GE to build facility in Malta to build and test fuel cellsJuly 29, 2014
GE Fuel Cells will be building a new pilot facility in Malta
General Electric’s GE Fuel Cells unit has announced that it is building a new pilot factory in Malta, New York. General Electric has been showing a great deal of interest in fuel cells recently, especially as these energy systems become more popular in transportation and industrial sectors. General Electric believes that fuel cells are quite promising as primary energy systems, but current technology may not be sufficient enough to meet the energy needs of several sectors in an efficient manner.
GE expects that its fuel cells can convert 95% of the energy in natural gas to electricity
GE Fuel Cells will be building a pilot factory that will be responsible for the development of fuel cells that make use of natural gas rather than hydrogen. A fuel cell can potentially convert 65% of energy in natural gas to electrical power through its chemical processes. GE Fuel Cells believes that this can be upped to 95% through the use of new technology. The company’s fuel cells are expected to produce as much as 10 megawatts of electrical power.
Natural gas may be an inexpensive alternative to hydrogen
Using natural gas instead of hydrogen may be a more economic way of using fuel cells to produce electricity. Most conventional fuel cells use hydrogen, but producing hydrogen is a costly endeavor. This is because most conventional hydrogen production processes consume a large amount of energy, most of which is derived from natural gas. Using natural gas instead of hydrogen may be a cost effective way to have fuel cells produce electrical power, but natural gas is not clean like hydrogen is.
Acquiring natural gas is not an easy or safe process
Natural gas may be less expensive than hydrogen currently, but it is significantly more environmentally hazardous. Natural gas is a fossil-fuel, and its use produces carbon emissions. Moreover, extracting natural gas from the earth is an environmentally damaging process, wherein liquid is pumped into the earth in order to create fractures that release gas. This process, often referred to as “fracking,” introduces toxic chemicals to the environment that have been known to seep into water reservoirs.