Exploration and Production Technologies
Cooperative Agreement on Energy Technologies: Testing of a 5-kW SOFC on Diesel Reformate for Remote Power Applications

DE-FC26-01NT41248 (Task 2.04.1)

The project goal is to demonstrate a 5-kW solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) operating on diesel fuel.

University of Alaska (UAF), Fairbanks, AK
Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Idaho Falls, ID
Acumentrics Corp., Westwood, MA
SOFCo-EFS Holdings LLC, Alliance, OH
Energy Alternatives, Chelsea, MA

The project has demonstrated a small-scale SOFC operating on diesel reformate in a laboratory environment for short periods of time. Work continues on developing the technology that will support a field demonstration.

SOFCs have been demonstrated to be capable of generating electrical power at high efficiency at a level of about 5 kW when operated on natural gas. However, natural gas is not a readily available fuel in remote locations, where the need for reliable electrical power of this magnitude is very high. Developing the capability for operating fuel cells on liquid fuels (preferably diesel fuel) is critical to their application in these locations. A reliable diesel fuel powered SOFC is also of considerable interest to the military.

Small-scale (5 kW) SOFC development has been pushed forward in recent years by the DOE’s SECA (Solid-State Energy Conversion Alliance. This size of fuel cell is ideal for many remote power applications in Alaska, where communications, industrial controls (such as remote valves on oil pipelines), and remote residences all require power on the order of 1-5 kW. This market is currently being served by small diesel generators, but these devices are less efficient at this size and require frequent oil changes and other maintenance. Small SOFCs could find a significant niche market if they could operate on liquid fuels, be more efficient than existing devices, and require less frequent maintenance. Acumentrics has provided a pre-commercial fuel cell for this demonstration.

A 5-kW fuel cell was purchased from Acumentrics and successfully demonstrated, operating on low-sulfur diesel fuel and synthetic diesel fuel during March 2005. The fuel cell stack was rebuilt in 2006 and is currently operating on natural gas in an attempt to verify efficiency, stack degradation rates, and system reliability information. A sub-award to SOFCO remains unsigned due to a change in business ownership (SOFCO is now a division of Rolls Royce Fuel Systems (US) Inc.). Other sources of diesel reformers are currently being investigated. In March 2007 a unit from PCT was tested, which operated its fuel cell successfully for a few hours on diesel fuel.

Current Status (April 2007) 
The fuel cell is currently operating in Fairbanks on natural gas, and is expected to continue to operate for an extended run. SOFCo has contacted UAF regarding the diesel reformer sub-award.

A new fuel cell was installed at the Bidwell facility. It ran constantly from April 2, 2007 to July 26, 2007. A total 3569 kW-hrs of electricity were delivered to the facility.

This project is completed. The final project report is listed below under "Additional Information".

This project was awarded under DOE solicitation number DE-FC28-01NT41248.

Project Start: April 1, 2004 
Project End: September 30, 2008

Anticipated DOE Contribution: $728,309
Performer Contribution: $275,990 (27.5 percent of total)

Contact Information 
NETL – Purna Halder ( Purna.Halder@NETL.DOE.Gov 918-699-2084)
U. of Alaska Fairbanks – Dennis Witmer (ffdew@uaf.edu or 907-474-7082)

Additional Information
Final Project Report [PDF-85.17MB] April, 2009

Fuel cell test at INL, demonstrating SOFC operating on diesel fuel during March 2005

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