WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded nearly $40 million to support the industrial use of alternative fuels and combined heat and power (CHP) technologies. The two separate award announcements included $30.7 million over the next four years, subject to congressional appropriations, for cost-shared research and development of industrial systems capable of using alternative fuels. The seven alternative fuel projects selected for more than $9 million in funding this year primarily involve the development of fuel injectors, nozzles, fuel-handling systems, and entire integrated systems for gas turbines, boilers, and other combustion systems. The systems will need to handle fuels with high hydrogen content or with low energy content, such as those produced by anaerobic digesters, as well as fuels containing reactive species that can cause corrosion or generate pollutants. The systems will draw on such sources as wood waste and tire-derived fuel, and one project will use an anaerobic digester to convert cow manure into methane, which will fuel an engine connected to a generator.

An additional 10 alternative fuel projects have also been selected for awards of roughly $19 million later this fiscal year, including projects involving microturbines, a fuel cell that runs on carbon particles (known as a “direct carbon fuel cell”), and a high-temperature solid oxide fuel cell, which can produce power from the hot gas produced by gasifying biomass and other fuels. Projects will also develop burners for viscous fluids, such as glycerin, and thermal oxidizers that can convert a variety of fuels into a combustible gas.

Such alternative fuel systems can also function as CHP systems by producing both electrical power and industrial process heat. Compared to the separate generation of electricity and heat, which typically achieve efficiencies of 45 percent, CHP systems can operate at more than 80 percent efficiency. DOE has selected six CHP projects for $9.1 million in funding over the next three years, subject to congressional approval, including four projects that will receive $4 million in funds this year. Those four projects will examine an automated control system, waste heat recovery from reciprocating engines, a chiller that runs on waste heat, and a system that combines a microturbine and a chiller. Two more projects are slated to receive more than $3 million later this fiscal year, and will develop a heat recovery system for fuel cells and a control system for combined cooling, heating, and power systems.

Publication date:02/23/2009