Among the various fuel cell (FC) systems, molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFC) are nowadays one of the most promising technologies, thanks to the lower specific costs and a very high electrical efficiency (net low heating value (LHV) electric efficiency in the range 45%–50% at MWel scale using natural gas as fuel). Despite this high performance, MCFC rejects to the ambient almost half of the fuel energy at about 350–400 °C. Waste heat can be exploited in a recovery Rankine cycle unit, thereby enhancing the electric efficiency of the overall system. Due to the temperature of the heat source and the relatively small power capacity of MCFC plants (from few hundred kWel to 10 MWel), steam Rankine cycle technology is uneconomical and less efficient compared to that of the organic Rankine cycle (ORC). The objective of this work is to verify the practical feasibility of the integration between a MCFC system (topping unit) and an ORC turbogenerator (bottoming unit). The potential benefits of the combined plant are assessed in relation to a commercial MCFC stack. In order to identify the most suitable working fluids for the ORC system, organic substances are considered and compared. The figure of merit is the maximum net power of the overall system. Finally, the economical benefits of the integration are determined by evaluating the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of the combined plant, with respect to the standalone MCFC system. In order to assess the economic viability of the bottoming power unit, two cases are considered. In the first one, the ORC power output is approximately 500 kWel; in the latter, about 1 MWel. Results show that the proposed solution can increase the electrical power output and efficiency of the plant by more than 10%, well exceeding 50% overall electrical efficiency. In addition, the LCOE of the combined power plant is 8% lower than the standalone MCFC system.
Enhancement of the Electrical Efficiency of Commercial Fuel Cell Units by Means of an Organic Rankine Cycle: A Case Study
Contributed by the International Gas Turbine Institute of (IGTI) ASME for publication in the Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines andPower. Manuscript received February 29, 2012; final manuscript received October 21, 2012; published online March 18, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Piero Colonna.
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De Servi, C., Campanari, S., Tizzanini, A., and Pietra, C. (March 18, 2013). "Enhancement of the Electrical Efficiency of Commercial Fuel Cell Units by Means of an Organic Rankine Cycle: A Case Study." ASME. J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power. April 2013; 135(4): 042309. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4023119
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