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Analytical investigation of high temperature 1kW solid oxide fuel cell system feasibility in methane hydrate recovery and deep ocean power generation


Methane hydrates are potential valuable energy resources. However, finding an efficient method for methane gas recovery from hydrate sediments is still a challenge. New challenges arise from increasing environmental protection. This is due in part to the technical difficulties involved in the efficient dissociation of methane hydrates at high pressures. In this study, a new approach is proposed to produce valuable products of: 1. Net methane gas recovery from the methane hydrate sediment, and 2. Deep ocean power generation. We have taken the first steps toward utilization of a fuel cell system in methane gas recovery from deep ocean hydrate sediments. An integrated high pressure and high temperature solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) and steam methane reformer (SMR) system is analyzed for this application and the recoverable amount of methane from deep ocean sediments is measured. System analysis is accomplished for two major cases regarding system performance: 1. Energy for SMR is provided by the burning part of the methane gas dissociated from the hydrate sediment. 2. Energy for SMR is provided through heat exchange with fuel cell effluent gases. We found that the total production of methane gas is higher in the first case compared to the second case. The net power generated by the fuel cell system is estimated for all cases. The primary goal of this study is to evaluate the feasibility of integrated electrochemical devices to accomplish energy efficient dissociation of methane hydrate gases in deep ocean sediments. Concepts for use of electrochemical devices (e.g., high temperature fuel cells) for methane gas recovery from hydrates and efficient electricity production from the released gases are developed. The technical feasibility of these integrated systems for operation in hydrate reservoirs in deep ocean sediments was then evaluated using combined systems of thermodynamic and heat transfer equations, which are presented in detail.

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