In the framework of the project Greening of Gas, in which the feasibility of mixing hydrogen into the natural gas network in the NL is studied, we are exploring alternative hydrogen production methods. Fuel cells are usually only seen as devices that convert hydrogen into power and heat. It is less well known that these electrochemical energy converters can produce hydrogen, or form an essential component in systems for co-production of hydrogen and power. Co-production of hydrogen and power from NG in an Internal reforming fuel cell (IR FC) is worked out by flow sheet calculations on an Internal reforming Solid Oxide fuel cell (IR-SOFC) system. It is shown that the system can operate in a wide range of fuel utilization values at least from 60% representing highest hydrogen production mode to 95% corresponding to ‘normal’ fuel cell operation mode. For the atmospheric pressure system studied here hydrogen and CO content increase up to 22.6 and 13.5 % respectively at a fuel utilization of 60%. Total system efficiency (power + H2/CO) is increasing significantly at lower fuel utilization and can reach 94 %. Our study confirms that the calculations of Vollmar et al1) on an IR-SOFC stack also hold for a complete FC system. Notably that paradoxically a system with the same fuel cell stack when switched to hydrogen production mode can yield more power in addition to the H2 and CO produced. This is because the hydrogen production mode allows for operation at high current and power densities. The same system can double its power output (e.g. from 1.26 MW to 2.5 MW) while simultaneously increasing the H2 /CO output to 3.1MW). Economics of these systems is greatly improved. These systems can also be considered for hydrogen production for the purpose of mixing it with natural gas in the natural gas grid in order to reduce CO2 emissions at the end users, because of the ability to adopt the system rapidly to fluctuations in natural gas/hydrogen demand.

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