Publication Details

Title : Fuel Cycle Comparison of Distributed Power Generation Technologies
Publication Date : November 01, 2008
Authors : A. Elgowainy, M. Wang
Abstract : The fuel-cycle energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the application of fuel cells to distributed power generation were evaluated and compared with the combustion technologies of microturbines and internal combustion engines, as well as the various technologies associated with grid-electricity generation in the United States and California. The results were primarily impacted by the net electrical efficiency of the power generation technologies and the type of employed fuels. The energy use and GHG emissions associated with the electric power generation represented the majority of the total energy use of the fuel cycle and emissions for all generation pathways. Fuel cell technologies exhibited lower GHG emissions than those associated with the U.S. grid electricity and other combustion technologies. The higher-efficiency fuel cells, such as the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) and molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC), exhibited lower energy requirements than those for combustion generators. The dependence of all natural-gas-based technologies on petroleum oil was lower than that of internal combustion engines using petroleum fuels. Most fuel cell technologies approaching or exceeding the DOE target efficiency of 40% offered significant reduction in energy use and GHG emissions.

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