Our Fuel Cell Future Is Here and It’s Absolutely Beautiful!
Jim Willis on NGL Pipelines
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)
[Editor’s Note: Yes, fuel cell technology is real, it’s here and it’s beautiful. It’s natural gas with virtually no emissions and mover and shaker Toby Rice is pushing it.]
A fuel cell manufacturer located in Westmoreland County, PA–WATT Fuel Cell–disclosed in 2022 that its biggest investor is EQT Corporation (see EQT Invests in Fuel Cell Co. – Foresees Future Market for NatGas). WATT Fuel Cell manufactures Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (“SOFC”) stacks and systems that operate on common, readily available fuels such as natural gas and propane.
Instead of burning and combusting natural gas (or propane), those fuel sources are subjected to an electrochemical process that produces electricity (see this post for a description of the process: SWPA NatGas Fuel Cell Backed by EQT Wins Product Certification). WATT is ready to go mainstream. The company is distributing 500 of its units to customers of Hope Gas, a West Virginia-based natural gas utility.
Morgan O’Brien is the CEO of Hope Gas. O’Brien is also Chairman of the Board for WATT. Hence the connection in giving out units to Hope Gas customers.
Natural gas (or propane) enters the WATT fuel cell, interacts with a solid oxide material, and produces little to no emissions of carbon dioxide. It’s easy to see why drillers like EQT and gas utility companies like Hope Gas love fuel cells. Fuel cells represent a HUGE new market for natural gas.
WATT Fuel Cell (“WATT”) announced that it will supply 500 residential Imperium® Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (“SOFC”) to Hope Gas, Inc., a West Virginia-based natural gas utility. The natural-gas-powered fuel cells, which operate in parallel with the commercial power grid, are sized to provide a typical home with quiet, pollution-free electric power. The new fuel cells will be offered to residential customers of Hope Gas, which serves more than 112,000 customers in 35 West Virginia counties.
WATT Fuel Cell’s technology is simple, highly efficient, and reliable: fuel and air are directly converted to electric power through an electrochemical process. But, instead of relying only on pure hydrogen for fuel, WATT’s Imperium® SOFC systems generate electric power by drawing hydrogen molecules from readily available natural gas. This remarkable power-generation process requires no combustion and is almost emission free.
Ensuring reliable on-site power is vital in West Virginia, as the state has one of the least reliable electric services in the United States, causing outages to occur at four or five times the national average. The state’s power generation plants aren’t the problem; it’s the distribution grid. Reliability problems are the greatest in rural and mountainous areas, where dense forests play havoc with vulnerable power lines and limit accessibility for line maintenance.
For customers facing these power problems, the new 1.5-kilowatt (“kW”) fuel cells, offered and installed by Hope Gas, can provide a clean and reliable answer. “A typical home consumes about 1.2 kW of power on a daily average, with demand increasing or decreasing based on the use of HVAC, electronics, or appliances,” explains Caine Finnerty, founder and CEO of WATT. “The WATT Imperium fuel cell has a 1.5 kW capacity and is designed to operate continuously in the consumer’s home, generating on-site power sufficient for most needs.”
Finnerty explains that the fuel cell runs “in parallel” with the electrical grid. That means if home power demand increases beyond the fuel cell’s 1.5 kW capacity, the home will draw additional power from the electrical grid. In the event that the grid is out, the power capacity of the fuel cell remains secure and the customer is never “out” of power due to a grid interruption.
As concerns about energy access and grid reliability increase, Finnerty adds that, “our partnership with Hope Gas is bringing a resilient, cleaner power generation technology to West Virginia homeowners.” He points to statistics showing that power generated by fuel cells is, unit for unit, at least 50 percent cleaner (in terms of emissions) than power provided by the grid: “WATT’s completely catalytic system eliminates NOx and SOx, hydrocarbon slip, and particulates.”
“By leveraging West Virginia’s vast natural gas resources and advanced fuel-cell technology, we can create tremendous value for Hope’s customers, employees, and stakeholders,” says Morgan O’Brien, Hope Gas’s president and CEO. “Our vision is to expand the footprint within the state, including to underserved communities. Ultimately, this innovation will help us create new family-sustaining jobs and bring additional jobs into the state in year one,” he added.
Customers who adopt fuel-cell power units will enjoy immediate benefits, including energy security when storms or grid problems disrupt residential power. Wider adoption of the new power-generation technology will also help in the state’s energy transition away from coal by positioning the region as a fuel-cell “hub” and helping it to secure funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“A cleaner, hydrogen-based energy future is gaining momentum, and WATT’s fuel-flexible units can adapt to that future,” says Finnerty. “Today, our technology is poised to play a key role in forging a full spectrum of solutions to support energy transition expectations. Innovation and technology like ours will be vital to delivering on the world’s growing demand for energy, while also ensuring our economic and environmental needs are aligned.”
About WATT Fuel Cell
WATT Fuel Cell (www.wattfuelcell.com) is a manufacturer and developer of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (“SOFC”) stacks and systems that operate on common, readily available fuels such as propane and natural gas. WATT’s proprietary, patented additive manufacturing process (AMP) has allowed it to produce commercially viable SOFC products for small-scale and remote power applications. WATT’s Hybrid Power Management system works in tandem with renewable power sources (solar and wind) and energy storage to provide quiet, efficient, affordable, and environmentally responsible energy solutions prioritizing a return on investment for customers across the globe.
About Hope Gas
Hope Gas is a Local Distribution Company (LDC) that proudly provides gas service to more than 112,000 residential, industrial, and commercial customers in 35 West Virginia counties. Hope monitors and maintains more than 3,200 miles of distribution pipeline and approximately 2,400 miles of gathering lines that safely deliver WV natural gas to many homes and commercial or industrial sites. Hope currently employs approximately 400 employees working right in their beautiful Mountain State with the sole purpose of staying true to their company’s mission and vision in West Virginia.*
Good things are happening in West Virginia!
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