Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Dirty Secret of Fuel Cells Fueled by Natural gas

In 2003 I wrote my book Hydrogen – Hope or Hype?  I predicted that Fuel Cells were a Betamax technology that would essentially flop.  This predictions is almost 100% true.  Excepting for the massive government funding, fuel cells remain expensive and a silly way to generate power.

What I did not calculate back in 2003 was how dirty fuel cells fueled with natural gas really are.  Yes I did state that their CO2 emissions were not great, but I never investigated the hazardous solid waste that fuel cells using natural gas create when they generate electricity.  First there are tons of hazmat from the spent catalysts in the fuel cell stacks as the stacks become poisoned, less efficient, and are therefore discarded.  But second, there is a massive amount of hazardous solid waste from the desulfurization of the natural gas prior to entering the fuel cell stack.

Yes natural gas has some sulfur and this has to be removed.  Natural gas also has other horrible chemicals such as Benzene, Toluene, Xylene, Chloromethane, Chloroform, etc.   In fact from data published for Delaware pipeline natural gas there is almost 0.1% by mass  of these horrible poisons in the natural gas.  In normal power generation plants that burn natural gas the poisons are destructed, but in fuel cells the poisons concentrate up with the sulfur in the desulfurization filtering media.   

Hundreds if not a thousand tons a year of Hazmat is sent for treatment from one site in Delaware (27 megawatt Bloom site at Red Lion) to a hazmat facility in Texas.  Believe it or not the fuel cells are located in the Protected Coastal Zone !!

If one adds all the fuel cell power generation sites around the country, several thousand tons a year of hazmat needs to be treated.  The generation of hazmat by FuelCell Energy and Bloom Energy is a dirty little secret that these two massively greenwashed companies have hidden for years while taking almost $2 billion in Taxpayer and Ratepayer subsidies.  

Colin Powell who is on Bloom’s board of directors had a secret meeting earlier this year with Speaker Ryan to extend the 30% Investment Tax Credit on Fuel Cells.  Of course my position is the Investment Tax Credit must end.  Electrons from these fuel cells that use natural gas are Gangrene not Green.

Bloom Energy and FuelCell Energy need to end their lies about being green and we need to move on with greener power generations that does not include either of these two greenwashed companies.  They should be remembered as having been the Bloomdoggle of early part of the 21st century.   

The politicians like Jared Huffman and Jack Markell that gave away billions of dolars to the fuel cell industry that use natural gas should be remembered as being Thermodynamic Cretins that lived in a big Swamp.    

The Green Machine should be remembered as having tried to make science great in America again.


  1. Great column that needs wide distribution. The public is unaware of the tax dollars wasted and politicians are eager to please campaign donors that help them stay in office. This should be part of the Trump Administration to drain the swamp.

    By the way, Moniz will be sent back playing Alfred E. Newman for his retirement job.

    James H. Rust, professor of nuclear engineering (ret.) aka Fe2O3

    Make Energy In America Great Again

  2. Prof Rust please share with your readers. What Me Worry Moniz will go back to Mad Science Magazine He is an idiot and a crook who hyped Ivanpah and Kemper for his boss oh Bummer

  3. 'He batted 1.000 against green fashionistas who would undermine thermodynamics' should be your epitaph.

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  6. Wow, cool post. I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real hard work to make a great article… but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though.