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Design of 2 Technologies and Applications to Service

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - D2Service (Design of 2 Technologies and Applications to Service)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-08-31

The D2Service project aims at simplifying fuel cell systems for both residential and commercial applications with respect to easy, fast and save system service and maintenance. The primary objective is to significantly reduce costs and labour for maintenance work to promote the distribution of energy-efficient fuel-cell-based micro-CHP, supplemental power and backup power technology throughout Europe.
Fuel cells are a very efficient technology for generating electricity from natural gas or hydrogen, featuring high efficiencies and low pollutant and noise emissions. When used in µCHP units in building energy systems, much of the waste heat from the electricity generation can be recovered and used to supply heat to the buildings. A different application is back-up power in case of power outages, where fuel cell-based systems efficiently and reliably provide clean electricity.Fuel cell appliances can thus make a valuable contribution to a cleaner energy supply.
As high-tech devices, this type systems currently still require specially trained technicians for maintenance work and often non-standard components. In case of system failure, a specialist might have to travel a long distance to check and possibly repair a unit, which in turn is not producing energy during this time, leading to unnecessary high operational costs.
The project addresses mainly the following aspects:
- System layout improvement for easier components exchange and leaks detection and fixing, improving the overall reliability.
- Individual component improvement and standardisation for easier replacement and increased durability, reducing service frequency.
- Remote monitoring improvement for easier failures detection and avoidance of expensive service visits.
- Development of manual design guidelines to allow non-specialised technicians to perform routine service tasks.
A consortium of project partners with many years of experience in fuel cell technology from four European countries jointly works on these aspects. Two different fuel-cell technologies – PEMFC and SOFC – are employed in different systems that are improved in the project. In a first phase, the systems that are improved in the project are analysed regarding their maintenance cost and effort structures, including experiences from earlier national and European field trials. In a second phase, systems, components, service procedures and manuals are revised and improved. The improvements are evaluated both in laboratory as well as in a field trial involving in total six systems taking place in different European countries.
In a first phase, the µCHP systems of both manufactures have been analysed with respect to their serviceability aspects. Costs and efforts of service tasks have been evaluated and the most important aspects have been identified. National and European field trials have been examined to gather further information on maintenance demand and failure causes.
In parallel, work has been done on the improvement of important components. Coating methods of the cathode-side heat exchanger to reduce the chromium evaporation and subsequent stack CO-poisoning have been investigated and successfully applied. New catalyst material for the Hydrodesulphurisation (HDS) unit with a strongly increased durability has been identified, removing the necessity to the exchange of the HDS unit within the whole system lifetime. The integration of the new concept into the systems of the manufacturers is part of the subsequent work.
On system level, the stack and reformer as well as the humidifier and desulphurisation connection of the PEM µCHP unit were optimised. Developments of the SOFC system focused on the overall improvement of the so-called hot box. Especially the size and weight of the module were significantly reduced to facilitate on-site replacement. The housing was redesigned to allow easier access for exchange and maintenance tasks. To reduce maintenance efforts for back-up power units in remote areas, remote monitoring and diagnosis tools are improved.
Guidelines for designing easily understandable manuals have been worked on. Examples for describing component exchange tasks have been designed using primarily graphical instructions to facilitate understanding and to avoid misunderstandings.
First generations of the µCHP systems were evaluated in laboratory to identify possibilities for system improvements. For realistic assessment of the system performances, the test bench and scenarios were designed to harmonise well with the system characteristics, typical installation configurations and building requirements.
Field trial sites and customers have been identified to host in total six field trial systems to be monitored in real operating environments. Installers with no previous fuel cell-based appliance experience have been trained to be able to install the systems. All field trial units have been installed and have been equipped with performance measurement hardware.
Heat and power for building as well as industrial processes is important in modern societies. The major sources for producing heat and power are coal and natural gas. However, the free access to clean air and a healthy environment are also fundamental needs and rights of all citizens. An important step to harmonise these needs is the use of environmentally friendly energy production technologies based on renewable sources and energy efficiency to reduce climate-damaging emissions and the use of non-renewable resources. Compared to conventional power plants or rather to separate production of heat and power the impact of µCHP systems on the environment is significantly lower. The building sector in the EU is responsible for 40 % of Europe´s energy consumption and 25 % of its CO2 emissions, with 20 % of CO2 emissions stemming from residential buildings alone.
Fuel cell-based decentralised µCHP is a promising approach to reduce the energy production footprint in the building energy sector. This is due to both using energy-efficient fuel cells and decentralised CHP to minimise losses and maximise use of waste energy. The environmental benefit of employing fuel cells for µCHP are CO2 savings from 20 % to 50 %, depending on technology, region, users and other aspects. Furthermore, fuel cells can directly use hydrogen as fuel in a very efficient way. Hydrogen will play a key role in the energy supply of the future and substantially facilitates the shift from fossil fuels to renewable fuels.
The main objectives of the D2Service project are reduction of operational costs and increased market penetration as well as public acceptance of the technology, contributing to the overall efforts to make it profitable without public funding. The expected results of the project are µCHP and back-up power systems based on PEM and SOFC fuel cell technology with significantly reduced maintenance costs and efforts. It is intended to reach a level of simplification of the service aspects of the system that allows non-specialised technicians to perform routine maintenance work. By improved system and component design, both regular service as well as failure troubleshooting are expected to be necessary significantly less often. Together with the experience gathered in the field trial, it is expected that these improvements allow for an accelerated spread of fuel cell-based micro-appliances throughout Europe.
First laboratory installation of SOFC and PEMFC micro-CHP units at DLR laboratory test bench
Laboratory installation of SOFC and PEMFC micro-CHP units at DLR laboratory test bench