Integrating Fuel Cell Systems in Critical Industrial Processes

Assessment of Fuel Cell Applications for Critical Industrial Processes

Dan Birleanu with Mark D’Antonio, Gary Epstein, and Alan MacDougall for Zondits, November 9, 2013

In the past few years there has been increasing emergence and market penetration of new fuel cell technologies. Successful technologies are characterized by their high power reliability or availability, minimal environmental emissions, and potential for cogeneration. The most commercially available system is the phosphoric acid technology, but there has been significant progress with several other fuel cell system types. Installed costs for most of these fuel cell systems have made it difficult to achieve economically attractive installations in the absence of third-party financial incentives. A higher level of success, however, has been observed for applications that require premium power, characterized by a near total absence of power quality and availability problems (over or under voltages, surges, outages, etc.).

The focus of this presentation is on critical industrial process applications that require premium power, and the fuel cell systems that can resolve problems associated with power reliability. The presentation presents detailed discussions of fuel cell power output characteristics and the integration of the fuel cell system in the overall facility power and utility infrastructure. A comprehensive feasibility assessment methodology is described that assesses baseline power quality and its impact on the process, costs associated with downtime and power quality deficiencies, fuel cell system design concepts, system costing, energy and demand impacts, environmental impacts, overall economic merits, and the enhanced sustainability of the application. A case study example illustrates an industrial process application in the semiconductor crystal manufacturing industry. For such processes, there is considerable sensitivity to interruptions in process-specific and facility environmental energy systems. Brief downtime or power interruptions can result in product loss for the duration of the crystal growth period, which can be several days. Complete technical, environmental, and economic merits of this application will be described.

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