Innovative Natural-gas Technologies for Efficiency Gain in Reliable and Affordable Thermochemical Electricity-generation
The projects that comprise ARPA-E’s INTEGRATE (Innovative Natural-gas Technologies for Efficiency Gain in Reliable and Affordable Thermochemical Electricity-generation) program will develop natural gas fueled, distributed, ultra-high efficiency electrical generation systems. The program will focus on hybrid system designs that integrate a fuel cell with a heat or reactive engine, such as a gas turbine or a reciprocating internal combustion engine. The INTEGRATE program encourages the development and demonstration of integrated hybrid systems and/or enabling component technologies.
Project teams will seek to develop devices that can generate electricity at greater than 70% efficiency while keeping system costs competitive at commercial scales of 100kW or greater. Projects will take advantage of the synergies between fuel cells and more traditional combustion engines. For example, some of the fuel that passes through a fuel cell will remain “unreacted.” This leftover fuel can be used by an engine to produce combustion products that produce additional power—improving overall system efficiency. Because the engine can be used simultaneously to generate power and act as balance-of-plant for the fuel cell, eliminating the need for some components, system cost savings could be significant.
The U.S. electric system is dominated by large, central power plants and an extensive transmission and distribution system commonly referred to as the “grid.” While this system is one of the greatest technical achievements of the 20th Century, the centralized power model remains highly energy inefficient, losing approximately two-thirds of the primary energy potential of the supplied fuel (e.g. coal or natural gas) during generation and transmission. There is an opportunity, however, to replace at least a portion of this centralized system with a more efficient and cost-effective distributed energy model. Technological advances in fields like microturbines, reciprocating engines, and fuel cells make possible a broad range of distributed energy concepts. The INTEGRATE program seeks to enable the energy, economic and emissions benefits needed to dramatically increase the adoption rate of these distributed energy technologies, improving the overall efficiency of the U.S. electric generation sector.
If successful, INTEGRATE projects will enable a revolutionary new class of electrical generation systems with applications for commercial and industrial power customers across the economy.