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Operating experience with a 250 kWelmolten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC) power plant

Journal of Power Sources
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0378-7753(01)00942-9
  • Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell (Mcfc)
  • European Consortium
  • Carnot’S Law
  • Field Tests
  • Design


Abstract The MTU MCFC program is carried out by a European consortium comprising the German companies MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH, Ruhrgas AG and RWE Energie AG as well as the Danish company Energi E2 S/A. MTU acts as consortium leader. The company shares a license and technology exchange agreement with Fuel Cell Energy Inc., Danbury, CT, USA (formerly Energy Research Corp., ERC). The program was started in 1990 and covers a period of about 10 years. The highlights of this program to date are: • Considerable improvements regarding component stability have been demonstrated on laboratory scale. • Manufacturing technology has been developed to a point which enables the consortium to fabricate the porous components on a 250 cm 2 scale. Several large area stacks with 5000–7660 cm 2 cell area and a power range of 3–10 kW have been tested at the facilities in Munich (Germany) and Kyndby (Denmark). These stacks have been supplied by FCE. • As far as the system design is concerned it was soon realized that conventional systems do not hold the promise for competitive power plants. A system analysis led to the conclusion that a new innovative design approach is required. As a result the “Hot Module” system was developed by the consortium. A Hot Module combines all the components of a MCFC system operating at the similar temperatures and pressures into a common thermally insulated vessel. In August 1997 the consortium started its first full size Hot Module MCFC test plant at the facilities of Ruhrgas AG in Dorsten, Germany. The stack was assembled in Munich using 292 cell packages purchased from FCE. The plant is based on the consortium’s unique and proprietary “Hot Module” concept. It operates on pipeline natural gas and was grid connected on 16 August 1997. After a total of 1500 h of operation, the plant was intentionally shut down in a controlled manner in April 1998 for post-test analysis. • The Hot Module system concept has demonstrated its functionality. • The safety concept has been convincingly proven, though in part unintentionally. • The electrical power level of 155 kW (ca. 60% of maximum power) achieved allows validation of the concept with reasonable degree of confidence. • Horizontal stack operation—an essential innovation of the Hot Module concept—is feasible. • The fuel processing subsystem worked reliably as expected. • After initial problems in the inverter control software, the electrical and control subsystem operated to full satisfaction. • Stable automatic operation not only under various load conditions, but also in idle mode, hot parking mode, and grid-independent mode has been demonstrated. Together with progress achieved by FCE in the qualification of large direct fuel cell (DFC) stacks the basis was laid for the next test unit of similar design, which will be operated in Bielefeld, Germany. The pre-tests of the stack took place already in July 1999 with good results. Additionally, projects for the test of the DFC Hot Module operating on biogas and other opportunity fuels are under preparation.

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