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DOE to award up to $15M for projects to improve reliability of solid oxide fuel cells

16 February 2014

The Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will award up to $15 million for projects to improve the reliability of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) (DE-FOA-0001058). The purpose of the FOA is to advance the reliability, robustness and endurance of low-cost solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology suitable for ultimate deployment in equal to or greater than (≥) 100 megawatt electric (MWe) Integrated Gasification Fuel Cell (IGFC) or Natural Gas Fuel Cell (NGFC) systems capable of ≥97% carbon dioxide (CO2) capture.

SOFCs with an average stack operating temperature of 600 °C) and below are not of interest.

Background. The DOE Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) Clean Coal Research Program (CCRP) is pursuing research, development and demonstration (RD&D) to decrease the cost of electricity (COE) and capture costs and increase base power plant efficiency, thereby reducing the amount of CO2 that has to be captured and stored per unit of electricity generated.

CCRP has recently established new goals for coal power with carbon capture. In the near-term (deployment by 2025), DOE-supported technology research and development (R&D) targets a 20% reduction in COE compared to current state-of-the-art technology. This corresponds to a cost of capture of $40 per tonne and will enable coal power with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) to be economically deployed.

In the long-term (deployment by 2035), transformational technologies providing significant reductions in COE and cost of capture beyond the near-term goals are needed to ensure widespread market competitiveness of coal with CCS. Successful R&D from multiple programs and technology areas (e.g., advanced combustion with post-combustion capture, gasification, power systems, oxycombustion, etc.) is anticipated in order to meet the program goals.

SOFC technology represents an important opportunity to utilize fossil fuels in an efficient and environmentally-friendly manner. Like most fuel cell technologies, SOFCs are scalable, efficient (not subject to Carnot cycle limitations), and produce low emissions (e.g. NOx) compared to combustion-based electrical power generation technologies (due to lower operating temperatures).

Small-scale simple-cycle natural gas SOFC systems have obtained electrical efficiencies as high as 60% (lower heating value). Large-scale, coal-based systems incorporating improved SOFC technology in combination with advanced gasification technologies, heat recovery subsystems, and commercial CO2 capture technology have the potential to meet the DOE’s long-term objectives noted above, including efficiencies in excess of 50% (higher heating value. This is due to both the SOFC’s intrinsic high efficiency and unique amenability to CO2 capture—the fuel and oxidant effluent streams from the fuel cell may be maintained separate, facilitating carbon capture post-power generation, eliminating the need for shift reactors and permitting increased latitude in the selection of and integration with gasification and carbon capture technologies.

In these CO2 capture configurations, the water produced at the anode is easily captured and recycled for use in the system, resulting in significantly lower net water consumption than competing technologies.

Ultimate SOFC program goals are equal to or less than (≤) 0.2% per 1000 hours power degradation over a 5-plus year stack life, high-volume (e.g., ≥250MW/year) stack production cost of 225 dollars per kilowatt ($225/kWsystem net AC), and “power block” (exclusive of fuel supply, contaminant removal, and CO2 capture subsystems) capital cost of $900/kWsystem net AC (in year 2011 $).

The FOA. Projects selected under this FOA will focus on the development of improved stack designs; cell and stack materials; and manufacturing methods, as appropriate. Projects will also include the design, construction, and testing of a thermally self-sustaining atmospheric or pressurized SOFC stack test article. The SOFC cell repeat unit size (active area) and stack size (number of repeat units) for the stack test article must be technically- and economically-viable for aggregation into a ≥ 250kW fuel cell module, which in turn would serve as the building block for ≥100MWe IGFC and/or NGFC systems. In addition, the project scope may extend to R&D on those aspects of the balance-of-plant that negatively impact the SOFC stack with respect to life and degradation. The projects will include techno-economic analyses: fuel cell-based system studies and bottom-up, activity-based stack production cost estimation - to estimate stack production costs ($/kWsystem net AC [2011 $]) at volume.

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Comments

This is a worthy cause, but too little money. You get pure CO2 as an output but do not have to use pure O2 as an input. Coal gasification, SOFC and sequestration could be deployed in a smaller more modular fashion.

Rather than sequester, I would use the CO2 with natural gas and make synthetic fuels. Using synthetic fuels in hybrid cars would reduce oil imports and provide a more secure energy future for the U.S.

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