Up to £4.9m has been awarded to AFC Energy to install the world’s largest hydrogen-powered industrial fuel cell energy facility.

AFC, an industrial fuel cell power company, and Industrial Chemicals Ltd (ICL) have been awarded the European Union grant to install the system at ICL’s chlor-alkaline chemical plant in Essex.

It will provide over four years’ financial support for the project, which is scheduled to commence next spring.

AFC Energy’s alkaline fuel cell system will be installed in stages and is eventually expected to generate about one megawatt of power, enough to supply 500 homes.

The plant, which manufactures chlorine and caustic soda for use in household cleaning products, detergents and water treatment, produces hydrogen as a waste by-product.

This will be used as the fuel to generate power in the fuel cell system. Without this, waste hydrogen would typically be discharged into the atmosphere.

The project is part of ICL’s integrated energy generation plan. In the long-term, AFC Energy intends to provide electrical power to ICL under an ESCO (Energy Supply Company) model whereby ICL will provide its hydrogen and purchase power under long-term contracts. AFC Energy will own, operate and maintain the fuel cell systems.

The project is expected to create a significant number of UK jobs in the long term and the stationary fuel cell industry is forecast to create 500,000 jobs globally over the next decade.

Ian Williamson, chief executive officer, said: "I believe that this will help put European fuel cell technology and innovation on a global stage. I have previously emphasised our goal to move to a commercial demonstration phase for our technology and ICL have now provided the perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate cost effectiveness compared with other forms of power generation.

"Globally around 1.4m metric tonnes of hydrogen is produced by the chlor-alkali industry alone of which 15% is vented or flared when our technology could readily help the environment as well as create economic value.

“The intended fuel cell installation at ICL will act as a showcase for the economic and environmental benefits of AFC Energy’s alkaline fuel cell.”

Story: David Thorpe, News Editor