Hydrogen Program



Fuel cell hybrid
vehicle program

fueling stations

generation research

and outreach

Autothermal Cyclic Reformer 

Electrolyzer and Reversible Fuel Cell

High Temperature Fuel Cell

Advanced Central Power Plants

High Temperature Fuel Cell

One environmentally sensitive means of addressing both local generation of power and the production and distribution of hydrogen is to co-produce hydrogen and electricity using a high temperature stationary fuel cell system.  The locally produced hydrogen could be used to meet a variety of local hydrogen demands including portable and transportation applications.  The most significant positive environmental and energy impacts could be provided by this concept when the locally produced hydrogen is dispensed to fuel cell powered vehicles. 


High Temp Fuel Cell photo
High temperature fuel cell with the co-production of
 electricity, a thermal product, and hydrogen


Internal reforming high temperature fuel cells, such as solid oxide fuel cells and molten carbonate fuel cells, are developed technologies with a few commercial products available.  These systems do not require hydrogen; they are instead directly fuelled by natural gas (or renewable fuel such as landfill or digester gas).  The natural gas is reformed either indirectly or directly in the anode compartment to produce hydrogen.  Direct reformation results in both promoting hydrogen production and providing needed cooling to the fuel cell stack.  Indirect reformation occurs in a separate but thermally integrated reactor. Significantly, these fuel cell systems do not electrochemically consume all the fuel that is supplied (a fundamental limitation) and they produce enough heat to reform much more that the amount of hydrogen they consume.

High temperature fuel cell hydrogen co-production concept using
the Direct FuelCell™ (DFC) of FuelCell Energy.

The overall concept is illustrated below for use of a carbonate fuel cell with internal reformation such as that available in the Direct FuelCell™ (DFC) product of FuelCell Energy.  Figure 1 shows natural gas entering the fuel cell with hydrogen, electricity, and heating/cooling being provided as products.

Benefits of the High Temperature Fuel Cell Hydrogen Co-Production Concept

The basic concept is to use hydrogen produced by the high temperature fuel cell as fuel for the low temperature fuel cell that are targeted for use in automobiles.  Thus, the high temperature fuel cell could be used to co-produce electricity for a building and hydrogen for a local refueling station, avoiding the energy and environmental impacts of hydrogen transport and distribution.  Key strategic advantages and benefits of this concept are:

  • Local hydrogen production avoids the negative energy and environmental impacts of traditional hydrogen transport, distribution and dispensing means,
  • High temperature fuel cells can theoretically produce about three times as much hydrogen as is required for electricity production using heat it naturally produces,
  • If all of the reformate/hydrogen stream is sent through the fuel cell its efficiency increases,
  • Co-generated hydrogen is a much higher value product than thermal energy,
  • Generation of varying relative amounts of hydrogen and electricity allows additional operator control to increase value added, and reduce operating costs,
  • Additional hydrogen production provides needed cooling to the fuel cell,
  • A cooler fuel cell can operate with less excess air, which improves efficiency,
  • Stationary fuel cell systems are already designed to include integrated natural gas reformation technology, and
  • Stationary high temperature fuel cell systems with reformers have proven near-zero emissions and high fuel-to-electricity efficiency.


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