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FuelCell Energy Successfully Demonstrates Dual Fuel Switch With Propane

Ability to quickly switch between fuels can help prevent fuel supply interruption from natural disasters or security issues

FuelCell Energy, Inc. announced today that it successfully demonstrated its stationary power plants’ ability to switch rapidly between natural gas and propane fuels. 

The Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC)-operated Department of Defense (DoD) Fuel Cell Test and Evaluation Center (FCTec) in Johnstown, PA continued to generate base load electricity on propane, its secondary fuel supply, when the loss of natural gas, its primary fuel supply, was triggered during testing.  The rapid fuel switch was successfully demonstrated more than 40 times during operations exceeding 3000 hours.

FuelCell Energy and CTC operated a sub-megawatt Direct FuelCell (DFC) power plant on HD-5 propane fuel at full load achieving an electrical efficiency of 46 percent.  The Johnstown plant continues to operate, having accumulated a total of 3060 hours on propane and generated 425 Megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity as of June 28, 2006.  The plant also operated 550 hours on natural gas, generating an additional 45 MWh.

Propane is used as a primary fuel in isolated or sensitive locations, such as islands, remote sites, national parks, data centers, military bases, hotels and hospitals, making it an ideal backup fuel for DFC power plants.

Rapid switching from natural gas to propane and back again occurs instantaneously when the system detects natural gas pressure dropping below a predetermined trigger point, and was achieved on more than 40 fuel swaps at various load levels while the plant was generating power.

Testing showed the DFC power plant is capable of continuous long-term high-load high-efficiency operation on propane, as well as instantaneous fuel switching from natural gas to propane in the event of loss of natural gas supply without loss of power.  The unit can also switch back to natural gas from propane, instantaneously and on-load, one natural gas service is restored.