Alkaline Fuel Cell Solutions by AFC Energy and GenCell

Kore
KORE fuel cell module, © AFC Energy

For a long time, it seemed as if alkaline fuel cells, or AFCs for short, no longer had a chance on the market. But now, some developers are set on reviving this “old” technology. GenCell, a cash-rich business from Israel, has optimized these cells to a point where they can be offered as part of a commercially available backup power system. And a successful trial run in Stade has encouraged AFC Energy to push onto the German market with its own solutions. Currently, it is planning to set up a 1-megawatt system in the Covestro Industrial Park in Brunsbüttel.

AFC Energy, which was founded in the UK in 2006, started getting involved in alkaline fuel cell development in Germany in April 2013. As part of the EU’s Power-Up support program, it set up two stationary KORE fuel cell modules with a total nominal capacity of 500 kilowatts at DowDuPont in Stade (see fig. 1). The first one of these modules, a 240-kilowatt installation, began producing electricity in July 2015. Its three tiers comprised of 8 fuel cell cartridges were up and running by the end of January 2016, a bit later than expected. Together, they have since been feeding power into the public grid of the municipality’s energy utility. Each of the 24 cartridges in this installation consists of 101 individual cells and initially showed 7.5 kilowatts of output, a value close to the lower performance threshold.

British business builds in Brunsbüttel

Now, AFC Energy is reported to be planning another installation, a 1-megawatt system in Brunsbüttel. The new system is said to receive hydrogen from the pipeline network of Covestro Germany, the management company of the Covestro Industrial Park in the city. One of the business divisions of the pipeline operator, which was known until 2015 as Bayer MaterialScience, is chloralkali electrolysis. The hydrogen produced by this industrial method and distributed through the company’s H2 network is planned to be utilized for an alkaline fuel cell in the foreseeable future. According to AFC Energy, construction at the river Elbe had begun in May 2017. The manufacturer, which is headquartered south of London, hopes that the project will provide it with easier access to the German market. It is the reason why it also intensified the partnership with plantIng, a German engineering company, in early 2016.

e-journal

GenCell

At the same time, GenCell based in Petach Tikva, Israel, has been trying to improve the fuel cell’s image from the ground up. This June, it published a white paper titled “The Big Deal With Fuel Cells,” which describes fuel cell operation, hydrogen properties and the differences between several types of cells. The authors of the paper also give a detailed explanation of the advantages of AFC technology, since GenCell manufactures alkaline fuel cells for backup power solutions.

Rami Reshef, CEO of GenCell, explained, “Thanks to patented AFC technology, we’ve achieved cost breakthroughs that make our solutions affordable for mainstream consumers. Our 5-kilowatt backup power systems overcome the significant weaknesses of other clean technologies, such as solar and wind, and they’re the perfect option to replace outdated technologies, such as batteries and diesel generators.”

The Israeli company offers two products, GenCell G5 for uninterruptible power supply, for example, in the telecommunications industry, and GenCell G5rx, which comes with a special encasing, e.g., to complement battery-based backup power systems. Their overall efficiency is said to be 55 percent, while operating temperatures are said to range from minus 40 °C to plus 45 °C.

Alkaline fuel cells

Alkaline fuel cells had been employed as early as the 1960s, during NASA’s mission to the moon, and were likewise used in Europe’s Ariane spaceflight program. They were regarded as comparatively durable and could produce both power and heat as well as water.

4 thoughts on “Alkaline Fuel Cell Solutions by AFC Energy and GenCell

Leave a Comment