Developing Solid Oxide F uel Cell Based Power Plant For Water Treatment Plants: Experimental and System Modelling Studies

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

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Fossil fuels are currently the primary source for electrical power generation, which subsequently increases the rate of greenhouse gas (CO2, CH4) emission. It has been agreed at the Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris (COP21) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the global temperature increase to less than 2°C compared to pre-industrial era temperature. The GHG (Greenhouse Gas) effect is mostly attributed to methane and carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. In order to reduce the use of fossil fuels and their negative impact on the environment, renewable energy resources have been receiving much attention in recent years. Sanitation systems, centralized Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) and organic waste digesters give an ample opportunity for resource recovery to produce biogas that contains mainly methane and carbon dioxide. The low conversion efficiency of conventional energy conversion devices like internal combustion engines and turbines prevents biogas from reaching its full potential as over 50% of chemical energy is dissipated. Wastewater treatment is a developed technology from human health and environmental-friendliness points of view. However, from energy aspects, it is still an energy-intensive process step. Wastewaters might contain significant amounts of organic matter and nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) compounds. The chemical energy in domestic wastewater is approximately 3.8 kWh.m-3 based on theoretical Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) of 1 kg m-3. At wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), collecting and treating wastewater streams need a considerable amount of electricity (0.5 kWh m-3) to reach an acceptable quality of discharge requirements. In a conventional WWTP, nitrogen is removed through nitrification, and biodegradable organic matter is converted to methane in anaerobic digestion. The energy demand at WWTPs could be partially offset by an efficient recovery of nutrient and organic matter from the wastewater stream. Biogas production is an important technology widely applied in Europe. Biogas can be converted to energy through thermal conversion with combined heat and power (CHP) plants. However, the electrical efficiency of the system is limited to 25-30%. In parallel, nitrogen can be removed from wastewater and converted and stored in the form of an ammonia-water mixture from ammonium-rich streams after anaerobic digestion. Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) is an energy conversion device that directly converts chemical energy into electrical energy based on electrochemical reactions. SOFC can operate with different types of fuels, especially unconventional or renewable fuels. The efficiency of SOFC is higher compared to conventional combustionbased processes. Therefore, the sustainability of WWTPs can be improved first by a recovery of nutrient and organic material from the wastewater stream and then, replacing the inefficient combustion process with an efficient high-temperature electrochemical reaction in SOFC. Due to the modularity of SOFC, this can be used for a wide range of biogas production capacities at WWTPs. However, the development of SOFC is still facing many challenges, and a better understanding of the constraints is needed. This dissertation aims to provide design concepts and thermodynamic system analysis for the biogas-ammonia fuelled SOFC system at wastewater treatment plants with a focus on achieving a safe operating condition and high electrical efficiencies. Thereupon, extended experimental studies have been conducted in this work on biogas dry and combined reforming. Moreover, the influence of mixing ammonia-water to biogas in SOFC has been experimentally investigated. After indicating the safe operating condition of biogas-ammonia fuelled SOFC, system modelling studies have been carried out in order to design an efficient conceptual biogas-ammonia fuelled SOFC system at wastewater treatment plants. Additionally, a complete biogas SOFC pilot system consists of a gas cleaning unit and an external gas processing system has been designed.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Aravind, P. V., Supervisor, External person
  • Boersma, B.J., Supervisor
Award date31 Mar 2021
Print ISBNs978-94-6421-290-7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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