CFCL widens fuel feedstock options

Australia-based Ceramic Fuel Cells (CFCL) has announced preliminary findings that its fuel cell offering can be operated using ethanol fuel.

The company said it had carried out a preliminary feasibility study and modeling that had shown ethanol could be made into a fuel mix suitable for CFCL’s fuel cell product. It said the energy efficiency would be up to 50 per cent, similar to that of a fuel cell using natural gas.

The finding means that fuel for the cells could be produced by fermenting plant material such as wheat chaff and corn plants. Most ethanol worldwide is currently produced from sugar or starch.

China’s fuel cell UPS

MGE China is to join with its US-based parent, MGE, and Ballard Power Systems, to offer fuel cell uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) in China.

The UPS is powered by Ballard Power Systems’ Nexa RM Series fuel cell modules, which have been integrated into MGE’s 3 kVA DX rack-mount UPS system, fitting standard 19 in rack mounting.

The fuel cells are fuelled using hydrogen, which is supplied in replaceable cylinders, and continue to operate as long as hydrogen is supplied. MGE China said the application would be suited for telecommunications markets where runtime and weight limitations made batteries unsuitable for backup periods above one hour.

Berlin’s bi-fuel cell

MTU CFC Solutions, part of DaimlerChrysler, has installed a bi-fuel fuel cell at a “fuel cell innovation park”in Vattenfall, Berlin.

Known as HotModule, the fuel cell is being tested in operation as part of a programme of field trials. Its 350 cells together generate some 270 kW, at an overall electrical efficiency of 56 per cent. The unit can be operated fuelled by natural gas, methanol or both; the liquid fuel used is derived from wastes generated in the city and MTU noted that in future alternative fuels could include gas from sewage waste or industrial residues.

The HotModule is the result of more than 10 years development work, which has already seen twelve trial fuel cells installed. MTU said it expected more trial systems to be installed during 2005, and added that series production of the cell was ‘imminent’, with a target date of 2006.

Standard published

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has published its first fuel cell standard.

IEC 62282-2: Fuel cell technologies – Part 2: Fuel cell modules covers the safety and performance of five types of fuel cell modules: alkaline, proton exchange membrane, phosphoric acid, molten carbonate and solid oxide.

The standard covers minimum safety requirements for modules, and will be used by manufacturers in producing fuel cells for use by consumers. It was prepared by the IEC’s Technical Committee on Fuel Cell Technologies (designated TC105).

The IEC’s future standards in this field are to focus on spelling out additional and specific requirements as they relate to the setting in which fuel cells will be used, such as in vehicles, on ships, in homes and factories, or on aircraft.

A turn for the better

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Bespoke insulation design and re-balancing were part of the package when UK-based Wyko overhauled nine 30MW turbo rotors at a UK site.

According to Wyko, the company was asked to assess if repairs would be economic for one of the rotors. Investigations revealed that the rotors had not been designed for the site and did not have sufficient insulation.

The new design included improved slot insulation, manufactured at Wyko’s Newcastle upon Tyne workshop, and a new inter-turn design to improve thermal, mechanical and insulation characteristics. In addition the rotors, each weighing 15 t, had to be rebuilt, to replace worn insulation, and rebalanced.

Overhauling the 15 t units involved complete disassembly, annealing, cleaning, non-destructive testing and condition reporting on every element of the coils. Electrical tests were carried out to ensure integrity of the rotor laminations.

Small hydro design grows up

VA Tech Hydro has announced the commissioning of two Ecobulb small hydro units, the first to be rated at 1 MW, at a site in Paullo, Italy. The two units were built for STE Energy.

The Ecobulb unit uses a bulb turbine and direct-driven generator to produce high-efficiency hydropower. Permanent magnet excitation of the generator rotor permits generator size to be reduced, allowing capital cost savings to be made and efficency increased. An industrial prototype has been in operation at Aubas in France for 18 months, however the Paullo units were scaled up to have a runner diameter of 2600 mm and nominal speed of 150 rpm.

Further units with outputs of up to 4 MW are now under construction in France and Canada.

Cool stuff

An innovative heat transfer technology under development has received a two-year $750 000 research grant from the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

SPX Corporation’s Cooling Technologies and Services business, in partnership with Ceramic Composites Inc, will explore the use of high thermal conductivity carbon foam in air-cooled steam condensers for power plant cooling. The companies say the system could help minimize or eliminate organism intake, warm water discharge, wet or hybrid tower evaporation, pumping system maintenance, and internal power consumption. It may also help meet new Clean Water Act legislation, which requires power plants to prevent adverse environmental effects on aquatic organisms.

The grant was seen by SPX as a great chance to examine how the technology could benefit the power industry and the environment.