gasworld speaks to Tom Gelston, Vice-President of Finance and Investor Relations at FuelCell Energy as the company celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Coined in 1969, FuelCell Energy was originally founded as an Energy Research Corporation by early fuel cell pioneer Bernard Baker, and battery technology expert Martin Klein. After receiving funding from the US military and utility companies in the 1970’s, the fuel cell company carried out research into low-temperature fuel cells and silver-zinc battery cells, before switching its focus to high carbonate fuel systems in the 1980/1990’s.

A major milestone for the company was reached in 1992 when it successfully demonstrated a 120kW high temperature carbonate fuel cell. The company then went public and continued to improve its Direct FuelCell® technology. The year 1999 saw FuelCell Energy become FuelCell Energy by company name.

Skip ahead to the present day, and the company now delivers efficient, affordable and clean solutions for the supply, recovery and storage of energy. The company’s complete line of carbonate SureSource™ products deliver ultra-clean distributed power efficiently and economically. The fuel cell solutions provide distinct advantages over other forms of distributed power generation and now span across three continents.

Years of company development has seen FuelCell Energy create relationships with multiple strategic partners including Posco Energy, Fraunhofer and Clearway Energy.

fuellcell50th

Source: FuelCell Energy

gasworld spoke to Tom Gelston, Vice-President of Finance and Investor Relations at FuelCell Energy to find out how the company has continued to keep up with the constantly developing hydrogen market throughout the years.

“A new approach to generating hydrogen is emerging which can serve existing and developing markets at lower cost and with lower environmental impacts than existing alternatives. Hydrogen can be provided at smaller scale, local to users, while providing additional high value power and heat products,” said Gelston.

“The technology [from FuelCell Energy] uses an ultra-clean SureSource fuel cell which converts hydrocarbon fuel to hydrogen as part of the power generation process, and which can produce extra hydrogen for purification and export to local users at lower cost and with much lower emissions.”

FuelCell Energy’s smaller-scale systems can be sited near industrial hydrogen users and fuel cell vehicle filling stations, eliminating the need to truck hydrogen long distances. The company’s systems can also be sited near renewable fuel sources, such as waste water treatment plants, to produce renewable hydrogen.

“The fuel cell plant modified for hydrogen production is called a Trigeneration system because it produces power, heat and hydrogen. Lowering the cost and carbon footprint of hydrogen production globally, the Trigeneration system is based on FuelCell Energy’s proven SureSoruce fuel cell products,” Gelston told gasworld.

“The Trigeneration system concept is an extension of the standard SureSource system design, and Trigeneration systems are a medication of FuelCell Energy’s SureSource 3000 product. This configuration utilises the commercial SureSource product line, transforming the distributed power generation system into one, which is also a low-cost and efficient distributed hydrogen production system.”

fuelcell energy 50

Source: FuelCell Energy

Looking Forward

After a successful 50 years in business, the company now continues to evaluate ways in which it can improve its business, such as retaining ownership of multiple projects, which would deliver FuelCell Energy the benefits of recurring revenue and cash flow.

“We continue to develop more efficient and long last technology in our fuel cell design. Add to that the ongoing work developing the large-scale commercial carbon capture product, distributed hydrogen solutions, and long duration storage capability, we are well-positioned to bring solutions to some of the biggest environmental and energy challenges of today,” Gelston concluded.