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Comparison of the solid oxide fuel cell system for micro CHP using natural gas with a system using a mixture of natural gas and hydrogen

Cinti, G., Bidini, G., Hemmes, K.
Applied energy 2019 v.238 pp. 69-77
computer software, fuel cells, heat, hydrogen, methane, mixing, models, natural gas, power generation, thermal stress
Solid oxide fuel cell systems for combined heat and power production (SOFC μCHP) fueled by natural gas are attractive because of their high electrical and total efficiency even at small scale. The development of a hydrogen economy will increase the availability of distributed hydrogen as a pure gas. Alternatively, hydrogen may be blended with natural gas in the grid. This study investigates the performance of SOFC μCHP systems, while using a fuel varying from pure hydrogen to pure methane via mixtures of hydrogen and methane called Hythane. Flowsheet models of external as well as internal reforming fuel cell systems were developed in Cycle-Tempo simulation software. Results show that both the external as well as the internal reforming system can operated on all fuel gas compositions varying from pure hydrogen to pure methane, thus allowing for a transition towards a hydrogen economy via the mixing of hydrogen into the natural gas grid. Although the natural gas based systems have a higher electrical efficiency, the introduction of hydrogen into the gas leads to a higher total efficiency of the combined heat and power system. The addition of hydrogen into the fuel minimizes the problems of thermal stress and thermal shock associated with the use of methane in internal reforming fuel cell systems. The internal reforming system showed a higher performance compared to the external reforming system for all Hythane gas mixtures in terms of not only electrical efficiency but also in terms of thermal and total efficiency.