Biogas as a fuel source for SOFC Cogenerators
This study reports on the combination of solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) generators fueled with biogas as renewable energy source, recoverable from wastes but at present underexploited. From a mobilisable near-future potential in the European Union (EU-15) of 17 Mtoe, under 15% appears to be converted today into useful heat and power (2 Mtoe). SOFCs could improve and promote the exploitation of biogas on manifold generation sites as small combined heat and power (5-50 kWel), especially for farm and sewage installations, raising the electrical conversion efficiency on such reduced and variable power level. Larger module packs of the high temperature ceramic converter would also be capable of operating on contaminated fuel of low heating value (less than 40% that natural gas) which can emanate from landfill sites (MW size). Landfill gas delivers 80% of current world biogas production. This document compiles and estimates biogas data on actual production and future potential and presents the thermodynamics of the biogas reforming and electrochemical conversion processes. A case study is reported of the energy balance of a small SOFC cogenerator operated with agricultural biogas, the largest potential source.