FIGURE 5.4 FutureGen concept for co-production of power and hydrogen. SOURCE: FutureGen Alliance (http://www.futuregenalliance.org/).

both products more competitive because of shared costs for gasification and gas cleanup and operational flexibility (constant output of the syngas with swings between electric power and hydrogen production). A partnership between the Department of Energy and several industrial companies has been working to develop such a concept, FutureGen (Figure 5.4).1 Success of a FutureGen-type power generation concept would establish a plausible pathway for both clean power generation and hydrogen co-production. The question that electric utilities (or independent power producers) will have to confront is to what extent utilities will be willing to invest in co-production facilities. While utilities may not want to enter the “new” hydrogen market, their reluctance could be lessened by policy actions by their state public utility commissions (PUCs) to provide incentives for them.

Nuclear power offers another alternative to support large-scale hydrogen production to meet high market demand in the long term. Nuclear power is receiving renewed interest since it produces neither harmful air pollutants nor greenhouse gases (although minor amounts of CO2 are emitted in the fuel fabrication process). DOE has an active program to consider the co-production of hydrogen with advanced high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactors, but the time line for such development efforts is currently lagging the IGCC-CCS efforts and is unlikely to be ready to serve the hydrogen demand by 2025-2030 when centralized hydrogen production facilities are needed. As a result, it is not considered in this study. However, this does not diminish its potential beyond the 2025-2030 time frame to compete with or complement the IGCC-CCS technology.

Potential for Synergy from Large-scale Stationary Fuel Cells for Stationary Power

As discussed in Chapter 3, PEM is the technology being developed by all major vehicle manufacturers for primary power in their prototype fuel cell vehicles. In addition, PEM fuel cell systems are currently being developed for stationary applications, ranging from very small capacity backup power applications providing less than 1 kW to primary or standalone power applications of several hundred kilowatts. To the best of the committee’s knowledge there are no PEM fuel cells systems currently in high-volume commercial production, although several companies have low rate commercial production and/or extensive field tests under way.

Many anticipated high-volume manufacturing target dates for stationary power have been missed, and potential consumers are now somewhat wary. Furthermore, many developers’ initial product offerings target specialized, high-value, but relatively low-volume, market segments such as remote telecommunications or data center backup. Taken together, these considerations make it unlikely that stationary PEM fuel cell systems will precede vehicle fuel cell systems into

1

DOE announced restructuring of the FutureGen project on January 30, 2008, citing cost escalation and technology advancement over the last 5 years since it was first announced in 2003. Under the restructuring plan, DOE intends to demonstrate the commercial viability of CCS technology at multiple commercial power plant projects that are either under way or in the planning stage. DOE will fund 100 percent of the incremental cost of the CCS portion of the projects if they are included in the plans, and it anticipates spending up to $1.3 billion (in as-spent dollars) between FY 2007 and FY 2020. These demonstrations should achieve the same technical specs as those of the original FutureGen plant with 90 percent CO2 capture according the DOE’s Request for Information document and, therefore, will have the same opportunity for hydrogen co-production.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement