FuelCell Energy has obtained a $2.8m award from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office to demonstrate tri-generation capability of Direct FuelCell power plants for industrial applications.

The company will set up a sub-megawatt fuel cell power station at its manufacturing facility in Torrington, Connecticut, to produce hydrogen, electricity and heat, replacing hydrogen that is currently purchased and delivered to the facility by truck and replacing electricity purchased from the electric grid.

DFC-H2 is estimated to become operational by 2014 while this installation can generate approximately 135kg of hydrogen a day.

Once commercially available, the production cost of the hydrogen from DFC plants is estimated to be competitively priced within a range of $5 to $7/kg or even lower with increased production volumes.

DFC plant’s on-site hydrogen generation avoids the costs and pollutants linked with transportation while enhancing the reliability of supply.

These plants can provide hydrogen at the point of use in addition to ultra-clean electricity and usable high quality heat in a solution that is friendly to nature, cost competitive and easy to site.

FuelCell Energy president and CEO Chip Bottone said that the objective of this project is to demonstrate the technology and system that will enable market development for distributed hydrogen used for industrial purposes, delivered efficiently, cleanly and in an economically compelling manner by our existing technology.

"The production cost of the hydrogen from DFC plants is estimated to be competitively priced within a range of $5 to $7/kg "

Bottone said, "In addition to offering ultra-clean electricity and usable high quality heat, this fuel cell installation will provide reliable on-site hydrogen production that has the potential to reduce costs associated with purchasing, transporting and storing hydrogen.

"We estimate a potential market size of $1.6bn for our tri-generation DFC-H2 fuel cell power plants serving the industrial and mobility markets in the United States alone."

FuelCell Energy power plants offer combined heat and power (CHP) capabilities by providing both high quality baseload power and thermal energy from a single fuel source.

A DFC-H2 project has been operational for more than two years, converting renewable biogas from the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) in Fountain Valley, California, into renewable hydrogen for vehicle fueling and also ultra-clean electricity, the company said.

This installation generates 250kW of power, which is sufficient to power around 250 average-sized homes and provide renewable hydrogen that can fuel approximately 25 vehicles a day.