Fuel Cells and Biogas

Abstract: This thesis concerns biogas-operated fuel cells. Fuel cell technology may contribute to more efficient energy use, reduce emissions and also perhaps revolutionize current energy systems. The technology is, however, still immature and has not yet been implemented as dominant in any application or niche market. Research and development is currently being carried out to investigate whether fuel cells can live up to their full potential and to further advance the technology. The research of thesis contributes by exploring the potential of using fuel cells as energy converters of biogas to electricity. The work includes results from four different experimental test facilities and concerns experiments performed at cell, stack and fuel cell system levels. The studies on cell and stack level have focused on the influence of CO, CO2 and air bleed on the current distribution during transient operation. The dynamic response has been evaluated on a single cell, a segmented cell and at stack level. Two fuel cell systems, a 4 kW PEFC system and a 5 kW SOFC system have been operated on upgraded biogas. A significant outcome is that the possibility of operating both PEFCs and SOFCs on biogas has been established. No interruptions or rapid performance loss could be associated with the upgraded biogas during operation. From the studies at cell and stack level, it is clear that CO causes significant changes in the current distribution in a PEFC; air bleed may recover the uneven current distribution and also the drop in cell voltage due to CO and CO2 poisoning. The recovery of cell performance during air bleed occurs evenly over the electrode surface even when the O2 partial pressure is far too low to fully recover the CO poisoning. The O2 supplied to the anode reacts on the anode catalyst and no O2 was measured at the cell outlet for air bleed levels up to 5 %. Reformed biogas and other gases with high CO2 content are thus, from dilution and CO-poisoning perspectives, suitable for PEFC systems. The present work has enhanced our understanding of biogas-operated fuel cells and will serve as basis for future studies.