Letter: Fuel cell park an example of Liberal hypocrisy

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To the editor,

In the July 10 issue of Citizen’s News there was a news article titled, “Residents speak on energy park proposal.” In the article it was stated that the proposed Beacon Falls fuel cell park would be a “…world class renewable energy project using clean, Connecticut-based fuel cell technology.” Further on in the article it was stated that the plant would operate by, “Fuel cell technology strips the hydrocarbons out of natural gas and combines the hydrogen with oxygen, which creates energy and heat.”

I have a few questions and a few observations.

Questions:

How come using natural gas to create electricity in Oxford is described as using a non-renewable fossil fuel, while using natural gas all of a sudden becomes a renewable fuel when used in fuel cell technology?

How do you “strip hydrocarbons” from natural gas (the hydrogen atoms)? Doesn’t it require a lot of energy to separate hydrogen from natural gas? Hmmmmmm. Where does the energy come from to strip those atoms? My understanding is that the process requires temperatures of 900 plus degrees to separate the atoms. Where does this heat come from?

How does burning hydrogen, which combines with the oxygen needed to support combustion, create enough energy to overcome the energy required to strip the hydrogen atoms? Wouldn’t direct burning of natural gas, a very efficient and clean process, be a far better solution?

Observations:

When the Oxford power plant was proposed it was vociferously opposed because natural gas was touted as a major pollutant which would threaten everyone’s life and health. Now the very same natural gas has magically become a renewable energy. How miraculous is that, huh?

I would appreciate more details on exactly how the fuel cell process works and in particular how the hydrogen is “stripped” from natural gas.

Is fuel cell technology viable? I worked for, and retired from, United Technologies’ Otis Elevator Company and a few years ago UTC decided to dump its Fuel Cell Division. With all the considerable scientific brainpower available via the UTC research center, and it is considerable, why were they not able to make fuel cells commercially successful? This should speak volumes as to why we should take a long hard look at the proposed plant.

But, obviously, my largest reason for writing is to point out the hypocrisy of the Liberal left. If it suits their political agenda then all of a sudden natural gas, a fossil fuel, becomes an acceptable and renewable fuel. How about for once we simply put forth the truth to the public. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?

George L. Sirois

Naugatuck

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi George,

    Thermodynamic efficiency is a measure of the amount of useful power, vs. waste heat, is produced when energy is transformed from one form to another. In a conventional natural gas power plant, the gas, mostly CH4 (methane) is combusted producing a heated gas consisting of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, nitric oxide, and water vapor (steam). The hot gas us used to expand and cool while moving a mechanical drive, such as a gas turbine, secondary boiler/steam engine, etc. The nitrous oxide is the anhydride of nitrous acid as the nitric oxide is the anhydride of nitrous acid. Both acids are chemically active and combine with other chemicals. When the acids form in the water in your eye, you can experience eye irritation. Acid rain can be another consequence.

    In a fuel cell, combustion does not occur. The chemical reaction produces many orders of magnitude lower NOx effluents. Electricty is produce directly without a secondary mechanical system. Since there is no turbine, mechanical noise is largely eliminated. The thermo efficiency is much higher, the exact number depending on configuration issues.

    Unlike solar and wind systems, power production is on demand (after preheat). Energy is stored as the chemical energy of methane and released when the gas is passed into the cell. No secondary storage mechanisms are required. The system has to be preheated to start it, but afterward is self-sustaining. Pollution levels are very low. NOx emissions are virtually eliminated. The carbon dioxide output may be sequestered as required. Since it comes out of an effluent pipe, it can be cooled and removed as a fluid if desired. I don’t know if there is a sequestration plan intended for your installation, but the CO2 emissions are a fraction of the normal ones per specific power output if nothing along these lines is contemplated.

    Hope that helps.

  2. Hi there, just wanted to answer a couple of your questions.

    >How come using natural gas to create electricity in Oxford is described as using a non-renewable fossil fuel, while using natural gas all of a sudden becomes a renewable fuel when used in fuel cell technology?

    Fuel cells use an elctrochemical reaction, rather than combustion, to generate electricity. That means that using natural gas in a fuel cell is 2-3 times more efficient than burning it, which is why it can sometimes be classified as a renewable.

    >How do you “strip hydrocarbons” from natural gas (the hydrogen atoms)? Doesn’t it require a lot of energy to separate hydrogen from natural gas?

    The fuel cell system directly reforms the natural gas within the system. It does not take tremendous amounts of energy to do so and is part of the efficiency calculation.

    >I would appreciate more details on exactly how the fuel cell process works and in particular how the hydrogen is “stripped” from natural gas.

    There is plenty of information available online that details this all for you, particularly on the manufacturer’s website.

    >Is fuel cell technology viable? I worked for, and retired from, United Technologies’ Otis Elevator Company and a few years ago UTC decided to dump its Fuel Cell Division. With all the considerable scientific brainpower available via the UTC research center, and it is considerable, why were they not able to make fuel cells commercially successful?

    The UTC Power IP was recently bought by Doosan Fuel Cells America. They recently full re-opened the manufacturing facility and have continued to grow the business.

    http://www.virtual-strategy (dot) com/2015/07/16/what-difference-year-makes-doosan-fuel-cell-takes-closed-plant-full-production-global-con#axzz3gR7OirAk

    >If it suits their political agenda then all of a sudden natural gas, a fossil fuel, becomes an acceptable and renewable fuel.

    Not sure what the liberal agenda you are refferring to is, but as stated above, the answer is that using natural gas in a fuel cell is greatly more efficient than burning it. Carbon, Nox, Sox, and particulate emissions are greatly reduced, while getting more bang for your buck.