Alternative to Combustion Promises Environmental Benefits
Fuel Cells Called Cogeneration's Competition by 2000
NEW YORK--After decades of development, phosphoric acid fuel cells are nearing the point of commercial viability, and some sources within the gas industry, a heavy supporter of the emerging technology, claim fuel cell power plants will present a cleaner and more economical alternative to present forms of power generation for cogenerators by the end of decade.
In addition to phosphoric acid fuel cells, two other types--molten carbonate and solid oxide--are nearing the first stages of production, and could offer even greater economic and environmental benefits by the year 2000.
Ecological benefits of all fuel cells, which operate by electrochemical reaction rather than combustion, include NOx emissions as much as 250 times lower than internal combustion power generation and 2.5 times less than the most advanced low NOx technology now in use, according to Richard Woods, senior analyst for fuel cells and power systems for the Gas Research Institute in Chicago.
In addition, depending on the type of fuel cell, electrical efficiencies can be between 40 and 55 percent. This is approximately 5 to 12 percent more efficient than present power generation alternatives, including either reciprocating engines, single cycle or combined cycle machines.
Since fuel cells also use natural gas as a fuel, this extra …