Release Date: October 22, 2003
|World's First Coal Mine Methane Fuel Cell Powers Up in Ohio
New Technology Mitigates Coal Mine Methane Emissions, Produces Electricity
HOPEDALE, OH - In a novel pairing of old and new, FuelCell Energy of Danbury, Conn., has begun operating the world's first fuel cell powered by coal mine methane. Funded by the Department of Energy, the demonstration harnesses the power of a pollutant - methane emissions from coal mines - to produce electricity in a new, 21st Century fuel cell.
The technology supports President Bush's initiative to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil by developing commercially viable fuel cells to power cars, trucks, homes and businesses. Because it's fueled by coal mine methane - a greenhouse gas that could otherwise be released to the atmosphere - the demonstration project also supports the President's Climate Change Initiative.
The six-month demonstration at the Rose Valley coal mine methane test site in Hopedale, Ohio, features FuelCell Energy's innovative Direct FuelCell® technology. The 200-kW power plant generates enough electricity to supply an average of 40 homes. A successful demonstration could pave the way to the use of fuel cells to mitigate coal mine methane emissions while producing power at high efficiency and very low emissions.
Fuel cells operate somewhat like batteries - but unlike batteries, a fuel cell does not run down or need recharging; it will produce electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied. Since the fuel is not burned, there is none of the pollution commonly associated with the combustion of fossil fuels. Fuel cells are quiet, efficient, and virtually pollution-free. In addition to these advantages, Direct FuelCell® power plants can use hydrocarbon fuels to produce electricity without the need to first create hydrogen in an external fuel processor. Because hydrogen is generated directly within the fuel cell module from readily available fuels -- in this case, coal mine methane -- these power plants are ready today, and do not require the creation of an extensive hydrogen infrastructure.
Methane is the second major contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide, and emissions from coal mines account for approximately 10 percent of anthropogenic methane emissions worldwide. In 2000, U.S. coal mines released 196 billion cubic feet of carbon dioxide equivalent; of this, only 18 percent was recovered and used. Coal mine methane has an estimated worldwide energy potential of more than 1,000 MW. If this potential were harnessed efficiently with fuel cells, it could help meet an increasing demand for energy while having a beneficial effect on the environment.
"We anticipate that this demonstration will lead to the utilization of fuel cells at other coal mine methane locations worldwide," said Dr. Hans Maru, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of FuelCell Energy. "FuelCell Energy's Direct FuelCell power plants are currently operating globally on natural gas, digester gas, and, later this year, on syngas from coal. The addition of coal mine methane to the list of useable fuels demonstrates the flexibility of Direct FuelCell power plants, that can operate on any hydrocarbon fuel."
The National Energy Technology Laboratory, the research laboratory for the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy, is managing the three-year project. Total cost of the project is approximately $7 million dollars, shared equally between the Department of Energy and FuelCell Energy.
|Contact: David Anna, DOE/NETL, 412-386-4646|