This paper presents the results of a study to evaluate the feasibility of deploying fuel cells in hydrocarbon producing facilities. For the majority of hydrocarbon production facilities, electric power is generated on-site, most often, by the combustion of some of the produced hydrocarbons. To optimize its performance, Shell is continuously looking at applying new technologies, which can increase the availability of her production facilities and/or reduced lifecycle costs and/or improve safety and environmental performance. Shell has identified fuel cell technology as being capable of delivering some of these benefits because of its potential to achieve high availability, reliability and fuel efficiency when compared to conventional technologies. An inventory has been made of the specific design specifications and the state-of-the-art of commercially available fuel cell systems. Most of the required capacities fall in the range of 1kW to 1 MW, which is compatible with state of the art fuel cell developments or it can be achieved in the near future. A software-screening tool has been constructed to evaluate the various options with respect to conventional technologies. The specific design specifications can vary from production site to site, but in general availability and low maintenance are two of the main criteria to be considered and most favorable for fuel cells. Depending on the specific requirements for a particular hydrocarbon production facility a polymer fuel cell, MCFC or SOFC system are considered suitable alternatives to conventional technology. The screening tool has been applied and evaluated in a case study of one of the unmanned production facilities of Shell. A 20 kW SOFC system was found to score higher than a commercially available gas engine of 25 kW on eight of the most important of several criteria. However, SOFC system lifecycle costs are still 15 to 20% higher due to the development costs needed for this ‘prototype’ SOFC system to make it suitable for use in hydrocarbon producing facility. When applied in more surface production facilities the SOFC system also becomes costs competitive with conventional technologies.

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