Proceedings of the
Second International Energy 2030 Conference,
November 4-5, 2008, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
Waste to Electricity Via Fuel Cells
Robert J. Remick
Colorado School of Mines, USA
With the increasing costs of natural gas in the USA, the stationary fuel cell community is adopting a
new paradigm, operating on methane from anaerobic digesters. The prospect of using a zero or negative
value fuel stream has a marked positive impact on overall economics and is very attractive, since
commercial rates for natural gas can add 5 to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour to the cost of generating electricity
with fuel cells. Both UTC Fuel Cells and FuelCell Energy have had success demonstrating their products
on anaerobic digester gas [1,2]. The wastewater treatment facility in King County, Washington State,
USA, site of the FuelCell Energy demonstration plant, services a population of about 1.4 million people
and produces enough methane to support about 4 megawatts of fuel cell capacity.
In addition to methane produced by anaerobic digestion, there are a significant number of other
biomass waste streams that might be adapted for use as a fuel for stationary fuel cells. One of the most
promising is waste generated during the production of Biodiesel fuel from soybean oil or palm oil. For
every 10 liters of biodiesel fuel produces, about 1 liter of glycerin and higher molecular weight fatty acids
is produced as a byproduct. This byproduct waste stream has significant fuel value and could serve, when
properly treated, as a fuel for high temperature fuel cells.