"It must work with the existing fuel structure, as well as with the sort of hydrogen infrastructure that the president proposed," said Wayne Surdoval, the SECA program manager.
There are four main fuel cell technologies, and Fossil Energy looked at all of them when it set up SECA
.Two of the approaches,phosphoric acid fuel cells and molten carbonate fuel cells,work well, but they were judged to be fairly mature.Companies such as Fuel Cell Energy Inc. and UTC Fuel Cells
already sell those kinds of fuel cells commercially, and Surdoval
said that it seemed unlikely a research project could wring an order of magnitude cost reduction.
Another design, the proton exchange membrane, has been the technology of choice among those trying to develop fuel-cell-powered cars.But PEM cells are incredibly finicky about their fuel stream."Just about everything contaminates a PEM," Surdoval
said, "so the fuel processors get very expensive and complex when using traditional fossil fuels."
"To get the cost down," Surdoval
said, "it requires a new business model."
suggested that the research to date has already driven down the costs by a factor of four.