CMC Sponsors SOFC Industry Day

Carbon Management Canada was one of the sponsors along with ISEEE (Institute of Sustainable Energy Environment and Economy at the University of Calgary) of an Industry Day organized by the NSERC Solid Oxide Fuel Cells Canada Strategic Research Network.  Over 40 participants from the oil and gas sector, researchers, and government met to discuss recent advances in the technology of SOFCs and the opportunities for this technology in the oil and gas industry.  Professor Nigel Brandon, Director of the Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College London, provided an overview of the attributes of SOFC technology that could be of industrial interest, particularly:

  • Combined high grade heat and power at very high overall efficiency;
  • Very low particulate and NOx emissions;
  • Pure CO2 exhaust for energy efficient sequestration;
  • Operation on a variety of hydrocarbon fuels; and
  • Remote power, kW to MW.

These attributes lend themselves to the following opportunities for the oil and gas industry, including the oilsands sector:

  • SOFCs are ideal for distributed generation of electricity for an industry where the electrical power needs are distributed over a wide geographical area at many sites.
  • SOFCs can use natural gas as a fuel.  Any by-product natural gas can be used in a SOFC cell and thereby provide the electrical power needs as well as steam or hot water.
  • Nearly pure CO2 produced by the SOFC can be used in some applications of enhanced heavy oil recovery.
  • Large-scale combined heat and power from SOFC can be used for resource extraction.
  • SOFCs can also serve to store renewable energy in the form of fuels by running in the electrolysis mode, converting water to H2 or water and CO2 to syngas.

One of the key speakers at the workshop was Dr. Viola Birss, Professor in the Chemistry Department of the University of Calgary, and a Scientific Director of the SOFC Network.  One of the research themes of the Network is to increase the sulfur and coke tolerance of the fuel cell.  H2S tolerant SOFCs could be applied to stranded sour gas wells where the sulphur content is too high for conventional use for generation, but too small for cost effective treatment.  Dr. Birss is also a CMC-funded researcher with an emphasis on CO2 from SOFCs for Carbon Capture and Storage, as well as solid oxide electrolysis cells.  She mentioned plans to test out new SOFC technologies in CMC’s proposed Geoscience Field Research Station: a research, demonstration and training facility.

The Industry Day concluded with comments that demonstration of some technologies at a reasonable scale for analysis (reliability, cost, risk) would increase industry interest.  Such development could be the result of joint industry/academic projects.

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