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From waste to electricity through integrated


plasma gasification/fuel cell (IPGFC) system

Article in Fuel and Energy Abstracts January 2011


DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2010.11.008

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From waste to electricity through integrated plasma


gasification/fuel cell (IPGFC) system

G. Galeno a, M. Minutillo b, A. Perna a,*


a
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Cassino, Via G. Di Biasio 43, Cassino, Italy
b
Department of Technology, University of Naples Parthenope, Centro Direzionale, Naples, Italy

article info abstract

Article history: The waste management is become a very crucial issue in many countries, due to the ever-
Received 6 August 2010 increasing amount of waste material, both domiciliary and industrial, generated.
Received in revised form The main strategies for the waste management are the increase of material recovery (MR),
29 October 2010 which can reduce the landfill disposal, the improvement of energy recovery (ER) from
Accepted 1 November 2010 waste and the minimization of the environmental impact.
Available online 4 December 2010 These two last objectives can be achieved by introducing a novel technology for waste treat-
ment based on a plasma torch gasification system integrated with a high efficiency energy
Keywords: conversion system, such as combined cycle power plant or high-temperature fuel cells.
Waste-to-energy This work aims to evaluate the performance of an Integrated Plasma Gasification/Fuel Cell
RDF system (IPGFC) in order to establish its energy suitability and environmental feature.
Plasma gasification The performance analysis of this system has been carried out by using a numerical model
Solid oxide fuel cell properly defined and implemented in Aspen Plus code environment. The model is based
Integrated energy system on the combination of a thermochemical model of the plasma gasification unit, previously
developed by the authors (the so-called EquiPlasmaJet model), and an electrochemical
model for the SOFC fuel cell stack simulation.
The EPJ model has been employed to predict the syngas composition and the energy
balance of an RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) plasma arc gasifier (that uses air as plasma gas),
whereas the SOFC electrochemical model, that is a system-level model, has allowed to
forecast the stack performance in terms of electrical power and efficiency.
Results point out that the IPGFC system is able to produce a net power of 4.2 MW per kg of
RDF with an electric efficiency of about 33%. This efficiency is high in comparison with
those reached by conventional technologies based on RDF incineration (20%).
2010 Professor T. Nejat Veziroglu. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction landfill disposal and the improvement of energy recovery (ER)


from waste.
The waste management is become a very crucial issue in Conventional technologies for the energy recovery from
many countries, due to the ever- increasing amount of waste waste are based on the incineration process and pyrolysis or
material, both domiciliary and industrial, generated. gasification processes [1e9]. While both pyrolysis and gasification
The main strategies for the waste management are the are feasible technologies to handle municipal waste, commercial
increase of material recovery (MR), which can reduce the applications of these technologies have been limited.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: 39 07762993634; fax: 39 07762993886.


E-mail addresses: g.galeno@unicas.it (G. Galeno), mariagiovanna.minutillo@uniparthenope.it (M. Minutillo), perna@unicas.it
(A. Perna).
0360-3199/$ e see front matter 2010 Professor T. Nejat Veziroglu. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2010.11.008
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y 3 6 ( 2 0 1 1 ) 1 6 9 2 e1 7 0 1 1693

Nomenclature R Universal gas constant, 8.314 J/molK


Tcell Cell operating temperature, K
EPJ EquiPlasmaJet
p Ambient pressure, Pa
IPGCC Integrated Plasma Gasification/Combined Cycle
pi Partial pressure of species i
IPGFC Integrated Plasma Gasification/Fuel Cell
n Number of electrons
LHV Lower Heating Value, kJ/kg
N Number of elements in which the cell is
RDF Refuse Derived Fuel
discretized along the tube axis
Pe Net Power, kW
J Single element in the scheme of the tubular cell
hPG Plasma gasification efficiency
kA,an Pre-exponential coefficient of the Anode
hIPGFC Electric efficiency of IPGFC system
kA,cat Pre-exponential coefficient of the Cathode
S/C Steam to carbon ratio at the pre-reforming reactor
EA,an Anodic activation energy, J/mol
Uf Fuel utilization factor
EA,cat Cathodic activation energy, J/mol
UAir Air utilization factor
Ai Area of each section of the cell, m2
E0 Ideal voltage for hydrogen oxidation at ambient
i Current density, A/m2
pressure, V
i0,an Anodic exchange current density, A/m2
Vcell Cell voltage, V
i0,cat Cathodic exchange current density, A/m2
Icell Cell current, A
DO2 Oxygen ordinary diffusion coefficient, m2/s
IL,cat Cathode limiting current, A
b Electronic transfer coefficient
Qcell Thermal power, kW
s Tortuosity
F Faraday constant, 96485 C/mol
3 Porosity

Recently, an innovative technology, based on the plasma the high-temperature fuel cells as a promising power tech-
torch gasification, seems to be the most effective and envi- nology for the integration with waste gasification systems.
ronmentally friendly method for biomass/solid waste treat-
ment and energy utilization [10e19].
The plasma gasification process works at very high 2.1. Plasma gasification
temperatures in an oxygen-starved environment and decom-
poses completely the input waste material into very simple The plasma is created by applying energy to a gas in order to
molecules. The organic compounds are thermally decomposed reorganize the electronic structure of the species (atoms,
into their constituent elements and converted into a synthesis molecules) and to produce excited species and ions. This energy
gas, which mainly consists of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, can be thermal, or carried by either an electric current or elec-
while the inorganic materials are melted and converted into tromagnetic radiations [21].
a dense, inert, non-leachable vitrified slag [10,19]. Depending on the type of energy supply and the amounts of
Therefore, the syngas generated by the plasma gasification energy transferred to the plasma, the properties of the plasma
is cleaner than that produced by conventional gasification change, in terms of electronic density or temperature.
processes [10], due to the high temperatures involved, which Huang et al. [19] distinguish two main groups of laboratory
allow to broken down all the tars, char and dioxins. However, plasmas, the high temperature or fusion plasmas, in which all
the production of a very high temperature plasma gas requires species (electrons, ions and neutral species) are in a thermo-
an external energy source and thus a high electric consump- dynamic equilibrium state, and the low-temperature plasmas
tion of the plasma torches [11,13,19,20]. (a further distinction can be made between the thermal
This drawback can be overcome if the syngas produced by plasmas, in which a quasi-equilibrium state occurs, and the
gasification is used as fuel in high efficiency power generation cold plasmas where a non-equilibrium state takes place).
systems, such as combined cycle power plants or high- Among all the plasmas processes, the thermal plasmas is
temperature fuel cells. the most suitable for waste materials treatment, because the
In a previous paper [20], the authors focused on conven- organic compounds, under high temperature conditions, are
tional technologies for energy generation and thus, they decomposed into their constituent elements and the inor-
studied the behaviour and the performance of an integrated ganic materials (glass, metals, silicates, heavy metals) are
plasma gasification combined cycle (IPGCC) power plant. melted and converted into a dense, inert, non-leachable
In this paper the integration between the plasma gasifica- vitrified slag [10,16,21].
tion unit and a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) system is proposed With respect to the plasma sources for this application
and the energy suitability of the Integrated Plasma Gasifica- field, they can be the arc plasma torches fed by a DC power
tion/Fuel Cell system (IPGFC) is analyzed by means of ther- supply or the metallic torches, in which the plasma is gener-
mochemical and electrochemical models properly developed. ated by a microwave discharge [21,22]. In an arc plasma torch
a DC-ARC discharge provides high energy density and high
temperature region between two electrodes and, in the pres-
2. Technology review ence of a sufficiently high gas flow, the plasma extends
beyond one of the electrodes in the form of a plasma jet [21].
This section provides a brief description of plasma torch The temperature in the core of the plasma plume can be
gasification processes in waste management and introduces greater than 3$104  C, whereas in the marginal zones, it
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decreases rapidly and the average operating temperature can which the secondary one, that supplied heat to the primary,
be as high as 5000  C. was fed with SOFC depleted off-gases, un-reacted gasification
The arc plasma generators can be divided into non-trans- char and additional biomass, if required. The electrical effi-
ferred arc torch and transferred arc torch. In a non-transferred ciency obtained, 36%, was comparable with that of a biomass
arc torch, the two electrodes do not participate in the process- gasification combined cycle.
ing and have the function of plasma generation. In a transferred Thus, the high-temperature fuel cells can be considered as
arc reactor, the substance to be processed is placed in an elec- the most promising fuel cell type for the application in inte-
trically grounded metallic vessel and acts as the anode, hence grated gasification systems due to their low requirements in
the reacting material should be an electrically conductive the fuel gas quality, their capability of oxidizing carbonous
material [19]. fuels [25e29] and their high performance.
The syngas produced by the plasma gasification process
contains the plasma gas components, usually oxygen and/or
nitrogen, if air or nitrogen is used as plasma gases respectively. 3. Plasma gasification modelling (EPJ model)
The use of other inert gases, such as argon, can allow to
improve the performance of the gasification process, even if The plasma gasification process has been modelled by using
the costs of the whole system increase. the thermochemical code AspenPlus.
There are several manufactures of plasma torches, such as Fig. 1 shows the flowsheet of the plasma gasification reactor
Westinghouse Plasma Corporation, PEAT (Plasma Energy model, called EquiPlasmaJet (EPJ), and Table 1 reports a short
Applied Technology, Inc.), Phoenix Solution. The commer- description of the main blocks used to model the system [20].
cially available models are in the range of 75 kW to 10 MW of According to the expected temperature profile inside the
power with a thermal efficiency (the percentage of arc power plasma gasifier, the reactor is divided into two reaction zones
that exits the torch and enters the process) of about 90% [16]. for the purpose of modelling. As a consequence, the gasifica-
tion of the organic fraction of the solid waste is carried out in
2.2. High-temperature fuel cells application in the two reactors, HTR (High Temperature Reactor) and LTR (Low
gasification field Temperature Reactor), in which the chemical equilibrium is
solved by a non-stoichiometric formulation. In this approach
Waste gasification processes are more commonly integrated the equilibrium composition is found by the direct minimiza-
with combined cycle power plants for large scale applications or tion of the Gibbs free energy for a given set of species without
with internal combustion engines for medium/small scale any specification of the possible reactions which might take
applications. The overall performance of integrated gasifica- place in the system. The HTR reactor, which operates at an
tion/power systems can be enhanced by the use of more average temperature of about 2500  C, simulates the main zone
advanced power generation technology such as high-tempera- of the plasma reactor where the plasma jet directly impacts the
ture fuel cells (MCFC, SOFC). refuse. In the LTR reactor, which operates at temperatures of
High-temperature fuel cells have more fuel flexibility than about 800e1200  C, the gasification process is completed and
low-temperature fuel cells (PEMFC) because the carbon the organic fraction is converted into a synthesis gas.
monoxide does not poison the anode electrocatalyst, whereas Moreover, in order to simulate the broken down phase of the
it works as a fuel [23e25]. organic fraction an RYIELD reactor (DECOMP) is placed before
As a result, various fuels can be processed to produce the HTR reactor. In this block, where the waste yield distribu-
a reformate (containing primarily hydrogen and carbon tion is specified according to the proximate and ultimate
monoxide) for direct use in high-temperature fuel cells. The analysis, the organic fraction of the solid waste is decomposed
main fuel sources, used to produce this reformate, include fossil into its constituent elements. The heat of reaction associated
fuels (natural gas, oil and coal) and renewable fuels (i.e. biomass with the waste decomposition (broken down phase) is consid-
and waste) [24,25]. ered in the gasification energy balance as a heat stream
Nagel et al. [26] studied biomass integrated gasification fuel (HEAT1) that connects the DECOMP reactor with the HTR
cell systems with an electrical power output of about 1 MW. In reactor.
this work they assessed the technical and economical feasibility In order to model the plasma jet, a heat exchanger (DC-ARC),
of integrated systems, based on three existing or soon available which supplies the heat needed to generate the plasma gas, has
biomass gasification processes, various gas processing tech- been introduced. The plasma gas (PLASMA) is produced at
nologies and four SOFC designs for stationary applications. 4000  C, and the power consumption of the plasma torch is
Lobachyov et al. [27], studied the integration of a biomass calculated by the thermal power transferred to the stream GAS
gasification system with a Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell (MCFC) in the DC-ARC heat exchanger, considering a plasma torch
instead of a gas turbine. Their analysis showed that feeding thermal efficiency (the ratio between the energy transferred to
the gasification product gas into an MCFC, instead of a gas the gas and the discharge energy) of 90%.
turbine, the efficiency and the environmental emissions could Because the waste is forced gravitationally downward of the
be improved. plasma reactor, it is preheated by the hot syngas that travels
Panopoulos et al. [28] studied the integration between an upward. Therefore, the water into the waste evaporates and
allothermal biomass gasifier and a SOFC power unit, both leaves the reactor together with the syngas. In order to model
operating at atmospheric pressure, for small scale CHP gener- this behaviour, two heat exchangers (HEX1 for the solid waste
ation. The biomass gasifier, modelled by using the AspenPlus and HEX2 for the gas phase), a separation unit (SEP) and a mixer
simulation software, consisted of two fluidised bed reactors, in (MIX) have been used in the plasma gasification reactor model.
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LTR
SYNGAS
ORG1
HEX1
HEX2 HEAT2
MIX

ORG2
SYNGAS

HEAT1 PLASMA GAS

DECOMP DC-ARC
HTR
ORG3 ORG4
SEP

WATER

Fig. 1 e Plasma gasification reactor model (EPJ model).

The working conditions and the performance of the plasma (50 kW1 MW) are an attractive solution for a distributed energy
torch gasifier calculated by developed model, deeply described generation.
in ref. [20], are summarized in the Table 2. The data refers to the Power generation systems in which a SOFC stack is used in
optimal values found by applying a sensitivity analysis (air as combination with other generating equipment can provide
plasma gas and additional oxygen in the plasma gasifier). higher electrical efficiency than the simple SOFC system [23].
This is because the high-temperature SOFC exhaust heat also
contributes to power generation in the other generating
devices.
4. SOFC modelling In order to analyse the SOFC system integrated with the
novel gasification process based on the plasma torch tech-
Solid oxide fuel cells are based on the concept of an oxygen ion nology, a one-dimensional model has been developed.
conducting electrolyte through which the oxide ions migrate
from the air electrode (cathode) side to the fuel electrode 4.1. Model description
(anode) where they react with the fuel (H2, CO, etc.) to
generate an electrical voltage. The issue of modelling in fuel cell systems can be dealt
During the 1990s, SOFC stacks have been developed in an following two approaches: at cell-level, to improve under-
industrial scale and, since 1999, SiemenseWestinghouse standing of complex physical and chemical phenomena, and
operated a trial SOFC, with a power output of 100 kW and 46% at fuel cell system-level to investigate the impact of the
efficiency, at 1000  C [30]. Smaller apparatuses already operate operating conditions on the overall system. In this study the
from the Japanese Chubu Electric Power, the Ceramic Fuel Cells second approach has been followed.
in Australia and the Sulzer Hexis in Switzerland. In a pilot scale In order to evaluate the SOFC performance, in terms of
a significant number of cells have been tested successfully with electric and thermal power generated, a one-dimensional
an efficiency that exceeds 45%. SOFC of medium production model, which considers the thermochemical (i.e. reforming
and shifting reactions) and electrochemical (i.e. electro-
oxidation of hydrogen) reactions, has been developed by using
the AspenPlus code. This model is valid for either tubular or
Table 1 e Main blocks description. planar SOFC configuration. For the present analysis, the
Block Name Block type Description tubular fuel cell configuration, based on the Sie-
menseWestinghouse concept with cathode-supported cell,
DECOMP RYIELD Non-stoichiometric reactor
has been assumed [31]. Geometry parameters and operating
based on known yield
data of the SOFC module are summarized in Table 3 [32e34].
distribution
HTR RGIBBS Rigorous reactor and multiphase The basic assumptions in fuel cell modelling are:
LTR equilibrium based on Gibbs free
energy minimization  Steady state;
HEX1 HEATER Heat exchanger  Isothermal fuel cell;
HEX2  The fuel composition varies only in the outlet direction;
SEP SEPARATOR Separator unit
 All chemical species of working fluids are treated as ideal gas;
DC-ARC HEATER Heat exchanger
MIX MIXER Stream mixer
 All gas reactions are in chemical equilibrium;
 The operating cell voltage is the same for every tubular cell.
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Table 2 e Plasma torch gasifier performance [20]. Table 3 e Geometry parameters of 100 kW SOFC [32e34].
RDF mass flow kg/s 1 Geometry parameters
RDF Low Heating Value (LHV) MJ/kg 12.9
Stack number 3
Plasma gas mass flow (Air) kg/s 0.505
Cell number 384
Oxygen mass flow (additional flow) kg/s 0.207
Cell active area m2 834$104
Syngas mass flow kg/s 1.60
 Cell length m 1.5
Syngas outlet temperature C 1245
Cell outer diameter m 2.2$102
Syngas composition (vol %) Anode thickness m 100$106
H2 % 28.65 Cathode thickness m 2.2$103
CO % 37.37 Electrolyte thickness m 40$106
CH4 % e Interconnection thickness m 85$106
CO2 % 1.41
Nominal operating data
H2O % 14.19

Cell temperature C 910
N2 % 17.12
Cell pressure bar 1.08
HCl % 0.31
UF/UAir 0.85/0.19
H2S % 0.22
S/C in the pre-reformer 1.8
COS % 0.01

Input air/fuel temperatures C 630/200  C
Syngas Low Heating Value (LHV) MJ/kg 9.20
DC Power kW 120
Torch power MW 2.75
ASU power MW 0.195
hPG % 69.1
to assume that the whole CO is converted into hydrogen (the
electricity is entirely produced from the electrochemical
oxidation of hydrogen) [35].
Fig. 2 shows the flowsheet of the SOFC system model based Thus, the reactions occurring in the cell are:
on SiemenseWestinghouse design. It consists of a fuel pre-
reforming reactor (PRE-REF), a catalytic burner (CB), in which H2 0:5 O2 /H2 O (1)
part of the anodic exhaust (A-OUT) is burnt with the cathodic
one (C-OUT) to supply the thermal energy needed for the air CO H2 O/H2 CO2 (2)
reactant preheating, and a heat exchanger (HEX). In order to take into account the reaction (2), a Gibbs reactor
In the pre-reforming reactor, where the remaining of the (SHIFT,J) has to be placed down to the AN,J block.
anodic exhaust is also recirculated to improve the system The energy (QBAL,J block allows to estimate the thermal
efficiency, the feeding fuel is converted into a synthesis gas fluxes generated in each J element during cell operation) and
containing mainly H2, CO, CO2 and H2O. The pre-reforming mass balances are solved by an iterative procedure: assigned
reactor is a Gibbs reactor in which the reforming reaction is the fuel utilization factor (UF), the air utilization factor (UAir)
simulated considering the chemical equilibrium solved by the
direct minimization of the Gibbs free energy for a given set of
species. The SOFC stack is simulated as a hierarchical block
that provides containers for simulation objects.
The HIERARCHY block allows to forecast the SOFC power unit
EXAUST-2
performance by assigning the number of the cells and the stacks
and some of the operating parameters reported in Table 3. HEX
AIR
Each tubular cell is discretized in N-elements along the tube
axis (that is the direction of both the fuel and oxidant flow).
Fig. 3 shows a schematic diagram of the SOFC cell geometry, in
EXAUST-1
which a single J element is highlighted with a dashed line.
PRE-REF
According to this schematic diagram, a model for predict-
CB
ing material, heat and electrical outputs of the J element has
been performed by using the AspenPlus code, as depicted in FUEL

Fig. 4 (it is worth noting that the numerical results of the J


element are the input data for the next element). A-OUT C-IN
C-OUT
The J element comprises mainly a cathode block (CAT,J),
whose function is to separate out the O2 required for the
electrochemical reaction and an anode block (AN,J), modelled
as a stoichiometric reactor, in which the hydrogen oxidation
A-IN SOFC
occurs.
During the SOFC operation, the anodic gas composition HIERARCHY
varies along the channel, due to both the electrochemical
oxidation of hydrogen and the water gas shift reaction (WGSR).
The electrochemical oxidation of CO has been neglected
because the WGSR is very fast (the nickel-based catalyst that Fig. 2 e Flowsheet of the SOFC system based on
covers the anode speeds up this reaction), so that it is possible SiemenseWestinghouse configuration.
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y 3 6 ( 2 0 1 1 ) 1 6 9 2 e1 7 0 1 1697

and the number of elements, the model calculates the


chemical composition of each stream and its enthalpy varia-
tion, for a given cell operating temperature.
The electrical output is calculated by means of a FORTRAN
block, in which the estimation of the cell voltage Vcell (V) is
based on the following expressions:
PN
J1 VJ
Vcell (3)
N

VJ ENernst  hact  hohmic  hconc (4)

where ENernst is the thermodynamic potential, hact is the acti-


vation overpotential due to slow kinetics of the electro-
chemical reactions taking place on the electrodes, hohmic is the
ohmic overpotential due to the resistance to electron flow
through both electrodes and interconnection and to the
resistance to oxygen ion flow through the electrolyte, and hconc
is the concentration overpotential due to mass transfer
limitations.
The Nernst potential is calculated as:

RT pH2 p0:5
O2
ENernst E0 ln (5) Fig. 4 e Conceptual scheme of the SOFC cell modelling.
2F pH2 O

The activation losses are estimated as the difference


between the anodic and cathodic losses:
and interconnections resistances) to the flow of ions and
hact hact;an  hact;cat (6) electrons inside the cell:
in which each term can be calculated considering the Tafels X
4
ri li
law, derived, as known, by the ButlereVolmer relationship. Rohm (11)
i1
Ai
Thus, the activation losses are estimated (either for anode or
cathode) by the equation: In this relation ri (the specific material resistivity), li (the
  thickness) and Ai (the current flow area) are referred to each
RT i
hact ln (7) cell component (i.e. anode, cathode, electrolyte and inter-
nFb i0
connections). Their values, according to refs. [34,36], are
where io is the exchange current density that is calculated as reported in Tables 3 and 4.
follows:     
pH2 pH2 O EA;an
i0;an kA;an exp (8)
p p RT

 0:25   Table 4 e Coefficients in polarization losses.


pO2 EA;cat
i0;cat kA;cat exp (9)
p RT Ohmic losses [34]

The ohmic overpotential is calculated according to: Anode resistivity Um 2.98$105 exp(1392/T)
Cathode resistivity Um 8.114$105 exp(600/T)
hohm Rohm Icell (10) Electrolyte resistivity Um 2.94$105 exp(10350/T)
Interconnection resistivity Um 0.025
where Rohm is the ohmic resistance that is calculated taking
into account the four resistances (anode, cathode, electrolyte Activation losses [26]
Electronic transfer 0.5
coefficient
Number of electrons 2
Anode activation energy kJ/mol 110
Cathode activation energy kJ/mol 120
Anode pre-exponential A/m2 7$109
coefficient
Cathode pre-exponential A/m2 5.5$109
coefficient
Coefficient m 1

Concentration losses [34,36]


Porosity 3 0.5
Tortuosity s 5.9
Oxygen ordinary diffusivity m2/s 7.3$106
Fig. 3 e Schematic of the tubular cell.
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small thickness, so that the concentration overpotential is


Table 5 e Model validation results.
only due to the slow diffusion of oxygen through the thick
Literature Model porous cathode. This loss is expressed as:
data [34] results
 
RTcell Icell
Fuel composition at cell inlet hconc ln 1  (12)
H2 vol % 27.0 26.6 2F IL;cat
CO vol % 5.6 5.4 The cathode limiting current is evaluated as:
CH4 vol % 10.1 10.7
CO2 vol % 23.1 23.2 2FpO2 DO2;eff
H2O vol % 27.9 27.9 IL;cat (13)
RTcell
N2 vol % 6.2 6.2

Cell inlet fuel temperature C 536 532

where the DO2,eff is the effective ordinary diffusion coefficient:
Cell inlet air temperature C 821 820

Stack exhaust temperature C 834 825 DO2 3
Cell Voltage V 0.7 0.68 DO2;eff (14)
s
Cell Current density A/cm2 1780 1821
Gross Electric efficiency (LHV) % 56 55
DC Electric Power kW 120 118 The material properties and all coefficients used in the
polarization losses equations are summarized in Table 4.

The concentration polarization is the result of diffusion


of reactants to the interface between the electrolyte and 4.2. Model validation
the anode/cathode catalysts. The diffusion is associated
with a resistance, resulting in a voltage drop (concentration In order to validate the SOFC model, the results obtained from
polarization), that is dominant at high current densities where numerical simulations have been compared with nominal
the diffusion is greatest. When the current density reaches data available from scientific literature [34], as shown in
either the anode or the cathode limiting currents, that is Table 5.
usually taken as a measure of the maximum rate at which It is worth noting that the model results are close to the
a reactant can be supplied to an electrode [37], an insufficient nominal data available from ref. [34]. Thus, even if some
amount of reactants is transported to the electrodes and the changes have to be made (the pre-reformer is not needed, as it
operating voltage is reduced to zero [38]. will be discussed later) the model is able to predict the
According to Suwanwarangkul et al. [31], the mass transfer performance of the SOFC power unit fed with the syngas
resistance through the porous anode is ignored because of its produced by the waste gasification unit.

Fig. 5 e Flowsheet diagram of the integrated plant IPGFC.


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In Table 6 the main plant operating data and performance


5. Integrated plasma gasification/fuel cell of the IPGFC system are listed.
system (IPGFC) analysis The SOFC power unit fed with syngas produces 111 kW and
the steam turbine produces 25 kW while the torch gasification
In this section the energy suitability of a Plasma Gasification unit and the air separation unit consume about 45 kW and
unit fed by RDF, integrated with a SOFC system, is investigated 4 kW respectively, thus the net power of the IPGFC is 87 kW.
and its performance are analyzed by means of the thermo- The electric efficiency of IPGFC has been defined as follows:
chemical and electrochemical models described and dis-
cussed in the previous paragraphs. Pe
hIPGFC (15)
The EPJ model has been employed to predict the syngas _ RDF LHVRDF
m
composition (Table 1) and the energy balance of an RDF In Fig. 6 the electric efficiencies of different conversion
(Refuse Derived Fuel) plasma arc gasification reactor, whereas systems, based on waste utilization, are compared. It is worth
the SOFC model, that is a system-level model, has allowed to noting that the IPGFC efficiency (32.7%) is high in comparison
forecast the stack performance. with the efficiency of conventional technologies based on RDF
incineration (20%).
5.1. System description Furthermore, the efficiency of the IPGFC is comparable
with that of the IPGCC (the integrated plasma gasification
In Fig. 5 the schematic layout of the integrated plant IPGFC is combined cycle) analyzed in ref. [20]. This result can be
depicted. explained considering that, even if the performance of
The integrated system consists of two main sub-units fully a combined cycle power plant is usually higher than that of
integrated: the Plasma Gasification unit and the Fuel Cell unit. a fuel cell, in this study a better integration between the
Moreover, in order to increase the overall efficiency, an inter- plasma torch gasification unit and the SOFC power unit has
mediate pressure steam is generated by cooling the syngas been carried out. In fact, the direct use of the cathodic off-gas
from the plasma torch gasifier and the combustor exhausts (its temperature is about 900  C) as plasma gas allows to
leaving the heat exchanger HEX3. This intermediate pressure
steam is then expanded in a steam turbine unit producing
additional power.
Because the syngas exiting the plasma gasification unit
Table 6 e IPGFC system operating parameters and
contains particulates and sulphide, a clean-up section, which
performance.
remove these contaminants by means of ceramic filters and
sorbent beds respectively, has to be placed before the SOFC Operating data
power unit.
Plasma gasification unit
With respect to the SiemenseWestinghouse SOFC design,
RDF mass flow kg/s 0.0206
the internal pre-reformer is not employed [29], because the Plasma gas mass flow kg/s 0.0104
methane and hydrocarbons concentrations in the clean product Oxygen mass flow kg/s 0.00427
gas are very low. In addition, contrary to natural gas fuelled Syngas mass flow kg/s 0.033

SOFC configurations (i.e. the SiemenseWestinghouse 100 kW Syngas temperature C 1245
SOFC module), no recirculation of the anode off-gas is consid- Torch power kW 45
ASU power kW 4
ered, due to its high nitrogen content that would significantly
dilute the syngas coming to the fuel cell (the nitrogen concen- SOFC unit
tration in the product syngas is about 17%). Fuel mass flow kg/s 0.033
Air mass flow kg/s 0.28
In order to optimize the integration between the two main 
Air temperature C 820
units, a part of the cathode off-gas is used as plasma gas in the 
Fuel temperature C 400
plasma gasification unit, while the remaining is sent to the Fuel utilization factor 0.82
combustor that provides the thermal energy needed to preheat Air utilization factor 0.23
the SOFC feeding air. Cell Current A 159
Cell Voltage V 0.608
Power (3 stacks) kW 111
5.2. Performance analysis
Clean up unit

The capacity of the integrated system, analyzed in this paper, Syngas outlet temperature C 400

is based on a SOFC module with 100 m2 of active surface Steam Turbine unit
resulting in gross electrical outputs of around 100 kW, so that Steam mass flow kg/s 0.046

the net electrical power estimated considering both the torch Steam inlet temperature C 260

Steam outlet temperature C 81
and ASU power consumption and the steam turbine power
Steam inlet pressure bar 30
production is less than 100 kW. Nevertheless, the integrated
Steam outlet pressure bar 0.5
system is envisaged for up to 1 MW, so that the constrains on Power kW 25
size due to the costs (for gasification conversion systems,
Performance
based on biomass, the most cost-effective size is expected to
Net Power kW 87
be plants from 1 to 30 MWe) and components availability Net electric efficiency % 32.7
(torch and steam turbine size) can be overcome.
1700 i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y 3 6 ( 2 0 1 1 ) 1 6 9 2 e1 7 0 1

Finally, even if the power output is less than 100 kW, the
integrated system is envisaged for up to 1 MW, so that the
constrains on size due to the costs (for gasification conversion
systems, based on biomass, the most cost-effective size is
expected to be plants from 1 to 30 MWe) and components
availability (torch and steam turbine size) can be overcome.

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