Canadian remote community power generation: How reformer and fuel cell systems compare with diesel generators

DePippo, Kurtis; Peppley, Brant A.
March 2019
International Journal of Energy Research;Mar2019, Vol. 43 Issue 3, p1161
Academic Journal
Summary: More than three quarters of Canadian remote communities rely solely on diesel generators for electricity generation. The diesel dependency of remote communities has inflated local per capita greenhouse gas emissions and resulted in rising and inconsistent electricity prices that have made community viability reliant on government subsidies. As the diesel generators approach the end of their lifespan replacement, technologies must be considered that will help transition Canadian remote communities from diesel to renewables. Replacing diesel generators with steam reformer and solid oxide fuel cell systems would allow for more efficient diesel generation and would benefit the future implementation of renewable power. A model was generated in Honeywell's UniSim Design Suite to simulate the performance of a diesel fed steam reformer and solid oxide fuel cell system. System operating parameters in the model were optimized to minimize the expected payback period. The system model outputs were compared with expected diesel generator performance for a test case remote community. The test community demonstrated that replacing diesel generators with the proposed steam reformer and solid oxide fuel cell system would result in annual net efficiency improvements of 32%. The efficiency improvement could potentially translate to reductions in carbon dioxide equivalents of over 258 kt and 20‐year savings of over $450 million if all diesel‐reliant Canadian remote communities switched to steam reformer and solid oxide fuel cell systems. In addition to immediate environmental and economic savings, the improved low load performance of the reformer and fuel cell system would allow for the future integration of renewable energy to create highly efficient diesel‐renewable hybrid power plants. A diesel‐fed steam reformer and solid oxide fuel cell system is proposed as an alternative to diesel generators for electricity generation in Canadian remote communities. A computational model is used to demonstrate the higher generation efficiency of the proposed system. The computational model results detail the potential for significant economic savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions to be derived from installing the proposed system in Canadian remote communities.


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