Welcome to this issue of The Fuel Cell Advantage, where you’ll find the latest on how we are putting fuel cells to work in commercial applications everyday.
In this issue:
Specialized Engineering Services Now Offered by Ballard
Interview with Dr. Christopher Guzy, Chief Technology Officer
FACT: Ballard is a recognized global leader in the design and manufacture of clean energy, zero-emission proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell stacks, modules and systems …. and, the company is “putting fuel cells to work” in key application areas: backup power; distributed generation; material handling; and buses.
To find out more, we interviewed Dr. Christopher Guzy, Ballard’s CTO.
Dr. Guzy: Well, no one else really possesses the total set of technical skills in the PEM fuel cell space that we built up through our many years of research and commercial development work here at Ballard. And beyond that, we have extensive, world-class development and testing facilities. Both these elements create a tremendous foundation for engineering services work where we can provide a high-value way to accelerate the fuel cell work of others using our capabilities.
A: In addition to our specialized knowledge in the materials used in fuel cells and fuel cell systems, it’s our knowledge of how to integrate those materials into a high-performance membrane electrode assembly, how to integrate that MEA into a durable fuel cell stack and how to integrate that stack into a reliable fuel cell system that really differentiates us. And that product development and design knowledge is complemented by our manufacturing process capability. Beyond that, we have developed specialized testing protocols that have allowed us to increase both the speed and reliability of engineering decisions.
Q: What fuel cell applications can Ballard’s engineering services support?
Commercialization of Fuel Cell Buses
Recent business development and operational milestones have signalled significant progress toward commercialization of clean energy fuel cell buses.
Increased volumes of fuel cell-powered buses are expected to support cost and price reductions through scale economies, enabling fuel cell solutions to compete effectively with incumbent transit technologies.
Waste to Energy Systems
One of the challenges in siting large scale fuel cell generators is finding a source of low cost hydrogen; hydrogen derived from biomass has the potential to be both an economical and renewable source of fuel for distributed power generation applications.
A biomass-to-fuel cell system offers a renewable source of low emission electricity and heat with flexible feedstock options. Biomass - including forestry and agricultural resources, industrial processing residues, municipal solid waste and urban wood residues - is often considered a waste product. Using a gasifier to processes this biomass creates a hydrogen rich syngas which is then purified and compressed as a low cost fuel for Ballard’s CLEARgen™ distributed generation system.
The amount of biomass available is not insubstantial. A 2011 study by Columbia University determined that “hypothetically, if 100% of the landfilled municipal solid wastes (MSW) were diverted from [US] landfills to new waste-to-energy (WTE) power plants, …they would produce 162 million MWh of electricity, enough to power 16.2 million households for one year.” According to a report from Pike Research, worldwide biomass power generation capacity will grow to at least 86 gigawatts (GW) by 2021, from 58 GW in 2011.
The use of biomass as the fuel for these systems may be a very good choice for remote communities with abundant wood resources, such as those in which forestry activities are significant. A biomass to fuel cell system allows communities to substantially reduce their reliance upon diesel generators, providing a more economical levelized cost of energy and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2011, Ballard partnered with GS Platech, a subsidiary of GS Caltex, one of South Korea's largest petroleum refiners, to demonstrate waste-to-energy power generation. Hydrogen produced through plasma gasification of organic solid waste powered a 50kW fuel cell system and successfully provided power to the local South Korean electricity grid. Based on the success of this demonstration project, Ballard is now pursuing further installation opportunities to develop biomass to energy systems based on the CLEARgen™ fuel cell technology.
Close to 150MW of Ballard fuel cell stacks, modules & systems have powered clean energy solutions for customers in a variety of countries on five continents. A few recent deployments follow.
Deployment of Fuel Cell Power Systems In Idea Cellular India Network
Thirty fuel cell systems manufactured by Dantherm Power, Ballard’s backup power company, are being deployed in the Idea Cellular wireless telecommunications network in India. The systems will be deployed at cell tower locations in close proximity to an Aditya Birla Group chemical plant in the region of Nadga, Madhya Pradesh and will use by-product hydrogen produced at the plant as fuel. This will displace diesel generators that are currently required to operate on a near-daily basis, due to frequent grid power outages. read more
We are now seeing signs of growing demand for a variety of applications from South African based mining group Anglo American Platinum. Ballard supplied a 150kW fuel cell system, which was demonstrated at the 2011 COP17 climate change conference in Durban. Ballard fuel cells will also power mining locomotives that Amplats plans to demonstrate this year. In addition, during 2012 Ballard and Anglo American Platinum are undertaking a market feasibility study and test of a proof-of-concept system for a small-scale electric generator that will utilize onsite propane or natural gas. Anthea Bath, Anglo American head of market development and research, recently spoke to Mining Weekly about these projects.