Wärtsilä has been highly successful in operating its groundbreaking fuel cell unit

Wärtsilä Corporation, Press release, 22 February 2010 at 12:00 UTC+2

The world’s first solid oxide fuel cell unit, running on landfill gas, has successfully concluded the first phase of its validation programme. The power generating unit, which is developed and run by Wärtsilä, has been operating for more than 1500 hours producing electricity with extremely low emissions to households in Vaasa, Finland.

Operation of the Wärtsilä FC20 fuel cell power unit at Wärtsilä’s New Energy validation site in Vaasa, Finland, has been extremely successful. The WFC20, which is developed and operated by Wärtsilä, is the first of its kind in the world. The unit is run on methane rich gas, originating from a nearby landfill. Methane is a strong greenhouse gas that would otherwise be harmful to the environment. The WFC20 is based on planar solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology, which is supplied by the Danish company Topsoe Fuel Cell A/S. Wärtsilä is one of the world’s leading companies in the development of fuel cell products based on SOFC technology.

The main project targets set by Wärtsilä for this groundbreaking power generation unit have all been achieved. The fuel cell unit has been in successful operation for more than 1500 hours. The demonstrated energy efficiency has reached very high levels, exhaust gas emissions are extremely low, and the unit has been able to operate consistently despite the bio gas having low and fluctuating methane content. The fuel cell unit produces an electric output of approximately 20 kW, which is enough to power approximately 10 households in the area. The thermal output of the unit ranges from 14 to 17 kW.

“We are very pleased with performance of our first fuel cell unit being operated in the field in a real and challenging environment. The entire experience has so far been very positive, and it provides an excellent platform for us to continue our work on fuel cell solutions for the future,” says Erkko Fontell, Director, Fuel cell, Wärtsilä Finland.

Close to zero emissions, very high efficiency

The varying composition of the methane rich gas from the landfill has been one of the main engineering challenges for the test site, and it has led to the development of an efficient control system. The functionality of the system has been fully validated. Landfill gas contains also a number of impurities, such as sulphur compounds, which need to be removed from the fuel before being fed to the fuel cell system. This has also been successfully achieved.

The exhaust gas emissions from WFC20 are measured as being extremely low. The fuel cell unit does not produce any measurable levels of harmful particles, sulphur oxide (SOx), or nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, even at part load conditions. When using bio gas as fuel, the emissions of CO2 are very close to carbon neutral.

Wärtsilä delivered a fuel cell unit producing electric and heating power to the Vaasa Housing Fair site. The unit is located in Suvilahti, approximately three kilometres east of the Vaasa city centre. The development of fuel cell technology is a part of Wärtsilä’s long-term product development, aimed at supplementing Wärtsilä’s product portfolio. The development of environmentally friendly, cleaner and sustainable energy production technologies is an essential part of Wärtsilä’s strategy.

The landfill gas used by the fuel cell power plant is a renewable fuel, which means that the fuel cell technology enables the energy and climate package targets of the EU Commission to be attained.

According to the EU’s climate and energy package, Finland is expected to increase its share of renewable sources from the present 28 per cent to 38 per cent of energy production by 2020.

Wärtsilä’s centre of competence for fuel cell technology is located at Otaniemi in Espoo, and the operation of the New Energy site is supported by personnel from the company’s Vaasa engine laboratory.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Erkko Fontell
Director, Fuel Cells (Product Centre Ecotech)
Wärtsilä Finland
Tel: +358-107095228
Mobile: +358-407544389

Ms Tuula Franck
Senior Manager, External Communications
Wärtsilä Corporation
Mobile: +358-400267555

More related press releases:

Wärtsilä’s fuel cell power plant at Vaasa Housing Fair inaugurated by Minister Pekkarinen  (July 15, 2008)
Wärtsilä to deliver the world’s first SOFC fuel cell power plant using landfill gas to the Vaasa Housing Fair site  (February 21, 2008)

Wärtsilä in brief
Wärtsilä is a global leader in complete lifecycle power solutions for the marine and energy markets. By emphasising technological innovation and total efficiency, Wärtsilä maximises the environmental and economic performance of the vessels and power plants of its customers.

In 2009, Wärtsilä’s net sales totalled EUR 5.3 billion with more than 18,000 employees. The company has operations in 160 locations in 70 countries around the world. Wärtsilä is listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki, Finland.