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FuelCell Energy Advances Cost-Efficient Method of Separating Hydrogen

FuelCell Energy has developed a cost-efficient system to separate pure hydrogen from a gas mixture that then can be sold as fuel for hydrogen vehicles or industrial uses. Fuel Cell Energy is a leader in the development and manufacture of high-temperature direct fuel cells (DFC) for electric power generation, with more than 45 installations worldwide.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded FuelCell Energy $1.36 Million to advance this Electrochemical Hydrogen Separator (EHS) project for use with the company’s Direct FuelCell (DFC) power plants.

Direct Fuel Cell power plants equipped with such a hydrogen export system could be used by FuelCell Energy’s customers to produce pure hydrogen for industrial uses or for vehicle fuel, in addition to generating electrical power and heat from the fuel cell. (Earlier post.)

The DFC takes in a hydrocarbon fuel (pipeline natural gas, propane, methanol, ethanol, digester gas, coal-derived gases, diesel, and others) and reforms it internally to produce the hydrogen required for use in the fuel-cell reaction. During normal operation, the fuel cell itself only consumes some 70%–80% of the hydrogen feed, leaving 20%–30% available for export. The hydrogen would first need to be separated, cooled, pressurized and purified prior to external use.

Unlike other means of separating hydrogen which rely on compression, FuelCell Energy’s proprietary EHS technology has no moving parts. The company expects EHS to be significantly more reliable and efficient than conventional methods, and to save up to one-half of the energy required when compared to conventional compression based-methods of hydrogen separation.

A subscale prototype EHS unit developed by FuelCell Energy is currently operating at the University of Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center. This test was made possible through a $600,000 grant provided by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund under its operational demonstration program.

Work on electrochemical hydrogen separation systems stretches back to the late 1980s and early 1990s. The basic concept is to oxidize hydrogen in the impure stream to H+ ions, transport those ions through a cation transport electrolyte membrane under an applied electric field, and discharge them in a pure hydrogen state on the cathode.

The subscale EHS system currently produces 1,200 liters per hour of pure hydrogen (1.2 Nm3 or 0.1 kg). With the DoD award, the unit will be scaled up by a factor of 25 and will operate in conjunction with a sub-megawatt DFC power plant in Danbury for testing.



John W.

The "Cost Efficient" in the title of this article is relative. It is cheaper than other methods, but still not cheap by any means.


Explain to me why the same people who feel we need a big ass tax on fuels to make people conserve give a damn how much h2 actauly winds up costing in the end?

The main reason h2 is being pushed is wealthy and well off realy want a fuel that lets them tell the rest of the world.. go f off. Every other fuel has emmissions and alot of them have real drastic environmental impacts.. specialy bio fuels.. They will always involve conflicts betwee what the driver wants in thier car and what others want for the environment.

But h2.. assuming the well off can afford a wind plant or whatever large enough they can ignore everyone else and just enjoy the ride.

Do you REALY think bush gives a flying aardvark what his fuel costs are as long as his fuel choice allows him to drive the damn car he wants and tell you all to go to hell? NO!

And after it works for them its bound to start getting cheaper and cheaperas they improve every part of the system... and thats what democrats realy fear.. a world full of people ignoring them.. totaly independant of them.... telling them to go to hell when they try to get thier stucky little fingers back into their cars.

Rafael Seidl

Wintermane -

interesting post, did you just spend some time watching Fox News by any chance? It's not clear if you're complaining about those who advocate higher taxes, about those who advocate hydrogen as a fuel or about Democrats in general. Perhaps all three.

I will only comment on higher fuel taxes. The idea is to discourage consumption so that dependence on foreign (read: OPEC) oil and greenhouse gas production both go down over time. These externalities impose severe costs on the taxpayer, directly in terms of fuel price volatility and indirectly, in terms of a higher defense budget. The concept has been proven to work in Europe and Japan over several decades.

For the US, if you were to ramp up fuel taxes but also disburse the full incremental amount raised by way of flat income tax credits (x2 for those filing jointly), Congress has exactly zero extra dollars to spend/fritter away. Zipp-o.

Those who use less fuel than the average Joe *earn* a net tax cut. Those who choose to use more than average saddle themselves with a tax hike. Using less fuel means driving fewer miles, driving less aggressively/fast, driving a more fuel efficient vehicle or some combination of the above. These are choices under the consumer's direct control, especially since the tax changes would be phased in over e.g. a decade.

In addition, you *could* choose to tax domestically produced and/or renewable fuels more lightly, such that the consumer pays the same amount at the pump as for gasoline, per unit of energy contained. Levelling the playing field may be desirable, but it is not a requirement for the concept to work.


Well as I pointed out in anouther topic where gas taxes came up. I would be for gas taxes IF consumption taxes completely replaced income taxes and social security taxes and well all other taxes.

But what gets me is people want higher fuel costs to limit use but then say h2 is insane because it costs more then gasoline currently does.

The main benifit of h2 is once you can get it into the hands of those who CAN afford its costs you can make any car you wish without any concern whatsoever about anything other then what you want out of that car.

Personaly I think muscle cars will make a big comeback after h2 systems and fuel drops low enough. Also extreme luxury cars too.. Current such cars get nailed by guzzle taxes.. but if its h2...

Roger Pham

I agree totally with Rafael regarding a gradually-phasing-in tax on fossil fuel.

Wintermane, thanks, buddy, you've just helped me to come up with a new scheme to hasten the adaptation of renewable fuels. I hereby propose that perhaps we should use the tax money from fossil fuel to help lower the cost of renewable fuels such as hydrogen, biomethane, or renewable xTL fuel by subsidizing them in proportion to their "green" quotient. So, you don't have to worry about any tax refund to anyone. Announce the scheme in far in advance, and people will start to buy methane/H2 or xTL-fuel capable cars, or converting their existing cars, and you will have killed two birds with one stone.
Let's not worry about what the rich will do with H2 as fuel. The rich won't exist in enough number to benefit the environment. Abraham Lincoln once said: "God must have loved the poor, for he made so many of them." Let's make it so that everyone can afford renewable methane, H2, or xTL fuel.

Roger Pham

Actually, Rafael, you've come up with this scheme too, in stating that "in addition, you *could* choose to tax...renewable fuel more lightly such that the consumer pays the same amount at the pump..." In essence, subdizing renewable fuels while increase taxation on fossil fuel. Of course, since renewable fuels will be scarce and will derived mainly from cellulosic biomass gasification or fermentation of wet biomass...until massive numbers of solar collectors and wind turbines will be errected, and not until high-temp solid oxide electrolytic cells will be perfected in their durability in their electrolytic role, or high-efficiency photolytic cells for H2 production will be perfected....conservation will be the highest order of business. So, Rafael is right, a tax refund from a raised fossil fuel tax will be desperately needed NOW to make the plan politically palatable in order to promote energy conservation...until massive amounts of renewable energy will be produced in the far future.


I thought wintermane was Foxnews?


Fox News, Exon-Mobil, McDonalds, Coca Ccola…


What about Stanley Meyers' water car? I'm desperately searching the internet trying to establish if there ever really has been one. Separating the hydrogen and oxygen in the motor with some sort of catalysing process and burning the hydrogen in an internal combustion engine seems like the only way to get carbon out of the picture. I welcome any feedback.


What about Stanley Meyers' water car? I'm desperately searching the internet trying to establish if there ever really has been one. Separating the hydrogen and oxygen in the motor with some sort of catalysing process and burning the hydrogen in an internal combustion engine seems like the only way to get carbon out of the picture. I welcome any feedback.

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