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Demonstration of 500 kWe alkaline fuel cell system<br/>with heat capture

Final Report Summary - POWER-UP (Demonstration of 500 kWe alkaline fuel cell systemwith heat capture)

Executive Summary:
In project POWER-UP, AFC Energy and the Consortium partners worked towards the demonstration of an alkaline fuel cell (AFC) system at Air Products industrial gas plant at Stade, Lower Saxony, Germany. This project is the world’s first demonstration of a large-scale alkaline fuel cell system, intended to prove within four years that this laboratory-based prototype technology could be scaled up to an industrial fuel cell system running on hydrogen available as a by-product of the chlor-alkali process. The project aims included, apart from the demonstration plant itself, the automated volume manufacture scale-up of fuel cell components and stacks, recycling and re-conditioning of stack components, compliance with relevant standards, and culminated in fifteen key success criteria.
At the heart of the project is the Coordinator’s AFC technology, based on a stack design that, at the start of the project, had limited laboratory testing time and was only manufactured in small volumes. The 240kWe Balance of Plant (BoP) design, also AFC Energy’s technology, delivers the fuel, air and potassium hydroxide electrolyte required to operate the stacks, with the surrounding infrastructure mainly taking care of power conditioning, chemicals storage and management and ensuring compliance with the applicable German legislation and technical standards.
By the end of the second of four reporting periods, the stack design basis was ‘fixed’, the engineering design, procurement and manufacture of the BoP were complete, the basic and detailed engineering design, permitting, procurement and construction of the dedicated plant infrastructure at Stade were done and the BoP was transported to Stade for installation and commissioning. In-house manufacturing capacity was greatly expanded, with the introduction of an automated stack assembly robot and more robust quality assurance and control methods. At the same time, not as part of the project scope, the Coordinator was progressing the AFC electrode and stack design, with improved iterations of these incorporated into the project.
The final two reporting periods saw an intensification of activities around the extended commissioning of the BoP at Stade, a demonstration of the fully populated 24-cartridge system generating 204kWe in January 2016, the identification of several optimisation opportunities on the BoP and implementation of improved designs to achieve better BoP and stack performance at a lower cost, while eliminating potential shutdown and failure modes. The intent was originally to build and install a second BoP, with significant improvements over its earlier sibling and Cogeneration of Heat and Power (CHP) capability. Instead, as CHP was not economically viable with the nearest ‘heat sink’ situated ca. one kilometre away, the Consortium instead modified the existing BoP in-situ, performed extended testing runs and operated in a limited capacity, using a large number of fuel cell cartridges to obtain baseline data and prove the actual system improvements and that the majority of project success criteria had been achieved.
By the end of the project most of these performance criteria were indeed achieved, such as conversion efficiency of hydrogen to electricity, conversion costs per kilowatt-hour, increased manufacturing bandwidth, compliance with industry standards, reconditioning of substrates and re-use of almost 80% of the stack components by weight, plus several others, whether validated at Stade or confirmed as applicable in the next fuel cell system design iteration by the life-cycle assessment and techno-economic analysis conducted by the prestigious Paul Scherrer Institute.
Ultimately, the project has installed the first large-scale AFC system globally and has significant amounts of data and experience to both prove the technology works and that key performance metrics have been achieved or can be achieved in the next fuel cell installation. This will enhance the appeal of an environmentally friendly and ‘carbon-neutral’, in its power generation phase, alkaline fuel cell technology that can be cost-competitive and efficient enough to become a commercial and viable solution for in-situ power generation in a plethora of chemical plants around the world.

Project Context and Objectives:
Project POWER-UP focuses on the Coordinator’s proprietary low-cost alkaline fuel cell technology. The alkaline fuel cell (AFC) is one of the most efficient devices for converting hydrogen into electricity. The main advantages of this technology are:
➢ Very high energy conversion efficiency
➢ Capacity to use very low-cost catalyst materials in the fuel cell
➢ Low operating pressures and temperatures of gases and liquids, enabling the use of less expensive component materials
➢ Liquid Potassium Hydroxide electrolyte, which can also be employed as a cooling agent, resulting in simplified systems with high operating efficiencies.
At the outset of project POWER-UP, the Coordinator was beginning a transition from a research and development company to a commercial company. Only relatively small numbers of fuel cells had been built, and these were produced using expensive and labour-intensive processes.
In order to compete with mature power-generation technologies, the move to mass production of fuel cell systems had to be achieved at a commercially viable price. Additionally, chemical plant owners and operators repeatedly enquired as to (i) an industrial environment demonstration site they could visit and (ii) significant amounts of verifiable data for AFC systems. Any commercial negotiations on large-scale deployment of AFC technology across chemical parks and plants in Europe and globally could not proceed at a fast enough pace for the Coordinator otherwise. Project POWER-UP has achieved these targets and demonstrated the AFC technology efficacy, while supported by, and having key results verified by, reputable institutions such as the Centre for Fuel Cell Technology or Zentrum für Brennstoffzellentechnik ZBT GmbH (ZBT) in Duisburg, Germany and the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI) in Villigen, Switzerland.
A power output of 500kWe deployed by project end was chosen as the key aim, with some of the other key metrics proposed being 15,000 hours of cumulative operation, integrated Cogeneration of Heat and Power (CHP) capability, conversion efficiency of hydrogen to electricity of 59%, measured against the lower heating value (LHV) of hydrogen, recovery of >90% of catalyst materials and re-use of >90% of fuel cell stack components by weight, as well as increased volumes of manufacture for Gas Diffusion Layers and catalyst layers, reduction of defective fuel cells rejected, and a 20% increase in productivity.
The project addressed these and other requirements by setting seven overarching objectives:
1. Delivery of an AFC system that converts hydrogen into electricity and heat at competitive prices
2. Successful scaled-up manufacture of fuel cell components that meet relevant ISO standards
3. Demonstration of a flawlessly-functioning automated process that assembles components into fuel cell stacks ready for incorporation within the system
4. Reduced installation and commissioning times (and costs) of the system through the development of a modular, containerised Balance of Plant
5. Effective recycling/reconditioning of substrate plates, catalyst materials and stack components
6. Understanding and quantifying the direct and indirect environmental burdens of the fuel cell system (including its hydrogen supply and component recycling) and the relevant socio-economic factors
7. Meeting end-user reliability requirements and compatibility with end-user’s plant maintenance schedules

The Consortium put together to achieve these objectives is comprised of six project partners hailing from four different countries:

1 (Coordinator) AFC Energy plc AFCEN UK
2 Air Products PLC AIRP UK
3 GB Innomech Limited INMC UK
4 Zentrum für Brennstoffzellentechnik ZBT GmbH ZBT Germany
5 Paul Scherrer Institut PSI Switzerland
6 Federazione delle Associazioni Scientifiche e Tecniche - European Hydrogen Association FAST-EHA Italy

Project Results:
The methodology and Work Breakdown Structure developed in principle to achieve the project objectives, as well as the key results achieved during the four years of work under this project, are delineated below:


The alkaline fuel cell and stack designs were progressed by AFCEN in parallel to the project timeline, with improved manufacturing techniques, more robust Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) measures and the introduction of automation all playing a key role in achieving the increased capacity and higher technical standards required to supply a large-scale industrial demonstrator.
Most fuel cells are very sensitive to changes in operating conditions and this is also true for alkaline fuel cells. Changing one component in a fuel cell stack or fuel cell system usually has knock-on effects that must be addressed by design modifications. The on-going stack design changes, extraneous to the project, were thus in most cases constrained in certain respects, in order not to significantly affect the stack manufacturing processes or BoP and plant design, and not to impinge on the overall scope of work unduly and reduce the project’s chances of attaining key success criteria.
The fuel cell and fuel cell stack manufacture and refurbishment has yielded significant results, with improvements ‘across the board’.
The main results achieved include:
▪ Compliance with relevant quality standards for GDL and catalyst layers. AFCEN has adopted lean 6-Sigma methodologies and has implemented a culture of continuous improvement. Statistical process control is used to monitor key variables and control them. Detailed Process Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (PFMEA) and control plans / Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) exist for all processes. Overall company target now is to work towards ISO9001 accreditation.
▪ Increased volumes and corresponding process times for manufacture of GDL and catalyst layers have far exceeded the original target of 12% increase, with the capacity improvement achieved after yield currently being 1,375% and up to 2,000%).
▪ Fuel cells rejected for defects has decreased with a process yield routinely at >95% and a failure rate (limiting stacks), based on January 2016 operation, at 0.06% (fuel cells only).
▪ Increase in cells manufactured per hour. At the start of the project only 16 cells could be manufactured per day. Currently, 250 electrodes can be produced per day with previous bottleneck resource capable of producing approximately 500 per day, single shift, with one additional staff member.
▪ For the re-conditioning of substrate plates, where earlier there was no recycling system in place AFCEN ensures that all substrates are recycled, as it is economically unfeasible to re-use them. In future generations of stacks AFCEN have already adopted new design methodologies that drastically reduce nickel consumption.
▪ Recovery of catalyst materials has also been improved. All catalyst materials (manufacturing waste and post-consumer waste) are recycled by a third party.
▪ Re-use of stack components has also increased from an initial 50% by weight at project start to approximately 66% of the stack weight either reused or recycled by project end. All non-sealing components are being re-used until they no longer pass QC. The remaining components are sealing components with the majority being the overmoulded plastic fluid plates. Considering the entire cartridge, including the enclosure and all the rest of the cartridge this percentage increases to approx. 76%. The fluid plates are not recycled as the value of recycled plastic does not justify the process economically.
▪ Automated stack assembly robot specified, designed, built, delivered, tested in situ and handed over to the Coordinator by GB Innomech.

Indicative photographs of the stack manufacturing scale-up achieved follow.

Figure 1: Alkaline Fuel Cell Cartridges at the AFC Energy facilities in England awaiting transport

Figure 2: The Automated Stack Assembly Robot, developed as part of POWER-UP, in action


The 240kWe Balance of Plant (BoP) implemented in POWER-UP is an in-house development of the Coordinator, AFC Energy. This 240kWe alkaline fuel cell system, whose control systems integrate and regulate fluid management, safety systems, communications etc., has the fundamental function of delivering and distributing the air, hydrogen and electrolyte required to each fuel cell cartridge position.
This three-tier, twenty-four-cartridge system development iteration produced the following key results:
▪ PFD (process flow diagrams) and P&ID (process and instrumentation diagrams) design finalised;
▪ HAZOP (Hazard and Operability) Review performed, initially with Foster Wheeler, subsequently with plantIng GmbH, Air Products and an independent German safety consultant, all experts in their fields, to ensure compliance with German safety regulations and technical standards;
▪ The detailed engineering design has been completed, with individual component and assembly drawings and specification sheets numbering in their hundreds, whether 2D (two-dimensional) drawings, 3D (three-dimensional) layout and model, manufacturing and work instructions, etc.;
▪ The procurement and supply of all BoP mechanical and process engineering components has been completed;
▪ The electronics design and electrical schematics and diagrams regarding control and circuit boards, electronics control boxes and electrical cable looms has been completed, as has the procurement of said components;
▪ Assembly of the BoP in Coventry, United Kingdom successfully concluded during Reporting Period Two (RP2);
▪ Transport and installation of the BoP at the fit-for-purpose facility at Stade completed by the start of RP3;
▪ The time taken to install the fuel cell system at Stade in this project exceeded the project success criterion of 0.25 PM (person-months). This is mostly because POWER-UP was the first time such a system was installed, and other aspects of the site were not 100% complete. However, not including commissioning time, the BoP was installed and connected (mechanical, process interfaces and electrical supply, but no power conditioning) within less than one (1) week, with a team of 6 staff-members. Subsequent commissioning time is not included.

Figure 3: The 240kWe Balance of Plant developed under POWER-UP, as a 3D design model

Figure 4: The 240kWe Balance of Plant at Stade being installed

Figure 5: The 240kWe Balance of Plant at Stade, commissioning phase


The fuel cell Balance of Plant was originally planned to be installed at an existing chemical plant, only requiring minimal utility connections and power supply and conditioning work. Instead, the BoP was installed in a new plant, designed and built for this purpose. All plant design work was required to comply with German regulations and engineering standards.

The key technical results achieved include:
▪ Final-stage building permit obtained from the relevant Stade authority or Fachbereich Bauen und Stadtentwicklung, Bauaufsicht;
▪ Operating license obtained from the Cuxhaven industrial safety authority or Cuxhaven Staatliches Gewerbeaufsichtam;
▪ Involvement of local residents and businesses during the preparatory phase of permitting, to ensure early stakeholder involvement and that the nature of the project, and the associated work involved, is transparent to, and accepted by, the local community of Stade;
▪ All documentation and calculations for the fuel cell BoP and the plant infrastructure were verified by relevant authorities;
▪ Compliance with all Health & Safety directives and standards;
▪ Pre-approved standard industrial building completed in ca. six (6) weeks, with the construction of the entire plant completed within less than five (5) months, including substantial piled foundations to address the geotechnical challenges arising from the fact that the entire chemical park is sited at a reclaimed swampland next to the river Elbe;
▪ The storage and handling of both the Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte solution and the product water were accommodated by a set of 10m3 tanks, as a local sewer connection was not available, while ensuring that the entire plant floor surface is effectively designed as one big bund, ensuring any possible ground water contamination possibility is sufficiently guarded against;
▪ Installation of pressure let-down station for hydrogen supply coming from Air Products has been completed and tested with the pilot plant;
▪ Communication protocols and hardware connection via Modbus of the fuel cell pilot plant distributed control system (DCS) and the local Air Products control room, plus signals replication to the AFCEN headquarters at Dunsfold, allowing remote monitoring and operation of the plant;
▪ Appropriate power conditioning solution found and implemented by working together with a major firm in the sector for the low voltage, high current alkaline fuel cell system requirements, a particular challenge as the fuel cell power conditioning market is niche in nature with no off-the-shelf solutions found at the time despite a lengthy market survey;
▪ Signing of a Power Purchase Agreement with the local grid operator Stadtwerke Stade regarding the supply and delivery of electrical energy to and from the Stade pilot plant.

Figure 6: the Stade POWER-UP pilot plant, view from South

Figure 7: Stade POWER-UP pilot plant, sign on perimeter fence

Figure 8: Stade POWER-UP pilot plant and hydrogen pressure let-down station and pipeline, redacted aerial view, courtesy of Air Products


The project scope of work identified early on the need for a separate work package relevant to regulatory compliance, quality assurance and potential certification of the project work activities and the resulting prototype designs. The key technical results achieved include:
▪ Harmonised testing methodology and baseline for measurements implemented across the Consortium;
▪ Issuance and change control procedures for the technical documentation produced were implemented, including part and assembly drawings, specifications, procedures, work instructions, risk assessments, process and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), engineering change requests, site plans, architectural and civil drawings, etc.;
▪ Installation and operating procedures and manual produced for the fuel cell BoP;
▪ As part of HSE and technical standards compliance, three HAZOP (Hazard and Operability) reviews were implemented in total, one for the Air Products hydrogen pressure let-down station, one for the alkaline fuel cell Balance of Plant and one for the plant infrastructure at Stade. All HAZOPs are compliant with German regulations and German technical standards, as well as pertaining global Air Products technical standards;
▪ Project risk register generated, updated throughout the project and utilised for project management, consortium management and risk identification, qualification, quantification and mitigation activities;
▪ Procedures for key milestone validation in the project were developed by project partner ZBT;
▪ Documentation, validating the first 240kWe BoP end of commissioning phase in January 2016, was generated and shared with key project partners;
▪ ZBT performed a fluid dynamic analysis of hydrogen flow through the system, using specialised Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation software and determining the conditions and considerations appropriate for avoidance of explosive gas mixture accumulation and help control potential leaks to below LEL (Lower Explosion Limit) for the hydrogen flowing through the BoP;
▪ Significant CFD simulation and modelling was also undertaken by AFC Energy, as part of the engineering design process for the BoP;
▪ Grid code compliance according to the German medium voltage grid code and Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft (BDEW) guidelines was achieved by joining forces with the Power Conditioning Unit (PCU) supplier to accede to the project requirements of Stadtwerke Stade, the local power grid operator;
▪ Cogeneration of Heat and Power (CHP) qualification procedure under German regulations captured with strategy articulated to potentially achieve CHP status and FiT (Feed-in-Tariff) subsidy qualification for the plant at Stade (please note that CHP was not actually implemented for the Stade plant as, due to the significant distance of circa one (1) kilometre separating the plant from the nearest potential consumer of this heat, or ‘heat sink’, the cost/ benefit analysis for use of private funding and FCH JU funds to do this was not considered good ‘value-for-money’);
▪ European Conformity or CE certification was investigated, with steps clearly defined in compliance with all relevant European regulations and legislation. The technical documentation management structure and guidelines were incorporated into the Coordinator’s systems, allowing later CE certification once the prototype design can be deemed appropriate for mass manufacture.

Figure 9: ‘Risk Wheel’ for Project POWER-UP

Figure 10: Excerpt from AFC Energy CFD simulation results, 2D model, H2 dispersal in vent pipe


Several key technical results were achieved during the extensive commissioning, testing and limited operation timeline, including:

▪ In January 2016, all three levels of the fuel cell system or BoP operated in parallel with each other to successfully export power into the German power grid. The BoP gross power output reached 205kWe, realising 85% of the originally targeted 240kWe;
▪ In excess of 10kWe of power generated from multiple fuel cell stacks operating within the 240kWe BoP against a design rating of 10kWe per stack;
▪ Successful operation of the 240kWe BoP automation software;
▪ Successful operation of the inverter and power electronics at 205kWe;
▪ Successful operation of the plant services with the 240kWe BoP fully operational;
▪ Successful validation of AFCEN manufacturing capability to hit delivery and improved controls;
▪ Total performance losses were reduced significantly, culminating in 95% efficiency reached for the power conditioning unit, with the largest electrical loss caused by the electrode clip resistance (7.9% of gross power), which has now been addressed;
▪ Conversion efficiency of >56% was reached, higher than the conversion efficiency of fuel cell competitor alternatives but ‘just short’ of the targeted 59%, based Lower Heating Values (LHV) for hydrogen. Laboratory testing at Dunsfold, outside the scope of this project, have delivered far higher efficiency figures;
▪ Substantial modifications to the system took effect in RP3 and RP4, addressing KOH return flow restrictions from the cartridge to the KOH tank, modified cartridge box drain to top of KOH tank, and significant resizing and rerouting of both the air supply circuit and the exhaust circuit. These addressed underlying performance issues uncovered in January 2016, i.e. RP3, and provided significant mitigation to several observed shutdown and failure scenarios encountered to that time and achieved an evenly distributed flow of air to individual cartridge positions, analysed per tier. Alternative solutions as to material selection and equipment selection, as part of a preliminary value engineering and systems analysis exercise, have also been investigated and, in certain cases, implemented.

Figure 11: Exploring ducting options instead of piping, view of new BoP exhaust manifold


The Paul Scherrer Institute, based on significant amounts of data shared by the Coordinator and the Consortium overall, both under POWER-UP and the concurrent EU FCH JU ALKAMMONIA project, analysed the product life cycle of the AFC Energy fuel cell stacks, the 240kWe Balance of Plant and associated plant infrastructure at Stade, arriving at several positive and encouraging results in their Life Cycle Assessment report. The report is confidential, but some relevant data can be presented below.
To perform the analysis, information on the POWER-UP system was collected. The scope of the analysis was cradle-to-grave and included all life cycle phases of the fuel cell from production of raw materials, through manufacture, use, maintenance to end-of-life. The functional unit of the study was 1 kilowatt-hour (net) of electricity produced by the fuel cell system.
For the analysis, different scenarios were considered, since in the future the system is expected to be further improved and optimised. The selected POWER-UP scenarios are:
➢ GEN1: ‘as-built’ scenario,
➢ GEN2: ‘near future’ scenario using similar components to GEN1, but with some marginal improvements,
➢ SOAK: ‘Second Of A Kind’ scenario that represents near-future technology with significant improvements in cell design and system efficiency,
➢ NOAK: ‘Nth Of A Kind’, which represents a future scenario where the POWER-UP system has been built many times and has been well optimised.
It is important to note that, when considering the overall system life cycle, the impacts of the production of the hydrogen fuel dominate, though the production and recycling of the stack components is also important for the GEN1 system. Due to improvements mostly in cell lifetime, efficiency and hydrogen utilisation, future iterations of the POWER-UP system are expected to have greatly improved performance.
In the view of the Coordinator, a key result of this analysis is that if one were to consider that the hydrogen used as the fuel for fuel cells were a waste product and should thus not carry any of the environmental burdens of the chlor-alkali process, the SOAK and NOAK climate change scores would be in the order of 30-50gr of CO2 equivalent per kWhe generated, which is roughly in the range of renewable electricity providers such as wind, hydroelectricity and photovoltaics.
The socio-economic analysis of AFC Energy’s alkaline fuel cell technology also produced several insightful results and data which, where possible as the data is deemed confidential, is presented below.
The aim was to analyse the cost structure and results for the POWER-UP system. Final data was provided by AFC Energy, a detailed cost model has been developed and implemented, and final results were generated. The model has calculated three primary economic indicators, namely the average capital cost (EUR/kWe), the Net Present Value (EUR) and the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE as EUR/MWh) for the POWER-UP system scenarios. These indicators were provided as inputs to the multi-criteria decision analysis sub-task. This model can be utilised beyond the project by AFC Energy to test the effects of changes in the various physical and economic parameters.
The model that has been developed is a coupled physical and economic model. The physical model contains the cell, stack and system ratios needed for the costs, the gross power, system losses, cell efficiency and cell degradation needed to find the average annual power, and fuel demand and heat production needed for hydrogen cost and potential heat credit. The economic model is based on the standard levelised cost methodology but includes specific aspects for fuel cells. These include recycling credits for the cell plates and catalyst, and the ability to include learning curves for decreases in the cell fabrication and stack assembly costs. The model also automatically adjusts cell costs and average generation for cell life, efficiency and degradation. The model is embodied as an Excel spreadsheet with linked sheets for the physical and economic calculations and allows the physical model to be linked to other worksheets for LCA and risk calculations.
A sensitivity analysis has been done using nine various physical and economic input parameters of the POWER-UP scenarios. These parameters include: 1) the non-stack balance-of-plant cost, 2) the stack materials cost, 3) the average cell efficiency, 4) the cell (stack) life, 5) the plant (system) life, 6) the interest rate, 7) the capacity factor (annual hours of generation), 8) the hydrogen cost, and 9) the heat credit for heat produced. The following redacted figure shows the sensitivity analysis for the levelised cost of electricity for the NOAK scenario.

Figure 12: Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for AFC Energy technology, broken down by parameter and redacted

Potential Impact:

POWER-UP has been the Coordinator’s main technical focus in the past four years. Success in this project was deemed critical to achieving an accelerated commercialisation of large-scale alkaline fuel cell technology at an industrial environment for the first time. Funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking has brought this technology’s progression forward by at least three years, offering significant opportunities in today’s energy markets that have both an increased demand for technologies capable of increasing regions’ security of energy supply and are also capable of addressing the grid management challenges arising from the last two decades’ widespread adoption of non-baseload renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar.


The potential for deployment of alkaline and other fuel cells in chemical parks with significant quantities of by-product hydrogen (e.g. chlor-alkali process) is very substantial. Indicatively, the US Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) has concluded that the total market for all waste hydrogen sources is above 100GW, or 100,000MW, globally . The main market barriers inherent in the chemicals sector for fuel cells have to do with
▪ the broadly conservative approach most senior engineering and management staff have in the sector, with a clear demand for propositions backed by significant amounts of testing and operating data that prove the technology works in each case. POWER-UP has supplemented AFC Energy’s efforts in this regard by providing a large volume of experimental, empirical and long-term running data available for use in discussions with major firms in this sector;
▪ another aspect of the chemical sector perspective is the ‘value-for-money’ approach. Technologies wanting to enter the sector have to provide evidence of costs that are either currently, or can in the short-term be, competitive with conventional power generation technologies. To an extent innovative and effectively ‘carbon-neutral’ technologies, such as most fuel cells purport to be, are not always subject to fees and tariffs that would hamper coal- or gas-fired power plants, whether this has to do with the largely global carbon credits or national and regional fees imposed by national grids to incentivise a ‘greener’ approach to power generation. Despite the last, conventional power generation plants have high levels of efficiency and low costs for deployment with a currently unmatched and proven ‘track record’ of deployment, raising the bar for potential market entrants such as fuel cells;
▪ the relatively limited extent of large-scale fuel cell plant deployment to date, with several market players historically encountering difficulties in achieving key metrics of operation and sometimes having to honour and bear the costs for warranties of performance, such as for example in the South Korean market recently, means that companies in the sector have to overcome a certain amount of negative pre-conceptions and sub-par historical performance of competitors. POWER-UP has allowed a demonstration site for alkaline fuel cell technology at a scale relevant to many industry players, allowing both visits and interactions with potential client firms’ representatives and providing proof the technology can be integrated with industrial infrastructures and ensure compliance with strict government and technical regulations and standards, such as in the case of POWER-UP and the German market, a country setting the standard in many ways as to grid codes, fuel cell standards and strict compliance with demanding safety and regulatory demands imposed by local, state and federal authorities;
▪ Fuel cells benefit from a localised hydrogen supply from neighbouring industrial facilities or on-site hydrogen generation from new and emerging localised generation technologies. This does place certain constraints, both geographically and business sector -wise, on the implementation of AFC technology. However, there is an interesting integration potential here, helping address grid management challenges arising from the significant entrance of renewable energy sources into many national grids’ balance, by implementing load-following and peaking power plant output strategies and taking advantage of the fluctuating nature of electricity energy prices in most developed markets, via for example a ‘Hydrogen Battery’ solution, or Power-to-Power, or P2P as it’s more commonly known.

Despite the numerous entry barriers for new technologies in the chemical plant and park sector, alkaline fuel cell technology has several key advantages when it comes to differentiating itself from competing fuel cell solutions. The fuel cell system operates at very low pressures, only a few mbarg, which is just above the normal or atmospheric pressure we commonly breathe in at sea level. Additionally, the temperature range alkaline fuel cell systems commonly operate at is a few tens of degrees Celsius, most commonly not higher than seventy degrees (70°C), i.e. below the boiling point of water. With such low pressure and temperature constraints, the larger range of the material selection pool and reduced manufacturing costs for most alkaline fuel cell stack and system components allow for a more cost-efficient solution, resulting in a large savings potential in the capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operating expenditure (OPEX) of these systems compared to alternatives. Careful design and engineering has meant that up to almost 80% of materials used in the fuel cell stacks are able to be reused or recycled.
This is a key message the Coordinator has been broadcasting to the scientific, engineering and business communities in European and global markets, i.e. that AFC Energy’s 10kWe stacks, the modular building block of all AFC Energy fuel cell systems, essentially contain multiple fuel cells in a low-cost, low temperature and low-pressure assembly. The relatively gentle running conditions, compared to other fuel cell technologies, help reduce the cost of manufacture and open up a large range of material choice.
The alkaline fuel cell technology at the heart of the project belongs to UK-based AFC Energy PLC. A number of pre-contractual agreements have been signed by AFC Energy in the course of POWER-UP to deliver multi-megawatts of electricity. These agreements are evidence of the potential global demand for electricity from alkaline fuel cells, not excluding the thermal output and localised water production opportunities. POWER-UP is a stepping stone in the Coordinator’s transition from an R&D company to a fully-commercial business, which is well underway. Performance data from the POWER-UP trials and multiple cartridge runs at Stade, supported from analyses done by the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, have demonstrated the technical and commercial viability potential of the 240kWe system in subsequent, value-engineered, system iterations, and are considered key to swiftly converting these agreements to commercial contracts.
Below are a few of the recently released announcements of AFCEN projects.
A 1 - 1.5MWe fuel cell power plant at the industrial park where AFC Energy are based in south-east England:
A 1MWe project with Covestro in Brunsbüttel, north-west Germany:
The UK's largest hydrogen fuel cell precinct at Peel's Protos industrial park in the north of England, with a potential 35MWe to 50MWe:


Scientific knowledge has also been greatly enhanced by the project. Subject matters that the project has had a meaningful impact on include such key issues as:
➢ regulatory compliance and safety considerations for alkaline fuel deployment at large-scale,
➢ environmental impact analysis, to a limited extent and as part of regulatory requirements, which has increased the visibility of potential environmental effects for alkaline fuel cell system deployment,
➢ certification of systems to CE marking standards and also examining the potential for possible future wider compliance to TUEV standards (already key parts of the local infrastructure at Stade, but not the fuel cell system, have been inspected and certified by TUEV),
➢ finessing performance metrics for alkaline fuel cell stacks and systems in line with market feedback and expectations,
➢ evolution and adaptation of alkaline fuel cell systems’ control architecture and programming to industrial expectations,
➢ methods and solutions to increase alkaline fuel cell component and stack production capacity and output by orders of magnitude, plus the integration of automated solutions such as robots into the manufacturing line, while still retaining strict quality standards,
➢ recycling and re-use of fuel cell stack components has radically increased, establishing new methods and quality criteria for reducing the costs while retaining the availability and longevity of present fuel cell stack technology iterations,
➢ empirical and operational data greatly increased as to the remote monitoring and operation of alkaline fuel cell systems, enabling a more cost-effective approach to running such plants in industrial environments,
➢ power conditioning solutions established despite the ‘niche’ nature of power conditioning units readily available in the market, that are more suitable to photovoltaic elements for example,
➢ the minimal risk of hydrogen leakages and their impact on the explosive atmosphere potential in an enclosed space have been analysed and simulated with expert computational fluid dynamics software to establish the necessary equipment rating and operating precautions to have a safe environment for workers and visitors,
➢ evaluation of the cost and environmental impact of alkaline fuel cell implementation in their entire product life-cycle and comparison to other more ‘mature’ technologies,
➢ establishment of risk and safety hazards inherent to a technology such as fuel cells using a flammable gas, such as hydrogen, has been compared to several alternatives and analysed by phase of lifecycle, effectively from ‘cradle-to-grave’,
➢ the transportation of large numbers of cartridges via road vehicles has been analysed, with the potential damage to the stacks and enclosures qualified and quantified and with appropriate precautions and procedures established to ensure equipment damage is minimal when it occurs.
Additional information as to the breadth and calibre of these advancements to the fuel cell systems body of knowledge can be found in previous reported, whether in this report or the more detailed deliverable and periodic reports for the project.


From the start of the project it was clear that the provision of low-cost, Alkaline Fuel Cells has great potential to reduce reliance on fossil fuels but can only be sustained if the overall consumption and processing of materials is also addressed. It has been shown through the project that the innovations made have greatly improved the overall environmental footprint of the system, whether via direct reporting of the project results or analysis of the fuel cell systems life-cycle by project partner PSI.
One of the competitive advantages of fuel cells however, and alkaline fuel cells specifically in this case, is that their ‘carbon footprint’ and environmental impact are minimal. This key feature of the technology has been demonstrated repeatedly and remains a key object of the project dissemination efforts.
As a counter-point, careful development of the engineering design and implementation in the field is needed to ensure that (i) the chemical compounds used in the manufacturing of the alkaline fuel cell stacks and (ii) the liquid electrolyte used in alkaline fuel cell stacks and systems, an aqueous solution of Potassium Hydroxide (KOH), are managed and stored safely, with significant safeguards in place to avoid any environmental pollution, such as mis-handling, leakages and ultimately a potential contamination of the local groundwater and soil. The fact that hydrogen is the fuel consumed to generate electrical energy, heat and water also requires caution to avoid or carefully manage the potentially explosive gas mixtures and any potential ignition sources within specific zoned areas.
Looking at the life-cycle of any product establishes that it is difficult to have an entirely ‘carbon-neutral’ footprint. Even Renewable Energy Sources (RES), such as wind turbines and photovoltaic arrays, have a significant impact on the environment when one takes into account the mining of raw materials, the impact of processing and fabrication of materials into the finished products, and the various transportation elements, up to and including their shipment to the respective project site for installation and commissioning. This ‘cradle-to-grave’ analysis is commonly held to be the optimum way to compare alternative projects and technologies as to their environmental impact.
The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), a partner organisation in this project and well recognised in their field, have performed this type of analysis for the POWER-UP project, looking at the present state of alkaline fuel cell technology as well as iterations going forward in the short- and medium- term. One of the key results, in the view of the Coordinator, is that If one were to consider that the hydrogen used as the fuel for fuel cells were a waste product and should thus not carry any of the environmental burdens of the chlor-alkali process, the SOAK and NOAK (subsequent fuel cell stack and system design iterations, Second-of-a-Kind and Nth-of-a-Kind respectively) climate change scores would be in the order of 30-50gr of CO2 equivalent per kWhe generated, which is roughly in the range of renewable electricity providers such as wind, hydroelectricity and photovoltaics.
The methodology, data input points and results of the Life Cycle Assessment performed by the PSI are reported on in more detail in the confidential deliverable and periodic reports submitted to the FCH JU as part of this project’s scope of work.


Quoting from the Hydrogen Council publication “How hydrogen empowers the energy transition” of January 2017, hydrogen is a versatile, clean, and safe energy carrier that can be used as fuel for power or in industry as feedstock. It can be produced from (renewable) electricity and from carbon-abated fossil fuels. It produces zero emissions at point of use. It can be stored and transported at high energy density in liquid or gaseous form. It can be combusted or used in fuel cells to generate heat and electricity.
We are at a historical juncture when economies around the world are attempting to significantly decarbonise the global energy system. This energy transition, known in Germany as the ‘Energiewende’, does face the challenge of, on the one hand, integrating renewable energy sources (RES) power plants into the grid infrastructure, while still, on the other hand, maintaining security of supply and system resilience, a significant feat to accomplish considering the non-baseload nature of e.g. wind and solar energy.
The role of fuel cells, and the broader hydrogen economy, in this energy transition are too important to ignore. Aside from the potential to transit to a clean and ‘low carbon’ power generation infrastructure with reduced greenhouse gas emissions and the broader societal implications, fuel cells can provide technical solutions that can be economically viable in the short-term, help balance the supply and demand imbalance inherent in many of the grids around the world today by allowing a greater buffer capacity, and provide a greater security of supply including the potential for strategic reserves at a national or regional level.
This strong belief, held by many professionals in the energy sector for some time now, is ultimately evinced by the strong drive of companies to ‘band together’, as is the example of the Hydrogen Council, and lobby for recognition and support of the hydrogen and fuel cell sector. Further evidence can be seen in the drive seen in many advanced economies, such as Germany and the EU overall, to subsidise technological innovation in the sector and provide an adequate regulatory framework, industry standards and incentive policies, such as Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) subsidies for fuel cells, that would accelerate large-scale implementation of fuel cell power plants. Project POWER-UP is such a case in point.
Seen in this context, the project’s ultimate outputs, a functioning alkaline fuel cell (AFC) pilot plant, situated within a major chemical park in the north of Germany and connected to the region’s power grid, with the requisite increase in manufacturing capacity to produce multiple fuel cell stacks at an accelerated pace, while still maintaining stringent quality criteria, are an excellent demonstrator for the potential of AFC technology and a stepping stone for the Coordinator to proceed with larger installations that would effectively compete with many of the ‘mainstream’ technologies available today.
As reported previously, many of the positive conclusions that can be drawn from the information released to the public domain by project POWER-UP, and their broader socio-economic significance, have been independently verified by the Paul Scherrer Institute and are expected to be proven with the next technology iterations currently developed by the Coordinator as a result of this project’s generous funding support.


Where possible, the Consortium partners further increased the impact of the project by sharing the project results in scientific papers and conferences and by running workshops for interested parties. However, due to the inherently confidential nature of a large part of the data, information and reports garnered from this project, the scope for communication and dissemination of said results has been moderated somewhat.
Additionally, whether via the project website, newsletter release, participation in exhibitions and fairs and interacting directly with e.g. the local community of Stade via a stakeholder forum arranged by local partners and supporters of the project, the project and its results at any given time have been communicated to non-academic audiences as well.
During the execution of work package ten (WP10) in particular, the Consortium has striven to ensure that the project was communicated to as wide an audience as possible with the resources available.
This continued into the post-funding period, with attendance in key events and further updates of the project website, showing the impact the project has had and evincing the commitment of the project partners to capitalise on the many successes the POWER-UP project has had over its’ four-year course.
The detailed list of the activities promoting dissemination and communication of the project successes is reported further along in this report. However, it should be noted that a total of over fifty events, presentations, workshops, announcements and publications have taken place during the four years the project has been active, with one scientific paper published and one under review for imminent publication.
The several workshops and conferences organised or attended with presentations and demonstrations of the project results have further assisted in the capitalisation and exploitation of the numerous POWER-UP results.

List of Websites:
The POWER-UP project website can be found under the link:

Coordinator organisation contact details:

Unit 71.4 Dunsfold Park, Stovolds Hill
Cranleigh, Surrey
Tel.: +44 (0) 1483 276 726

Partner organisation contact details: