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DOE Awards FuelCell Energy $2M to Continue Development of High Pressure Electrochemical Hydrogen Compressor Technology

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded FuelCell Energy, Inc., a developer of carbonate direct fuel cells for power generation, approximately $2.0 million to further develop and demonstrate an efficient and reliable method for compressing hydrogen for storage under high pressure utilizing its solid-state Electrochemical Hydrogen Compressor (EHC) technology.

A 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.

Last year, the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) Engineer Research and Development Center - Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (ERDC-CERL) awarded FuelCell Energy approximately $1.5 million to continue development of its electrochemical hydrogen separator (EHS). (Earlier post.) The EHS system separates pure hydrogen that can be used for industrial and transportation applications from the gas internally generated in FuelCell Energy’s molten carbonate Direct Fuel Cell systems.

The benefit of the EHC technology is the ability to compress the hydrogen produced by the fuel cell for on-site storage and use at a later time. Additionally, the EHC technology has no moving parts, which should enhance reliability while potentially decreasing costs as compared to traditional, multi-stage mechanical compressors.

FuelCell Energy successfully demonstrated a single stage EHC technology to compress hydrogen to 3,000 psi (207 bar), and received an achievement award from the DOE in May 2009 for the accomplishment. Under this new contract, the company will further enhance its existing EHC technology to compress greater quantities of hydrogen at 3,000 psi and also develop an EHC prototype within the next three years to compress hydrogen to 12,000 psi (827 bar).

The ability to efficiently and cost effectively compress large volumes of hydrogen to 3,000 psi targets industrial users that currently use multi-stage mechanical compressors and compression to 12,000 psi targets hydrogen vehicle refueling.

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