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Research Contracts Awarded For Renewable Biogas Processing And Carbon Capture

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by Staff Writers
Danbury CT (SPX) Apr 26, 2011
FuelCell Energy has announced two subcontract awards totaling $1.7 million to demonstrate advanced biogas de-sulfurization technology and a contract to evaluate the effectiveness of Direct FuelCells (DFC) to efficiently separate carbon dioxide (CO2) from the emissions of industrial operations such as refineries, cement kilns and pulp and paper mills.

Biogas processing
Direct FuelCells can utilize renewable biogas as a fuel to efficiently generate ultra-clean electricity. Biogas is a waste product generated by industrial processes such as food processing, agriculture and wastewater treatment and contains a high level of sulfur that must be removed prior to being used as a fuel. The demonstration sorbent has an expected lifespan that is up to 30 times longer than the technology currently in use, so may represent a significant cost reduction in biogas clean-up costs.

The biogas demonstration projects will determine the market feasibility of a high capacity, expendable sorbent for efficiently removing sulfur from renewable biogas that if successful, could reduce the costs of fuel cells operating on biogas. FuelCell Energy currently has 20 megawatts of DFC biogas power plants, installed and in backlog.

TDA Research, Inc., the prime contractor under this U.S. Department of Energy program, developed the sorbents for the projects which will be demonstrated at a wastewater treatment facility and a family-owned dairy farm, both located in California. The demonstration projects are expected to last 18 months. Founded in 1987, TDA Research is located in Wheat Ridge and Golden, CO.

"Renewable baseload power from fuel cells operating on biogas is a powerful value proposition that FuelCell Energy offers to the market," said Chris Bentley, Executive Vice President, Government R and D Operations, Strategic Manufacturing Development, FuelCell Energy, Inc. "Reducing biogas clean-up costs further enhances the value proposition for converting biogas waste disposal problems into ultra-clean electricity."

Carbon Capture
Direct FuelCells combine fuel with oxygen from the ambient air to efficiently produce electricity and heat using an electrochemical process, without combustion. The award from the EPA will fund initial testing of the ability for Direct FuelCells to consume flue gas instead of ambient air for the power generation process and their capability to cost effectively separate the CO2 within the flue gas.

Some types of industrial operations, such as refineries and paper mills, generate flue gas, a waste product that contains CO2. Efficiently and effectively separating the CO2 enables sequestration, preventing the release of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

"Our Direct FuelCell technology is very versatile, providing multiple value streams including ultra-clean power, high quality heat and hydrogen suitable for vehicle transportation or industrial uses," continued Mr. Bentley.

"This contract from the US Environmental Protection Agency enables us to research the possibility of yet another value stream, which is the efficient and cost effective capture of carbon using our existing technology. Carbon capture is an important area of focus for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our team is excited to be undertaking this leading edge research."

The research under this initial $0.1 million Phase I award is expected to take up to six months. Successful results may lead to a demonstration project at an industrial site using a DFC power plant to provide ultra-clean electricity and usable heat to the industrial operation while separating CO2 from the flue gas for sequestration. Capturing CO2 for sequestration is a potentially large global market.

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