The Project

MCFC-CONTEX (Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell catalyst and stack component degradation and lifetime: Fuel Gas CONTaminant effects and EXtraction strategies) aims to tackle the problem of degradation by trace contaminants from two sides:

  1. Investigation of the potential for active CO2 separation from power plant flue gas (generating power instead of consuming it in the process) and determination of poisoning mechanisms caused by SO2 in the tail pipe gas, also through numerical modelling and accelerated testing;
  2. Optimizing clean-up of biogas from waste-water treatment and natural gas to achieve tailored degrees of purification according to MCFC operating requirements.

The first line of activity requires extensive and long-term cell testing, so characterisation and accelerated tests will be carried out in parallel laboratories on MCFC components supplied through the external advisor FuelCell Energy. A numerical model will be set up to simulate and predict the effects of CO2 separation and contaminant poisoning on the system’s performance These activities are grouped in Work Package 2.

The second line of investigation (Work Package 4) entails characterization and development of clean-up materials and processes, to be narrowed down to the most cost-effective solution for utilisation in a waste-water treatment plant with a MCFC combined heat and power generator fed with the biogas coming out from the treatment process. Ultimately a pilot-scale gas cleaning unit will be developed and run.

To carry out this research, real-time and highly accurate contaminant detection methods are necessary which have to be implemented in the biogas-clean-up-MCFC chain to monitor the fate of the harmful species and inhibit their effects. This is a crucial, supporting task and acts as scientific cement between the previous two activities, and as such is collocated as Work Package 3.

The outcomes of the project will be:

  • increased understanding of poisoning mechanisms;
  • a set of operating conditions-dependent tolerance limits for the MCFC;
  • a numerical model for prediction of contaminant-induced degradation effects;
  • validated accelerated testing procedures;
  • a prototypal clean-up system optimized for upgrading selected non-conventional fuel gases to established MCFC requirements;
  • a reliable trace species detection system for monitoring of fuel quality and process control.