SOFC systems with co-generation exhibit high overall efficiency. Fuel cell-based co-generation studies have typically focused on electricity and heat; pure hydrogen gas can also be generated in these systems as an energy co-product resulting in the combined production of heat, hydrogen, and power (CHHP). Co-locating a distributed generation SOFC CHHP plant with fueling stations for fuel cell vehicles enables use of lower scale (200 kg/day) hydrogen production and leverages the capital investment among all co-products, thereby lowering the unit cost of hydrogen and offering a potentially promising transition pathway to a hydrogen economy. This work focuses on the design and performance estimation of a methane-fueled 1 MW SOFC CHHP system operating at steady-state. System design and modeling are carried out employing Aspen Plus™ software where performance characteristics of the SOFC and the balance-of-plant are estimated from industry and literature sources. Analysis of the SOFC CHHP system indicates that the SOFC electrochemical performance is independent of the heat recovery and hydrogen production processes because the latter two subsystems are downstream of the SOFC power module. The system is configured such that it can preferentially produce hydrogen or low-temperature thermal energy (80 °C) as needed. Two methods of hydrogen purification and recovery from the SOFC tail-gas were analyzed: pressure swing adsorption (PSA) and electrochemical hydrogen separation (EHS). The recovered hydrogen is compressed to 425 bar for storage. The SOFC electrical efficiency at rated power is estimated at 48.1% (LHV) and the overall CHHP efficiency is 84.4% (LHV) for the EHS design concept. The amount of hydrogen recovery (85–90%) with EHS is higher than PSA for typical SOFC effluent gas compositions. The hydrogen separation energy requirement of 2.7 kWh/kg H2 for EHS is found to be about three times lower than PSA in this system. Increasing the amount of hydrogen production can be independently controlled by flowing excess methane into the system, effectively decreasing SOFC fuel utilization yet still reforming the fuel to a hydrogen-rich syngas. A case study for hydrogen overproduction is given. Operating the system to produce excess hydrogen increases the efficiency for both hydrogen separation design concepts.

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