Bioenergy, Storage

Fuel Cell Wastewater Treatment Plant to Run Methane

FuelCell Energy’s (FCE) European partner, MTU CFC Solutions GmbH, and RWE Fuel Cells commissioned a high-temperature municipal wastewater treatment power plant incorporating FCE’s technology in northeastern Germany to operate on sewage gas.

Plans for the 250 kW facility called for installation of MTU’s HotModule power plant. This system combines FCE’s efficient and low-emission Direct Fuel Cell (DFC) stacks with MTU’s balance of plant design that it manufactures for the European market. Situated at the Municipal Wastewater Treatment Works in Ahlen, Germany, it is said to be the first fuel cell in Europe to operate on anaerobic digester gas. Using sewage gas produced by the Ahlen facility as fuel, the power plant generates electricity to run the wastewater treatment process; any excess power is fed to the grid. The power plant also generates 180 kW of heat byproduct, which Ahlen harnesses to operate its digestion tower (where sewage sludge is turned into the gas fuel source); any remaining thermal energy heats its office and plant buildings. The newly operational wastewater treatment plant, one of 10 worldwide in which FCE products are involved, replaced a combustion engine-driven cogeneration unit. Industrial and municipal wastewater treatment facilities with anaerobic gas digesters represent an important application of FCE’s DFC power plants. Methane generated by anaerobic gas digestion is a renewable fuel eligible for government incentive funding for installations around the world. Because fuel in a DFC unit is not burned, it reduces harmful emissions of gas and particulates while generating firm (24/7) power onsite where it is needed. In other business, FCE’s DFC power plant successfully completed a U.S. government test when operating in concert with an absorption chiller, expanding its combined heat and power (CHP) applications to air conditioning. More efficient and environmentally favorable than conventional air conditioners, absorption chillers use less energy and provide cooling without the use of harmful ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This project is supported by a three-way Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (ERDC-CERL), Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) and FuelCell Energy Inc. CTC is funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, involving ERDC-CERL, whose role is to provide funding to CTC and evaluate test results to determine applicability of fuel cell power plants to DOD installations.