Natural Gas Fuel Cell

I just came across an Australian Company, Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd., that makes a solid oxide natural gas fuel cell, BlueGen™, that can produce electricity and heat.

BlueGen™ is a the latest breakthrough in small scale electricity generation - a modular style fuel cell generator that can be configured to suit a range of different markets and installations. For markets that require an alternative product approach to fully-integrated 'European style' systems, such as Japan, Northern America and Australia - BlueGen™ bridges that gap.

Utilising the Gennex™ fuel cell module; BlueGen™ is a grid-parallel SOFC system that operates on natural gas producing highly efficiency electricity.

* Output: up to 2 kW power export
* Efficiency: up to 60% electrical efficiency (net AC export)
* Modular installation; can be configured as:
mono-generation (power only)

or

co-generation (power+heat)

BlueGen™ is fitted with an integrated heat exchanger to recover the heat from the fuel cell module. A separate water tank (not supplied) can be connected to the unit to increase the total system efficiency.

I do see a few problems. It takes 20 hours to get the system up to operational temperature. So far it is only available in 50 Hz models. The USA uses 60 Hz. You have to burn gas to keep the system hot even if you are not using the heat or electricity.

One very good thing: It will self power if you lose mains power - if it is hot enough.

With all the new natural gas being discovered a system like this might make a lot of sense. If the price is right.

For those interested: there is no North American Distributor. It looks like an opportunity to me.

H/T Seeking Alpha article and comments on the coming glut in natural gas supplies.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 02.15.10 at 03:09 AM










Comments

This thing's a heat engine, right? The problem with small-scale heat engines is that they're inefficient. It's an inescapable fact of geometry. That's why the lefty fetish for local generation is crazy. You lose far more in efficiency than you gain in transmission losses.

Bob Smith   ·  February 15, 2010 5:30 AM

Bob,

It is not a heat engine. Heat is a byproduct. It is a fuel cell - a chemical "engine".

Conversion from natural gas to electricity runs 50% to 60% near full load.

M. Simon   ·  February 15, 2010 12:25 PM

Ah. This thing still has a thermodynamics problem compared to large-scale cells, and its startup time makes it useless as emergency generation. I note that the website carefully avoids telling you how much it costs and the expected payback period for the no doubt substantial capital investment.

Large-scale stationary cells are better than 5-8% more efficient than this one, which is the difference in transmission losses. A cute toy, but not a serious energy solution.

Bob Smith   ·  February 15, 2010 3:40 PM

Bob,

Something like this makes sense for winter cabin warming. Or emergency heat back up in winter.

Electricity goes out? You have heat (power to furnace blower) and radio power. Start it in the fall and don't turn it off until spring.

Any way this is just the first in a long line of these type devices. Is it the answer to everything? No. But it is an answer to winter storms that knock out the grid.

M. Simon   ·  February 16, 2010 1:51 AM

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