Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
Testing of a 5kWe SOFC on Diesel Reformate
This project was selected in response to the Arctic Energy Technology Development
Laboratory (AETDL) solicitation in FY2004 for energy technology suitable for
remote Alaskan applications.
The goal is to demonstrate operation of a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) on diesel
fuel as an alternative power generation technology for remote Alaskan applications.
The objectives of the test were to:
- Benchmark the performance of the fuel cell on natural gas at higher elevations.
Tests were conducted at the Idaho National Laboratory, which is nominally
at an elevation of 4,700 feet.
- Measure the SOFC performance using lower-quality reformates produced by
reforming diesel fuel.
Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
Idaho Falls, ID
SOFCo-EFS Holdings LLC
University of Alaska-Fairbanks
The tests of the SOFC on diesel reformate at INL provided important data to
guide development of an integrated (for purposes of power generation) system
using catalytic partial oxidation (CPOX) and an SOFC. The tests measured effects:
- On performance of the SOFC due to significant elevation change (lower pressure
and oxygen concentration).
- Of lower reformate hydrogen and carbon monoxide concentration.
- Of lower reformate quality on thermal integration.
An integrated diesel fuel reformer/SOFC fuel cell system has the potential to
replace existing electrical generator sets significantly, reducing the cost
of delivered power to remote Alaskan settlements.
Based on typical projected efficiencies of the SOFC power system, significant
savings are likely to be realized in avoided fuel and transportation cost, even
allowing for considerable up-front capital costs. The SOFC power system can
be integrated into the existing diesel supply and storage system. Additionally,
the SOFC will operate in a more environmentally friendly manner with reduced
NOx and CO2 emissions compared with diesel generator sets. The proposed power
system will provide an alternative for remote electric power generation that
integrates with the existing diesel fuel infrastructure and produces power with
less environmental emissions.
Electric power generation in remote Alaska, such as in Lime Village, is based
primarily on diesel fuel. The high cost of transportation and low efficiency
of the diesel generator sets result in high electricity cost in these remote
locations. SOFC power generation offers the potential to increase fuel efficiency
and lower power costs. Reformation of diesel fuel results in a lower-quality
feed to the SOFC than is typically produced from steam reforming of natural
gas fuels. This affects both the cell performance and thermal integration. The
tests conducted at INL were directed at obtaining information on cell performance
and thermal integration using the lower-quality diesel reformate.
Tests conducted at INL on the reformation of diesel fuel and its use in a SOFC
for power generation provided necessary data for design of a integrated unit.
Among the project tasks:
- Prior to delivery of the SOFC to INL, tests were conducted at Acumentrics
on natural gas (at sea level) to benchmark the SOFC performance based on natural
- The SOFC was installed and tested at INL on gas to measure the effect on
performance due to:
-Lower oxygen concentration.
-Higher gas velocities (reduced residence time).
- Tests on diesel reformate were conducted to measure the effects due to:
-Effect of lower fuel quality.
-Methane (hydrogen about 25% by weight).
-Diesel (hydrogen about 15% by weight).
-Ambient pressure, temperature.
- Tests were conducted using two diesel fuels:
-EPA ultralow-sulfur diesel.
-Syntroleum synthetic diesel.
- These tests developed data to design a "for-purpose" CPOX/SOFC
power system for operation on diesel fuel.
- Data from the tests confirmed that the reformer and SOFC system:
-Can successfully operate on low-sulfur diesel and synthetic diesel.
-Achieve more stable operation on synthetic diesel.
-The SOFC system can successfully operate at greater altitude (~5000 feet).
-Increased air flow was required for operation on diesel reformate.
Current Status (October 2005)
SOFC tests at INL have been completed. These tests provided necessary information
for AETDL and SOFCo-EFS to proceed with design and testing of an integrated
CPOX/SOFC electric power system.
Project Start: May 10, 2004
Project End: May 10, 2005
DOE Contribution: $230,000
Performer Contribution: $0
NETL - Brent Sheets (Brent.Sheets@netl.doe.gov or 907-452-2559)
University of Alaska Fairbanks - Dennis Witmer (firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-474-7082)
Aerial View of Lime Village, Alaska
INL test facility.
Diesel-fueled SOFC performance