuel cell hybrid locomotives in order to reduce air pollution on urban rail applications and to serve as emergency mobile back-up power sources. The vehicles selected are ‘switchers’ which operate in rail yards or move short trains locally. The prime mover of a conventional switcher locomotive would be a 1 to 2 megawatt diesel engine driving an alternator which supplies power to the traction motors and auxiliaries. The fuel cell hybrid design for the 127 tonne locomotive replaces the diesel engine with a 250 kilowatt fuel cell. Fourteen carbon fibre composite tanks, located above the battery, store a total of 70kgs of hydrogen at 350 bar. A programmable automation controller executes all power plant functions and continuously monitors the performance and safety of the entire locomotive.

Harsh operating conditions, especially shock loads during couplings to railcars, require component mounting systems capable of absorbing high energy. System design must address railway industry regulations governing safety and such events as derailment, side impact from yard traffic, refuelling and maintenance. The first prototype hybrid fuel cell locomotive will be completed by the end of this year.

Airport emissions

Alleviating airport ground emissions will continue to be a challenge unless new technology is introduced, according to Robert Braun of United Technologies Research Center. Recent advances in fuel cell technology through the auspices of the Department of Energy, NASA and industry partners have set the stage for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) to replace conventional gas turbine auxiliary power units which account for 20% of airport ground based emissions. Fitting fuel cells with the UTC’s Integrated Total Aircraft Power Systems enables significant aircraft fuel burn and emission reductions.

Light aircraft

Fuel cell systems are also being developed to power light aircraft. Christopher Herwerth said that his team at California State University had selected a lower temperature polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEM) to power an unmanned air vehicle using compressed hydrogen. A Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies 670 watt fuel cell was selected because the cylindrical geometry of the fuel cell stack created the optimal membrane surface area for the given stack volume and contributed to limiting the weight for fuel cell powered flight. The self-hydrating characteristic of the thin porous carbon membranes eliminated the need for water pumps. The design considerations included storage tank volume versus operating time, specific power requirements, and storage systems such as metal hydride, compressed and liquid hydrogen.

Florida State University has taken a different stance said Thomas Brinsen. They are using a solid oxide fuel cell based power system to simulate power management of the typical aviation requirements of a small aircraft. The fuel cell stack was designed to operate near its maximum power limit during cruising and a battery provides additional power. Ben Palethorpe reported that Rolls-Royce, in collaboration with Imperial College, have developed computer models to analyse a SOFC/gas turbine hybrid system fuelled by liquid hydrogen to power a high altitude long endurance unmanned aircraft.

Business strategies

Plug Power has concentrated upon niche markets for its PEM fuel cells, in particular remote cell towers need a source of reliable prime and back up power. Their long term strategy is to provide a prime power solution for residential customers. UTC Power continues to develop its PAFC fuel cell system for co-generation applications. The current commercial product produces 200kW and warranties a fuel cell stack life of 5 years. Their improved commercial system will generate 400kW and maintain a stack life of 10 years.

FuelCell Energy is developing a new megawatt scale carbonate fuel cell system for large commercial, utility and industrial applications. The aggregation of standardized cell stacks into a larger overall package provides significant cost savings as a single balance of plant is used for multiple fuel cell stacks. Rowland Travis said that Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems is developing a 1 megawatt SOFC fuel cell hybrid system for stationary applications. A prototype 250 kilowatt generator module will be demonstrated this year. The design process has been focussed upon simplicity and realistic fuel availability in order to achieve the demanding cost targets for effective market entry.


Electrolyser combines pressure and power capabilities

ITM Power plc has accelerated its programme with an electrolyser which combines both pressure and power capabilities in a single unit. The prototype 10kW electrolyser stack operates at pressures of 75 bar. This will provide technical information for the design of next year’s planned factory production units, which will obviate the need for a separate compressor. The new electrolyser will be a step towards a home refuelling system, which converts renewable energy or off peak electricity into hydrogen, so that it can be stored for use when required.

The electrolyser has also been successfully evaluated in the bi-fuel (hydrogen/petrol) car which ITM Power is developing in conjunction with the University of Hertfordshire. Drivability in public road conditions when using hydrogen has proved to be excellent. Later this year, ITM plan to publicly demonstrate both the vehicle and refuelling system using electrolyser prototypes that will closely resemble the initial units to be manufactured at their new Sheffield production site. Preparation work has begun for the installation of the equipment to manufacture annually up to 10 megawatts of electrolysers. Jim Heathcote, CEO of ITM Power commented “The Company has made tremendous technical advances which are being included in the design of electrolyser systems for production in the new Sheffield facility in the first half of 2008. The bi-fuel car and refuelling system very clearly demonstrate a simple, convenient and low cost transportation solution that significantly reduces greenhouse gases and helps to mitigate climate change. We believe that combining electrolysers with an internal combustion engine vehicle brings affordable hydrogen transportation forward by many years. ITM will demonstrate the hydrogen future at the Grove Symposium.

This summer the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX fuel cell vehicle became eligible for the Qualified Fuel Cell Motor Vehicle Credit program. The credit is part of the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, which seeks to promote affordable, dependable and environmentally-sound production and distribution of energy for America's future.

Propelled by electricity that is generated by a hydrogen fuel cell in conjunction with an advanced Honda-designed ultracapacitor, the FCX fuel cell vehicle's only emission is water vapor. "This tax credit helps offset the higher costs associated with the early development of advanced technology vehicles that reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on oil. It is a further validation that the FCX is a real vehicle and another step towards market viability" said Stephen Ellis, Fuel Cell Vehicle Marketing Manager at American Honda Motor Co., Inc. In public use since 2002, the FCX is part of a long line of Honda vehicles developed to reduce the impact of transportation on the environment. The FCX is powered by Honda's own fuel cell stack with the breakthrough capability to start and operate in freezing temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius, along with increased performance, range and fuel efficiency compared with earlier models.

The FCX is the only fuel cell vehicle certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA). The CARB and EPA have also certified the FCX as a Zero Emission Vehicle and the EPA has confirmed a range of 210 miles. Additionally, the Honda FCX is the only fuel cell vehicle fully certified to meet the federal government crash safety standards. With seating for four people, the FCX is practical for a wide range of applications. Fifteen vehicles are in use on the roads in the USA, in the hands of customers, including the cities of Los Angeles; San Francisco; Las Vegas; Chula Vista, California; the California South Coast Air Quality Management District and the state of New York. In 2005, Honda was the first to lease a fuel cell vehicle to an individual customer and a second customer was added earlier this year.

Fuel cells for Yachts

Voller Energy PLC is testing a 1kW prototype fuel cell system that aims to replace commonly used diesel generators in sailing and motor yachts. Voller is a Gold Level Corporate Sponsor of the Marine Conservation Society which believes that action is needed by the marine industry for the following reasons:

  • The majority of oil pollution in our rivers and oceans comes from everyday sources like refuelling, engine emissions and oil leaks.
  • Oil is toxic to fish and water species. Prolonged exposure affects reproduction, growth and feeding of aquatic life, even at low concentrations.
  • It is predicted that a one-metre rise in sea level (caused by carbon emissions and global warming) would result in the loss of half the world's coatal wetlands.
  • Increased flood risk will cause loss of water-side facilities, damage to existing facilities and raise insurance prices.

    Voller’s fuel cell generator will be at the Grove symposium. It has very low emissions, is quiet and vibration free.


    The Tenth Grove Fuel Cell Symposium, Fuel Cells In A Changing World, will take place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, London, UK from 25th to 27th September. The conference sessions will reflect the industry’s progress and feature advances in the main application areas including:

  • Commercial, industrial and large stationary fuel cells
  • Residential and small portable fuel cells
  • Consumer electronics and micro fuel cells
  • Transportation
  • Fuels

    For 2007, with climate change now a harsh reality around the world, the Grove Event's focus on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells will cover key areas such as environmental change, energy security and consumer needs. Delegates will hear first hand from over sixty speakers of their experiences in moving into the fuel cell market, of the problems encountered and how they were overcome. They will find out about the operational and engineering issues when integrating fuel cells within energy systems. The conference will explore the impact of government legislation and various policy initiatives as incentives to adopt fuel cell technologies.

    At the exhibition, there will be 100 leading manufacturers and suppliers of fuel cells and component products, together with various agencies and information providers. There will be live demonstrations and a chance to discuss the industry with those involved in production. The latest in vehicular fuel cell technology will be on show on the forecourt of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, including cars, scooters, buses and bikes. Visitors and delegates will be able to inspect the technology first-hand and discuss the key issues with the developers and engineers involved.

    The Tenth Grove Fuel Cell Symposium is organized by Elsevier, publisher of the Journal of Power Sources, Fuel Cells Bulletin, Refocus, and FC Focus.
    Conference enquiries: Janet Seabrook:
    Exhibition enquiries: Pam Chattin:

    An associated event will be held at Canada House, Trafalgar Square, London on the 24th September. A limited number of places are available at the Canada Workshop prior to the Grove opening reception. Graham Baker +44 (0) 20 7258 6619

    Fuel Cell Power provides information about all types of fuel cells. It has been set up by the family and friends of the late Dr. F. T. Bacon, OBE, FRS, the fuel cell pioneer who was concerned about the effects of discharging the by-products of combustion into the atmosphere.

    Fuel Cell Power,
    The Street,
    IP30 9QG.
    Tel. & Fax 01359 245073



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    No 26 Autumn 2006 : FUEL CELL POWER

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