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1. WO2020112810 - DÉFLECTEUR DE CHAMP D'ÉCOULEMENT POUR CATHODE DE PILE À COMBUSTIBLE À CARBONATE FONDU

Note: Texte fondé sur des processus automatiques de reconnaissance optique de caractères. Seule la version PDF a une valeur juridique

[ EN ]

FLOW FIELD BAFFLE FOR MOLTEN CARBONATE FUEL CELL CATHODE

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

Baffle structures for a molten carbonate fuel cell cathode are provided, along with methods of operating such a fuel cell.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This application discloses and claims subject matter made as a result of activities within the scope of a joint research agreement between ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company and FuelCell Energy, Inc. that was in effect on or before the effective filing date of the present application.

Molten carbonate fuel cells utilize hydrogen and/or other fuels to generate electricity. The hydrogen may be pro vided by reforming methane or other reformable fuels in a steam reformer, such as a steam reformer located upstream of the fuel cell or integrated within the fuel cell. Fuel can also be reformed in the anode cell in a molten carbonate fuel cell, which can be operated to create conditions that are suitable for reforming fuels in the anode. Still another option can be to perform some reforming both externally and internally to the fuel cell. Reformable fuels can encompass hydrocarbonaceous materials that can be reacted with steam and/or oxygen at elevated temperature and/or pressure to produce a gaseous product that comprises hydrogen.

The basic structure of a molten carbonate fuel cell includes a cathode, an anode, and a matrix between the cathode and anode that includes one or more molten carbonate salts that serve as the electrolyte. During conventional operation of a molten carbonate fuel cell, the molten carbonate salts partially diffuse into the pores of the cathode. This diffusion of the molten carbonate salts into the pores of the cathode provides an interface region where CO2 can be converted into CO32- for transport across the electrolyte to the anode.

In addition to these basic structures, volumes adjacent to the anode and cathode are typically included in the fuel cell. This allows an anode gas flow and a cathode gas flow to be delivered to the anode and cathode, respectively. In order to provide the volume for the cathode gas flow while still providing electrical contact between the cathode and the separator plate defining the outer boundary of the fuel cell, a cathode collector

structure can be used. An anode collector can be used to similarly provide the volume for the anode gas flow.

U.S. Patent 6,509,113 describes a baffle for use in an electrode of a solid oxide fuel cell. The baffle is described as reducing the amount of fuel that is able to access the anode when the fuel concentration is at a maximum, while allowing maximum exposure of fuel to the anode when fuel concentration is at a minimum.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In an aspect, a method for producing electricity in a molten carbonate fuel cell is provided. The method can include introducing an anode input stream comprising H2, a reformable fuel, or a combination thereof into an anode gas collection volume. The anode gas collection volume can be defined by an anode surface, a first separator plate, and an anode collector providing support between the anode surface and the separator plate. The method can further include introducing a cathode input stream comprising O2 and CO2 into a cathode gas collection volume. The cathode gas collection volume can be defined by a cathode surface, a second separator plate, and a cathode collector providing support between the cathode surface and the second separator plate. The molten carbonate fuel cell can be operated at a transference of 0.97 or less and an average current density of 60 mA/cm2 or more to generate electricity, an anode exhaust comprising H2, CO, and CO2, and a cathode exhaust comprising 2.0 vol% or less CO2. Additionally or alternately, the cathode gas collection volume can be further defined by one or more baffles in contact with the second separator plate. The one or more baffles can reduce an unblocked flow cross-section of the cathode gas collection volume by 10% or more.

In another aspect, a molten carbonate fuel cell is provided. The molten carbonate fuel cell includes an anode, a first separator plate, and an anode collector in contact with the anode and the first separator plate to define an anode gas collection volume between the anode and the first separator plate. The molten carbonate fuel cell further includes a cathode, a second separator plate, and a cathode collector in contact with a cathode surface of the cathode and the second separator plate to define a cathode gas collection volume between the cathode and the second separator plate. The molten carbonate fuel cell can further include one or more baffles in contact with the second separator plate. The one or more baffles can reduce an unblocked flow cross-section of the cathode gas collection volume by 10% or

more. The molten carbonate fuel cell can further include an electrolyte matrix comprising an electrolyte between the anode and the cathode.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows an example of a cathode collector structure.

FIG. 2 shows an example of a repeating pattern unit that can be used to represent the cathode collector structure shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 shows an example of a cathode gas collection volume including a plurality of baffle structures.

FIG. 4 shows an example of a cathode collector configuration with the loop structures making contact with the cathode surface.

FIG. 5 shows an example of a molten carbonate fuel cell.

FIG. 6 shows a flow pattern example for a molten carbonate fuel cell with an anode flow direction that is aligned roughly perpendicular to a cathode flow direction.

FIG. 7 shows results from operating molten carbonate fuel cells with and without baffle structures at elevated CO2 utilization conditions.

FIG. 8 shows results from operating molten carbonate fuel cells with and without baffle structures at elevated CO2 utilization conditions.

FIG. 9 shows an example of the relationship between pressure drop and inlet cathode gas velocity.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In various aspects, molten carbonate fuel cell configurations are provided that include one or more baffle structures within the cathode gas collection volume. The baffle structures can reduce the unblocked flow cross-section of the cathode gas collection volume by 10% to 80%, such as 50% to 80%, relative to the unblocked flow cross-section that would be present in the absence of the baffle structures. This benefit can be achieved for various cathode collector structures, such cathode collector structures that result in an open area for the cathode surface of 50% or less. Such cathode collector structures typically correspond to structures where a plate-like structure is in contact with the cathode surface. It has been discovered that when operating a molten carbonate fuel cell under conditions for elevated CO2 utilization, the presence of baffles can provide an unexpected benefit in the form of providing increased transference and/or increased operating voltage. These benefits can be achieved in part due to a reduction or minimization of the amount of alternati ve ion transport that occurs under elevated CO2 utilization conditions.

The one or more baffle structures can be in contact with the separator plate (such as a bipolar plate) that defines the boundary of a single fuel cell. The one or more baffle structures can optionally be attached to the separator plate. The baffle structures can be distinguished from the cathode collector based on the baffle structures being in contact with the separator plate but not also being in contact with the cathode surface of the cathode. Instead, at least some open volume remains between the baffle structures and the cathode surface. It is noted that for portions of the cathode surface that are covered by the cathode collector, the open volume that remains can be between the baffle structure and the cathode collector.

The one or more baffle structures may be composed of any material stable at 650°C under oxidizing conditions, resistant to corrosion from the electrolyte, and with a thermal expansion coefficient compatible with the cathode collector and separator plate (such as bipolar plate) materials. Stainless steel is an example of a suitable material for the baffle structures.

FIG. 3 shows an example of a side view 310 and a top view 370 of a cathode gas collection volume 320 that includes a plurality of baffles 330. In side view 310 of FIG. 3, a cathode input gas 325 is introduced into the cathode gas collection volume 320 that is defined by the separation or gap between cathode 340 and separator plate 350 (such as a bipolar plate). Of course, the opposing side of cathode 340 is adjacent to the electrolyte 341. The cathode collector 360 provides structural support to maintain the gap corresponding to cathode gas collection volume 320. The structural support is provided by portions 322 of the cathode collector 360. As shown in side view 310 in FIG. 3, the portions 322 correspond to solid portions, but in various aspects, the structural support provided by a cathode collector may be provided by hollow structures or shell structures that reduce or minimize the reduction of the unblocked flow cross-section due to the structures. As shown in top view 370 of FIG. 3, the baffles 330 can be oriented to be roughly orthogonal to the direction of flow of cathode input gas 325 within the cathode gas collection volume 320. Thus, the baffles 330 reduce the amount of unblocked flow cross-section of the cathode gas collection volume 320 along the direction of flow of the cathode input gas.

In some aspects, a cathode gas collection volume that includes one or more baffle structures can be characterized based on the percentage of the cathode surface that CO2 can effectively reach without requiring substantial diffusion through the cathode. One type of characterization can be based on the open area of the cathode. This corresponds to the portion of the cathode surface that is not in contact with the cathode collector.

A typical value for the open area on the cathode surface in a conventional molten carbonate fuel is roughly 33%. FIG. 1 shows an example of a cathode collector configuration that would result in an open area of 33% if used in a conventional configuration. In FIG. 1, surface 110 of the collector corresponds to a plate-like surface that includes a regular pattern of openings 115. The openings 115 in surface 110 were formed by punching the surface to form loop structures 120 that extend below the plane of surface 110. In a conventional configuration, surface 110 would be placed in contact with a cathode surface, while loop structures 120 would extend upward to support a bipolar plate, separator plate, or other plate structure that is used to define the volume for receiving a cathode input gas. The plate structure would contact loop structures 120 at the bottom edge 122 of the loop structures. In FIG. 1, the spacing 140 between openings 120 is roughly the same distance as the length 124 of the openings 120. In FIG. 1, the spacing 160 between the openings is roughly half of the width 126 of the openings 120. Based on these relative distance relationships, this type of repeating pattern results in an open area of roughly 33%. A typical value for length 124 can be roughly 2.0 mm, while a typical value for width 126 can be roughly 6.0 mm. It is noted that the rectangular pattern in FIG. 1 represents a convenient pattern for illustration, and that any other convenient type of pattern and/or irregular arrangement of openings could also be used.

It is noted that in some aspects, the plate-like structure of a cathode collector can be in contact with the separator plate rather than the cathode surface. In such aspects, the open area of the cathode surface will typically be greater than 50%. In such aspects, the baffle structures may be attached to the cathode collector. Such baffle structures can be identified as structures that have open volume remaining between the baffle and the cathode surface, as opposed to the portions of the cathode collector that contact the cathode surface to provide structural support and make electrical contact.

Still another type of characterization can be based on the pressure drop caused by the baffle structures. Generally, reducing the unblocked flow cross-section for the cathode gas collection volume can result in an increased pressure drop across the cathode. Because molten carbonate fuel cells are often operated at close to ambient pressure, a pressure drop of only a few kPa across the cathode gas collection volume can potentially be significant relative to proper operation of the fuel cell. For example, FIG. 9 shows an example of the pressure drop across a cathode gas collection volume relative to the velocity of the cathode input gas. In the example shown in FIG. 9, the height of the cathode gas collection volume is 0.58 inches (~1.5 cm). The length of the cathode gas collection volume is 27 inches (68.5 cm). Thus, the pressure drop shown corresponds to a pressure drop for gas after traversing the 68.5 cm of length of the cathode (i.e., the length of the cathode gas collection volume). As shown in FIG. 9, the pressure drop is less than 1 kPa at low velocities, but has a parabolic increase with increasing velocity for the cathode input gas. It is noted that for conventional molten carbonate fuel cell operation for power generation, typical values of the cathode input gas flow velocity are roughly 5 m/s or less. By contrast, when operating a fuel cell for carbon capture, the cathode input gas flow velocity can be 5 m/s to 15 m/s, or possibly higher. At such higher values for the cathode input gas flow velocity, the pressure drop in FIG. 9 can be on the order of 2 kPa - 5 kPa with only 10% of the flow channel blocked. Introducing one or more baffle structures into the cathode gas collection volume can reduce the unblocked flow cross-section, which would cause a corresponding increase in the pressure drop curve. As a result, selecting an appropriate baffle structure can include balancing the amount of pressure drop across the cathode gas collection volume with the other improvements in fuel cell operation. In particular, sufficient pressure in the cathode input gas flow should be available to accommodate the pressure drop that is caused due to the reduction in the unblocked flow cross-section of the cathode gas collection volume.

The baffle structures described here can provide additional benefits when operating an MCFC to have enhanced CO2 utilization, such as when operating a fuel cell at operating conditions that include a transference of 0.97 or less, or 0.95 or less. One difficulty in using MCFCs for elevated CO2 utilization is that the operation of the fuel cell can potentially be kinetically limited if one or more of the reactants required for fuel cell operation is present in low quantities. For example, when using a cathode input stream with a CO2 content of 4.0 vol% or less, achieving a CO2 utilization of 75% or more corresponds to a cathode outlet concentration of 1.0 vol% or less. However, a cathode outlet concentration of 1.0 vol% or less does not necessarily mean that the CO2 is evenly distributed throughout the cathode. Instead, the concentration will typically vary within the cathode due to a variety of factors, such as the flow patterns in the anode and the cathode. The variations in CO2

concentration can result in portions of the cathode where CO2 concentrations substantially below 1.0 vol% are present.

Conventional operating conditions for molten carbonate fuel cells typically correspond to conditions where the amount of alternative ion transport is reduced, minimized, or non-existent. The amount of alternative ion transport can be quantified based on the transference for a fuel cell. The transference is defined as the fraction of ions transported across the molten carbonate electrolyte that correspond to carbonate ions, as opposed to hydroxide ions and/or other ions. A convenient way to determine the transference can be based on comparing a) the measured change in CO2 concentration at the cathode inlet versus the cathode outlet with b) the amount of carbonate ion transport required to achieve the current density being produced by the fuel cell. It is noted that this definition for the transference assumes that back-transport of CO2 from the anode to the cathode is minimal. It is believed that such back-transport is minimal for the operating conditions described herein. For the CO2 concentrations, the cathode input stream and/or cathode output stream can be sampled, with the sample diverted to a gas chromatograph for determination of the CO2 content. The average current density for the fuel cell can be measured in any convenient manner.

Under conventional operating conditions, the transference can be relatively close to 1.0, such as 0.98 or more and/or such as having substantially no alternative ion transport. A transference of 0.98 or more means that 98% or more of the ionic charge transported across the electrolyte corresponds to carbonate ions. It is noted that hydroxide ions have a charge of -1 while carbonate ions have a charge of -2, so two hydroxide ions need to be transported across the electrolyte to result in the same charge transfer as transport of one carbonate ion.

In contrast to conventional operating conditions, operating a molten carbonate fuel cell with transference of 0.95 or less (or 0.97 or less when operating with increased open area and/or reduced unblocked flow cross-section) can increase the effective amount of carbonate ion transport that is achieved, even though a portion of the current density generated by the fuel cell is due to transport of ions other than carbonate ions. In order to operate a fuel cell with a transference of 0.97 or less, or 0.95 or less, depletion of CO2 has to occur within the fuel cell cathode. It has been discovered that such depletion of CO2 within the cathode tends to be localized. As a result, many regions within a fuel cell cathode can still have sufficient CO2 for normal operation. These regions contain additional CO2 that would be desirable to transport across an electrolyte, such as for carbon capture. However, the CO2 in such regions is typically not transported across the electrolyte when operating under conventional conditions. By selecting operating conditions with a transference of 0.97 or less, or 0.95 or less, the regions with sufficient CO2 can be used to transport additional CO2 while the depleted regions can operate based on alternative ion transport. This can increase the practical limit for the amount of CO2 captured from a cathode input stream.

One of the advantages of transport of alternative ions across the electrolyte is that the fuel cell can continue to operate, even though a sufficient number of CO2 molecules are not kinetically available. This can allow additional CO2 to be transferred from cathode to anode even though the amount of CO2 present in the cathode would conventionally be considered insufficient for normal fuel cell operation. This can allow the fuel cell to operate with a measured CO2 utilization closer to 100%, while the calculated CO2 utilization (based on current density) can be at least 3% greater than the measured CO2 utilization, or at least 5% greater, or at least 10% greater, or at least 20% greater. It is noted that alternative ion transport can allow a fuel cell to operate with a current density that would correspond to more than 100% calculated CO2 utilization.

Although transport of alterative ions can allow a fuel cell to maintain a target current density, it has further been discovered that transport of alternative ions across the electrolyte can also reduce or minimize the lifetime of a molten carbonate fuel cell. Thus, mitigation of this loss in fuel cell lifetime is desirable. It has been unexpectedly discovered that increasing the open area of the cathode surface and/or decreasing the unblocked flow cross-section can reduce or minimize the amount of alterative ion transport while performing elevated CO2 capture.

In some aspects, elevated CO2 capture can be defined based on the amount of transference, such as a transference of 0.97 or less, or 0.95 or less, or 0.93 or less, or 0.90 or less. Maintaining an operating condition with transference of 0.97 or less can typically also result in a CO2 concentration in the cathode output stream of 2.0 vol% or less, or 1.5 vol% or less, or 1.0 vol% or less. At higher CO2 concentrations in the cathode output stream, there is typically not sufficient local depletion of CO2 to result in lower transference values.

The presence of elevated CO2 capture can also be indicated by other factors, although such other factors are by themselves typically not a sufficient condition to indicate elevated CO2 capture. For example, when using a lower CO2 concentration cathode input stream, elevated CO2 capture can in some aspects correspond to a CO2 utilization of 70% or

more, or 75% or more, or 80% or more, such as up to 95% or possibly still higher. Examples of lower concentration sources of CO2 can correspond to CO2 sources that result in cathode input streams containing 5.0 vol% or less of CO2, or 4.0 vol% or less, such as down to 1.5 vol% or possibly lower. The exhaust from a natural gas turbine is an example of a CO2-containing stream that often has a CO2 content of 5.0 vol% or less of CO2, or 4.0 vol% or less. Additionally or alternately, elevated CO2 capture can correspond to operating conditions where the molten carbonate fuel cell is used to generate a substantial amount of current density, such as 60 mA/cm2 or more, or 80 mA/cm2 or more, or 100 mA/cm2 or more, or 120 mA/cm2 or more, or 150 mA/cm2 or more, or 200 mA/cm2 or more, such as up to 300 mA/cm2 or possibly still higher. It is noted that alternative ion transport can also be indicated by a reduced operating voltage for a fuel cell, as the reaction pathway for alternative ion transport has a lower theoretical voltage than the reaction pathway that uses carbonate ions.

Conventionally, the CO2 concentration in the cathode exhaust of a molten carbonate fuel cell is maintained at a relatively high value, such as 5 vol% CO2 or more, or 10 vol% CO2 or more, or possibly still higher. Additionally, molten carbonate fuel cells are typically operated at CO2 utilization values of 70% or less. When either of these conditions are present, the dominant mechanism for transport of charge across the molten carbonate electrolyte is transport of carbonate ions. While it is possible that transport of alternative ions (such as hydroxide ions) across the electrolyte occurs under such conventional conditions, the amount of alternative ion transport is de minimis, corresponding to 2% or less of the current density (or equivalently, a transference of 0.98 or more).

As an alternative to describing operating conditions in terms of transference, the operating conditions can be described based on measured CO2 utilization and“calculated” CO2 utilization based on average current density. In this discussion, the measured CO2 utilization corresponds to the amount of CO2 that is removed from the cathode input stream. This can be determined, for example, by using gas chromatography to determine the CO2 concentration in the cathode input stream and the cathode output stream. This can also be referred to as the actual CO2 utilization, or simply as the CO2 utilization. In this discussion, the calculated CO2 utilization is defined as the CO2 utilization that would occur if all of the current density generated by the fuel cell was generated based on transport of CO32- ions across the electrolyte (i.e., transport of ions based on CO2). The difference in measured CO2 utilization and the calculated CO2 utilization can be used individually to characterize the

amount of alternative ion transport and/or these values can be used to calculate the transference, as described above.

In some aspects, any convenient type of electrolyte suitable for operation of a molten carbonate fuel cell can be used. Many conventional MCFCs use a eutectic carbonate mixture as the carbonate electrolyte, such as a eutectic mixture of 62 mol% lithium carbonate and 38 mol% potassium carbonate (62% Li2CO3/38% K2CO3) or a eutectic mixture of 52 mol% lithium carbonate and 48 mol% sodium carbonate (52% Li2CO3/48% Na2CO3 ). Other eutectic mixtures are also available, such as a eutectic mixture of 40 mol% lithium carbonate and 60 mol% potassium carbonate (40% Li2CO3/60% K2CO3). While eutectic mixtures of carbonate can be convenient as an electrolyte for various reasons, non-eutectic mixtures of carbonates can also be suitable. Generally, such non-eutectic mixtures can include various combinations of lithium carbonate, sodium carbonate, and/or potassium carbonate. Optionally, lesser amounts of other metal carbonates can be included in the electrolyte as additives, such as other alkali carbonates (rubidium carbonate, cesium carbonate), or other types of metal carbonates such as barium carbonate, bismuth carbonate, lanthanum carbonate, or tantalum carbonate.

Definitions

Open Area: The open area of a cathode surface (adjacent to the cathode current collector) is defined as the percentage of the cathode surface that is not in contact with the cathode current collector. FIG. 2 shows an example of a repeating unit (i.e., unit cell) that can be used to represent the open area for a cathode surface that is in contact with the plate-like surface of a cathode collector. The example repeat unit in FIG. 2 corresponds to the repeating pattern (unit cell) that can be used to represent the structure shown in FIG. 1. In FIG. 2, the dark areas correspond to areas where the cathode collector is in contact with the cathode surface, while the light areas correspond to areas where gas can pass between the cathode surface and the cathode collector.

As an example of a calculation to determine open area, distance 126 in FIG. 2 can be set to 3.0, distance 266 can be set to 0.75, distance 124 can be set to 1.0, and distance 244 can be set to 0.5. It is noted that adding both distances 244 results in the value of distance 140 (1.5) from FIG. 1. Similarly, adding both distances 266 together results in the value of distance 160 (1.0) from FIG. 1. Based on the distances in FIG. 2, the open area 210 for the configuration shown in FIG. 2 is 33%. This can be determined, for example, by noting that the area of open area 210 is 3.0 * 1.0 = 3.0, while the area of the total repeating unit is (0.75 + 3.0 + 0.75) * (0.5 + 1.0 + 0.5) = 9.0. Thus, the open area percentage is 3.0 / 9.0, or 33%. It is noted that the distances in FIG. 2 are normalized, and therefore are in arbitrary length units.

Unblocked Flow Cross-Section: In various aspects, a cathode collector structure can provide structural support to maintain a distance or gap between the surface of the cathode and the separator plate (such as bipolar plate) that corresponds to the end of a fuel cell. This gap between the cathode and the separator plate corresponds to a cathode gas collection volume that can receive cathode input gas. An unblocked flow cross-section can be defined based on the direction of flow of the cathode input gas within the cathode gas collection volume.

In this discussion, the direction of flow corresponds to the average path between the cathode gas inlet and the cathode gas outlet. The central axis of the cathode gas collection volume is defined as a line passing through the geometric center of the cathode gas collection volume that is roughly parallel to the direction of flow. The flow cross-section corresponds to the average cross-sectional area of the cathode gas collection volume along the direction of flow based on cross-sections that are perpendicular to the central axis. It is noted that the cathode gas collection volume will typically correspond to a parallelpiped, so that the central axis will correspond to a straight line. However, for a cathode gas collection volume having another type of shape, the central axis could potentially correspond to a curved line.

The flow cross-section can potentially include both blocked flow cross-section and unblocked flow cross-section. Examples of potential blocking structures can include, but are not limited to, baffle structures and/or the cathode collector structure. The blocked flow cross-section is defined as the portion (percentage) of the flow cross-section where a line parallel to the central axis will intersect with a solid structure within the cathode gas collection volume. The unblocked flow cross-section is defined as the portion of the flow cross-section where such a parallel line does not intersect with a solid structure within the cathode gas collection volume.

In various aspects, one or more baffle structures can also be included within the cathode gas collection volume. These baffle structures do not provide structural support, and therefore are not part of the cathode collector. However, the baffle structures do represent additional blocked flow cross-section. Thus, the presence of the baffle structures reduces the unblocked flow cross-section relative to what the“unblocked” area would be if only the cathode collector was present. In this discussion, the amount of reduction in the unblocked

flow cross-section due to the presence of baffles is defined as the difference in the unblocked flow cross-section with and without the baffles.

The amount of reduction in the unblocked flow cross-section due to the presence of baffles can be 10% to 80%. In some aspects, the amount of reduction can be 10% to 50%, or 25% to 50%, or 10% to 80%, or 25% to 80%, or 50% to 80%. It is noted that typical cathode collector structures result in some blocked flow cross-section without any baffle being present. The blocked flow cross-section due to some cathode collector structures can be on the order of 10%. The amount of reduction in unblocked flow cross-section by the baffle structures is in addition to any reduction due to the presence of the cathode collector structure in a fuel cell.

Conventionally, a cathode collector structure such as the structure shown in FIG. 1 would be oriented so that plate-like surface 110 is in contact with the cathode surface. In various aspects, instead of using a conventional configuration, a cathode collector (such as the structures shown in FIG. 1) can be oriented so that the bottom edges 122 of the loop structures 120 are in contact with the cathode surface, while plate-like surface 1 10 is in contact with the separator plate. This type of configuration can potentially provide an open area at the cathode surface of 45% or more, or 50% or more, or 60% or more, such as up to 90% or possibly still higher. Baffle structures can also be effective for such configurations with open area at the cathode surface of greater than 50%, but the amount of benefit may be reduced relative to configurations where the open area at the cathode surface is less than 50%.

FIG. 4 shows an example of this type of configuration, where the bottom edges 122 of loop structures 120 are in contact with the cathode surface 730. As shown in FIG. 4, having bottom edges 122 of loop structures 120 as the contact points with the cathode surface can substantially increase the open area on the cathode surface. Similarly, the average cathode gas lateral diffusion length can be reduced or minimized by a configuration similar to FIG. 4. However, due to the more limited nature of the electrical contact between the cathode surface and the collector, the average contact area diffusion length can be increased. As an example, the cathode collector shown in FIG. 1 could be used in a configuration where the bottom edges 122 of loop structures 120 are in contact with cathode surface 730. FIG. 4 also shows an optional open mesh structure 750 that can be used with a cathode collector in the configuration shown in FIG. 4 in order to improve electrical contact with the cathode surface. Conditions for Molten Carbonate Fuel Operation with Alternative Ion Transport

In various aspects, the operating conditions for a molten carbonate fuel cell (such as a cell as part of a fuel cell stack) can be selected to correspond to a transference of 0.97 or less, thereby causing the cell to transport both carbonate ion and at least one type of alternative ion across the electrolyte. In addition to transference, operating conditions that can indicate that a molten carbonate fuel cell is operating with transport of alternative ions include, but are not limited to, CO2 concentration for the cathode input stream, the CO2 utilization in the cathode, the current density for the fuel cell, the voltage drop across the cathode, the voltage drop across the anode, and the O2 concentration in the cathode input stream. Additionally, the anode input stream and fuel utilization in the anode can be generally selected to provide the desired current density.

Generally, to cause alternative ion transport, the CO2 concentration in at least a portion of the cathode needs to be sufficiently low while operating the fuel cell to provide a sufficiently high current density. Having a sufficiently low CO2 concentration in the cathode typically corresponds to some combination of a low CO2 concentration in the cathode input flow, a high CO2 utilization, and/or a high average current density. However, such conditions alone are not sufficient to indicate a transference of 0.97 or less, or 0.95 or less.

For example, a molten carbonate fuel cell with a cathode open area of roughly 33% was operated with a CO2 cathode inlet concentration of 19 vol%, 75% CO2 utilization, and 160 mA/cm2 of average current density. These conditions corresponded to a difference between calculated CO2 utilization and measured CO2 utilization of less than 1%. Thus, the presence of substantial alternative ion transport/a transference of 0.97 or less, or 0.95 or less, cannot be inferred simply from the presence of a high CO2 utilization and a high average current density.

As another example, a molten carbonate fuel cell with a cathode open area of between 50% and 60% was operated with a CO2 cathode inlet concentration of 4.0 vol%, 89% CO2 utilization, and 100 mA/cm2 of current density. These conditions corresponded to a transference of at least 0.97. Thus, the presence of a transference of 0.95 or less/substantial alternative ion transport cannot be inferred simply from the presence of high CO2 utilization in combination with low CO2 concentration in the cathode input stream.

As still another example, a molten carbonate fuel cell with a cathode open area of between 50% and 60% was operated with a CO2 cathode inlet concentration of 13 vol%, 68% CO2 utilization, and 100 mA/cm2 of current density. These conditions corresponded to a transference of at least 0.98.

In this discussion, operating an MCFC to transport alternative ions across the electrolyte is defined as operating the MCFC so that more than a de minimis amount of alternative ions are transported. It is possible that minor amounts of alternative ions are transported across an MCFC electrolyte under a variety of conventional conditions. Such alternative ion transport under conventional conditions can correspond to a transference of 0.98 or more, which corresponds to transport of alternative ions corresponding to less than 2.0% of the current density for the fuel cell.

In this discussion, operating an MCFC to cause alternative ion transport is defined as operating an MCFC with a transference of 0.95 or less, so that 5.0% or more of the current density (or, 5.0% or more of the calculated CO2 utilization) corresponds to current density based on transport of alternative ions, or 10% or more, or 20% or more, such as up to 35% or possibly still higher. It is noted that in some aspects, operating with increased open area and/or reduced unblocked flow cross-section can reduce or minimize the amount of alternative ion transport under conditions that would otherwise result in a transference of 0.95 or less. Thus, by operating with increased open area and/or reduced unblocked flow cross-section, some operating conditions with elevated CO2 capture/ substantial alternative ion transport may correspond to a transference of 0.97 or less.

In this discussion, operating an MCFC to cause substantial alternative ion transport (i.e., to operate with a transference of 0.95 or less, or 0.97 or less with increased open area and/or reduced unblocked flow cross-section) is further defined to correspond to operating an MCFC with voltage drops across the anode and cathode that are suitable for power generation. The total electrochemical potential difference for the reactions in a molten carbonate fuel cell is ~1.04 V. Due to practical considerations, an MCFC is typically operated to generate current at a voltage near 0.7 V or about 0.8 V. This corresponds to a combined voltage drop across the cathode, electrolyte, and anode of roughly 0.34 V. In order to maintain stable operation, the combined voltage drop across the cathode, electrolyte, and anode can be less than -0.5 V, so that the resulting current generated by the fuel cell is at a voltage of 0.55 V or more, or 0.6 V or more.

With regard to the anode, one condition for operating with substantial alternative ion transport can be to have an H2 concentration of 8.0 vol% or more, or 10 vol% or more in the region where the substantial alternative ion transport occurs. Depending on the aspect, this could correspond to a region near the anode inlet, a region near the cathode outlet, or a combination thereof. Generally, if the H2 concentration in a region of the anode is too low, there will be insufficient driving force to generate substantial alternative ion transport.

Suitable conditions for the anode can also include providing the anode with H2, a reformable fuel, or a combination thereof, and operating with any convenient fuel utilization that generates a desired current density, including fuel utilizations ranging from 20% to 80%. In some aspects this can correspond to a traditional fuel utilization amount, such as a fuel utilization of 60% or more, or 70% or more, such as up to 85% or possibly still higher. In other aspects, this can correspond to a fuel utilization selected to provide an anode output stream with an elevated content of H2 and/or an elevated combined content of H2 and CO (i.e., syngas), such as a fuel utilization of 55% or less, or 50% or less, or 40% or less, such as down to 20% or possibly still lower. The H2 content in the anode output stream and/or the combined content of H2 and CO in the anode output stream can be sufficient to allow generation of a desired current density. In some aspects, the H2 content in the anode output stream can be 3.0 vol% or more, or 5.0 vol% or more, or 8.0 vol% or more, such as up to 15 vol% or possibly still higher. Additionally or alternately, the combined amount of H2 and CO in the anode output stream can be 4.0 vol% or more, or 6.0 vol% or more, or 10 vol% or more, such as up to 20 vol% or possibly still higher. Optionally, when the fuel cell is operated with low fuel utilization, the H2 content in the anode output stream can be in a higher range, such as an H2 content of 10 vol% to 25 vol%. In such aspects, the syngas content of the anode output stream can be correspondingly higher, such as a combined H2 and CO content of 15 vol% to 35 vol%. Depending on the aspect, the anode can be operated to increase the amount of electrical energy generated, to increase the amount of chemical energy generated, (i.e., H2 generated by reforming that is available in the anode output stream), or operated using any other convenient strategy that is compatible with operating the fuel cell to cause alternati ve ion transport.

In addition to having sufficient H2 concentration in the anode, one or more locations within the cathode need to have a low enough CO2 concentration so that the more favorable pathway of carbonate ion transport is not readily available. In some aspects, this can correspond to having a CO2 concentration in the cathode outlet stream (i.e., cathode exhaust) of 2.0 vol% or less, or 1.0 vol% or less, or 0.8 vol% or less. It is noted that due to variations within the cathode, an average concentration of 2.0 vol% or less (or 1.0 vol% or less, or 0.8 vol% or less) in the cathode exhaust can correspond to a still lower CO2 concentration in localized regions of the cathode. For example, in a cross-flow configuration, at a comer of the fuel cell that is adjacent to the anode inlet and the cathode outlet, the CO2 concentration can be lower than a comer of the same fuel cell that is adjacent to the anode outlet and the cathode outlet. Similar localized variations in CO2 concentration can also occur in fuel cells having a co-current or counter-current configuration.

In addition to having a low concentration of CO2, the localized region of the cathode can also have 1.0 vol% or more of O2, or 2.0 vol% or more. In the fuel cell, O2 is used to form the hydroxide ion that allows for alternative ion transport. If sufficient O2 is not present, the fuel cell will not operate, as both the carbonate ion transport and alternative ion transport mechanisms are dependent on O2 availability. With regard to O2 in the cathode input stream, in some aspects this can correspond to an oxygen content of 4.0 vol% to 15 vol%, or 6.0 vol% to 10 vol%.

It has been observed that a sufficient amount of water should also be present for alternative ion transport to occur, such as 1.0 vol% or more, or 2.0 vol% or more. Without being bound by any particular theory, if water is not available in the cathode when attempting to operate with substantial alterative ion transport, the fuel cell appears to degrade at a much more rapid rate than the deactivation rate that is observed due to alternative ion transport with sufficient water available. It is noted that because air is commonly used as an O2 source, and since H2O is one of the products generated during combustion, a sufficient amount of water is typically available within the cathode.

Due to the non-uniform distribution of cathode gas and/or anode gas during operation of a molten carbonate fuel cell for elevated CO2 capture, it is believed that one or more of the comers and/or edges of the molten carbonate fuel cell will typically have a substantially higher density of alternative ion transport. The one or more comers can correspond to locations where the CO2 concentration in the cathode is lower than average, or a location where the H2 concentration in the anode is greater than average, or a combination thereof.

In this discussion, a fuel cell can correspond to a single cell, with an anode and a cathode separated by an electrolyte. The anode and cathode can receive input gas flows to facilitate the respective anode and cathode reactions for transporting charge across the electrolyte and generating electricity. A fuel cell stack can represent a plurality of cells in an integrated unit. Although a fuel cell stack can include multiple fuel cells, the fuel cells can typically be connected in parallel and can function (approximately) as if they collectively represented a single fuel cell of a larger size. When an input flow is delivered to the anode or cathode of a fuel cell stack, the fuel stack can include flow channels for dividing the input flow between each of the cells in the stack and flow channels for combining the output flows from the individual cells, in this discussion, a fuel cell array can be used to refer to a plurality of fuel cells (such as a plurality of fuel cell stacks) that are arranged in series, in parallel, or in any other convenient manner (e.g., in a combination of series and parallel). A fuel cell array can include one or more stages of fuel cells and/or fuel cell stacks, where the anode/cathode output from a first stage may serve as the anode/cathode input for a second stage. It is noted that the anodes in a fuel cell array do not have to be connected in the same way as the cathodes in the array. For convenience, the input to the first anode stage of a fuel cell array may be referred to as the anode input for the array, and the input to the first cathode stage of the fuel cell array may be referred to as the cathode input to the array. Similarly, the output from the final anode/cathode stage may be referred to as the anode/cathode output from the array. In aspects where a fuel cell stack includes separate reforming elements, it is noted that the anode input flow may first pass through a reforming element prior to entering one or more anodes associated with the reforming element.

It should be understood that reference to use of a fuel cell herein typically denotes a“fuel cell stack” composed of individual fuel cells, and more generally refers to use of one or more fuel cell stacks in fluid communication. Individual fuel cell elements (plates) can typically be“stacked” together in a rectangular array called a“fuel cell stack.” Additional types of elements can also be included in the fuel cell stack, such as reforming elements. This fuel cell stack can typically take a feed stream and distribute reactants among all of the indi vidual fuel cell elements and can then collect the products from each of these elements. When viewed as a unit, the fuel cell stack in operation can be taken as a whole even though composed of many (often tens or hundreds) of individual fuel cell elements. These individual fuel cell elements can typically have similar voltages (as the reactant and product concentrations are similar), and the total power output can result from the summation of all of the electrical currents in all of the cell elements, when the elements are electrically connected in series. Stacks can also be arranged in a series arrangement to produce high voltages. A parallel arrangement can boost the current. If a sufficiently large volume fuel cell stack is available to process a given exhaust flow, the systems and methods described herein can be used with a single molten carbonate fuel cell stack. In other aspects of the invention, a plurality of fuel cell stacks may be desirable or needed for a variety of reasons.

For the purposes of this invention, unless otherwise specified, the term“fuel cell” should be understood to also refer to and/or is defined as including a reference to a fuel cell stack composed of a set of one or more individual fuel cell elements for which there is a single input and output, as that is the manner in which fuel cells are typically employed in practice. Similarly, the term fuel cells (plural), unless otherwise specified, should be understood to also refer to and/or is defined as including a plurality of separate fuel cell stacks. In other words, all references within this document, unless specifically noted, can refer interchangeably to the operation of a fuel cell stack as a“fuel cell.” For example, the volume of exhaust generated by a commercial scale combustion generator may be too large for processing by a fuel cell (i.e., a single stack) of conventional size. In order to process the full exhaust, a plurality of fuel cells (i.e., two or more separate fuel cells or fuel cell stacks) can be arranged in parallel, so that each fuel cell can process (roughly) an equal portion of the combustion exhaust. Although multiple fuel cells can be used, each fuel cell can typically be operated in a generally similar manner, given its (roughly) equal portion of the combustion exhaust.

Example of Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell Operation: Cross Flow Orientation for Cathode and

Anode

FIG. 5 shows a general example of a portion of a molten carbonate fuel cell stack. The portion of the stack shown in FIG. 5 corresponds to a fuel cell 301. In order to isolate the fuel cell from adjacent fuel cells in the stack and/or other elements in the stack, the fuel cell includes separator plates 310 and 311. In FIG. 5, the fuel cell 301 includes an anode 330 and a cathode 350 that are separated by an electrolyte matrix 340 that contains an electrolyte 342. In various aspects, cathode 350 can correspond to a dual-layer (or multilayer) cathode. Anode collector 320 provides electrical contact between anode 330 and the other anodes in the stack, while cathode collector 360 provides similar electrical contact between cathode 350 and the other cathodes in the fuel cell stack. Additionally, anode collector 320 allows for introduction and exhaust of gases from anode 330, while cathode collector 360 allows for introduction and exhaust of gases from cathode 350.

During operation, CO2 is passed into the cathode collector 360 along with O2. The CO2 and O2 diffuse into the porous cathode 350 and travel to a cathode interface region near the boundary of cathode 350 and electrolyte matrix 340. In the cathode interface region, a portion of electrolyte 342 can be present in the pores of cathode 350. The CO2 and O2 can be converted near/in the cathode interface region to carbonate ion ( CO32-), which can then be transported across electrolyte 342 (and therefore across electrolyte matrix 340) to facilitate generation of electrical current. In aspects where alterative ion transport is occurring, a portion of the O2 can be converted to an alternative ion, such as a hydroxide ion or a peroxide ion, for transport in electrolyte 342. After transport across the electrolyte 342, the carbonate ion (or alternative ion) can reach an anode interface region near the boundary of electrolyte matrix 340 and anode 330. The carbonate ion can be converted back to CO2 and H2O in the presence of H2, releasing electrons that are used to form the current generated by the fuel cell. The H2 and/or a hydrocarbon suitable for forming H2 are introduced into anode 330 via anode collector 320.

The flow direction within the anode of a molten carbonate fuel cell can have any convenient orientation relative to the flow direction within a cathode. One option can be to use a cross-flow configuration, so that the flow direction within the anode is roughly at a 90° angle relative to the flow direction within the cathode. This type of flow configuration can have practical benefits, as using a cross-flow configuration can allow the manifolds and/or piping for the anode inlets/outlets to be located on different sides of a fuel cell stack from the manifolds and/or piping for the cathode inlets/outlets.

FIG. 6 schematically shows an example of a top view for a fuel cell cathode, along with arrows indicating the direction of flow within the fuel cell cathode and the corresponding fuel cell anode. In FIG. 6, arrow 405 indicates the direction of flow within cathode 450, while arrow 425 indicates the direction of flow with the anode (not shown).

Because the anode and cathode flows are oriented at roughly 90° relative to each other, the anode and cathode flow patterns can contribute to having different reaction conditions in various parts of the cathode. The different conditions can be illustrated by considering the reaction conditions in the four comers of the cathode. In the illustration in FIG. 6, the reaction conditions described herein are qualitatively similar to the reaction conditions for a fuel cell operating with a CO2 utilization of 75% or more (or 80% or more).

Comer 482 corresponds to a portion of the fuel cell that is close to the entry point for both the cathode input flow and the anode input flow. As a result, the concentration of both CO2 (in the cathode) and H2 (in the anode) is relatively high in comer 482. Based on the high concentrations, it is expected that portions of the fuel cell near comer 482 can operate under expected conditions, with substantially no transport of ions other than carbonate ions across the electrolyte.

Comer 484 corresponds to a portion of the fuel cell that is close to the entry point for the cathode input flow and close to the exit point for the anode output flow. In locations near comer 484, the amount of current density may be limited due to the reduced concentration of H2 in the anode, depending on the fuel utilization. However, sufficient CO2 should be present so that any ions transported across the electrolyte substantially correspond to carbonate ions.

Comer 486 corresponds to a portion of the fuel cell that is close to the exit point for the anode output flow and close to the exit point for the cathode output flow. In locations near comer 486, due to the lower concentrations of both H2 (in the anode) and CO2 (in the cathode), little or no current would be expected due to the low driving force for the fuel cell reaction.

Comer 488 corresponds to a portion of the fuel cell that is close to the entry point for the anode input flow and close to the exit point for the cathode output flow. The relatively high availability of hydrogen at locations near comer 488 would be expected to result in substantial current density. However, due to the relatively low concentration of CO2, a substantial amount of transport of hydroxide ions and/or other alternative ions can occur. Depending on the aspect, the substantial amount of alternative ion transport can increase the calculated CO2 utilization by 5% or more, or 10% or more, or 15% or more, or 20% or more. Additionally or alternately, the transference can be 0.97 or less, or 0.95 or less, or 0.90 or less, or 0.85 or less, or 0.80 or less. The transport of substantial amounts of alternative ions across the electrolyte can temporarily allow higher current densities to be maintained at locations near comer 488. However, the transport of alternative ions can also degrade the cathode and/or anode structures, resulting in lower (and possibly no) current density over time at locations near comer 488. It is noted that at lower amounts of alternative ion transport (such as a transference of 0.96 or more, or 0.98 or more), the amount of lifetime degradation is not as severe.

It has been discovered that when alternative ion transport becomes significant at one or more locations within the fuel cell, the fuel cell will quickly begin to degrade. This is believed to be due to the one or more locations degrading and not providing any further current density. As a region(s) stops contributing to the desired current density, the remaining locations in the fuel cell have to operate at higher current densities in order to maintain a constant overall (average) current density for the fuel cell. This can cause the region for transport of alternative ions to grow, resulting in an expanding portion of the fuel cell that degrades and eventually stops working. Alternatively, degradation of a portion of the fuel cell can result in reduced total current density from the cell, which is also undesirable. Operating a fuel cell with increased open area and/or reduced unblocked flow cross-section can reduce the amount of alternative ion transport that occurs during elevated CO2 capture, allowing for longer fuel cell lifetimes.

Anode Inputs and Outputs

In various aspects, the anode input stream for an MCFC can include hydrogen, a hydrocarbon such as methane, a hydrocarbonaceous or hydrocarbon-like compound that may contain heteroatoms different from C and H, or a combination thereof. The source of the hydrogen/hydrocarbon/hydrocarbon-like compounds can be referred to as a fuel source. In some aspects, most of the methane (or other hydrocarbon, hydrocarbonaceous, or hydrocarbon-like compound) fed to the anode can typically be fresh methane. In this description, a fresh fuel such as fresh methane refers to a fuel that is not recycled from another fuel cell process. For example, methane recycled from the anode outlet stream back to the anode inlet may not be considered“fresh” methane, and can instead be described as reclaimed methane.

The fuel source used can be shared with other components, such as a turbine that uses a portion of the fuel source to provide a CO2-containing stream for the cathode input. The fuel source input can include water in a proportion to the fuel appropriate for reforming the hydrocarbon (or hydrocarbon-like) compound in the reforming section that generates hydrogen. For example, if methane is the fuel input for reforming to generate H2, the molar ratio of water to fuel can be from about one to one to about ten to one, such as at least about two to one. A ratio of four to one or greater is typical for external reforming, but lower values can be typical for internal reforming. To the degree that H2 is a portion of the fuel source, in some optional aspects no additional water may be needed in the fuel, as the oxidation of H2 at the anode can tend to produce H2O that can be used for reforming the fuel. The fuel source can also optionally contain components incidental to the fuel source (e.g., a natural gas feed can contain some content of CO2 as an additional component). For example, a natural gas feed can contain CO2, N2, and/or other inert (noble) gases as additional components. Optionally, in some aspects the fuel source may also contain CO, such as CO from a recycled portion of the anode exhaust. An additional or alternate potential source for CO in the fuel into a fuel cell assembly can be CO generated by steam reforming of a hydrocarbon fuel performed on the fuel prior to entering the fuel cell assembly.

More generally, a variety of types of fuel streams may be suitable for use as an anode input stream for the anode of a molten carbonate fuel cell. Some fuel streams can correspond to streams containing hydrocarbons and/or hydrocarbon-like compounds that may also include heteroatoms different from C and H. In this discussion, unless otherwise specified, a reference to a fuel stream containing hydrocarbons for an MCFC anode is defined to include fuel streams containing such hydrocarbon-like compounds. Examples of hydrocarbon (including hydrocarbon-like) fuel streams include natural gas, streams containing C1 - C4 carbon compounds (such as methane or ethane), and streams containing heavier C5+ hydrocarbons (including hydrocarbon-like compounds), as well as combinations thereof. Still other additional or alternate examples of potential fuel streams for use in an anode input can include biogas-type streams, such as methane produced from natural (biological) decomposition of organic material .

In some aspects, a molten carbonate fuel cell can be used to process an input fuel stream, such as a natural gas and/or hydrocarbon stream, with a low energy content due to the presence of diluent compounds. For example, some sources of methane and/or natural gas are sources that can include substantial amounts of either CO2 or other inert molecules, such as nitrogen, argon, or helium. Due to the presence of elevated amounts of CO2 and/or inerts, the energy content of a fuel stream based on the source can be reduced. Using a low energy content fuel for a combustion reaction (such as for powering a combustion-powered turbine) can pose difficulties. However, a molten carbonate fuel cell can generate power based on a low energy content fuel source with a reduced or minimal impact on the efficiency of the fuel cell. The presence of additional gas volume can require additional heat for raising the temperature of the fuel to the temperature for reforming and/or the anode reaction. Additionally, due to the equilibrium nature of the water gas shift reaction within a fuel cell anode, the presence of additional CO2 can have an impact on the relative amounts of H2 and CO present in the anode output. However, the inert compounds otherwise can have only a minimal direct impact on the reforming and anode reactions. The amount of CO2 and/or inert compounds in a fuel stream for a molten carbonate fuel cell, when present, can be at least about 1 vol%, such as at least about 2 vol%, or at least about 5 vol%, or at least about 10 vol%, or at least about 15 vol%, or at least about 20 vol%, or at least about 25 vol%, or at least about 30 vol%, or at least about 35 vol%, or at least about 40 vol%, or at least about 45 vol%, or at least about 50 vol %, or at least about 75 vol%. Additionally or alternately, the amount of CO2 and/or inert compounds in a fuel stream for a molten carbonate fuel cell can be about 90 vol% or less, such as about 75 vol% or less, or about 60 vol% or less, or about 50 vol% or less, or about 40 vol% or less, or about 35 vol% or less.

Yet other examples of potential sources for an anode input stream can correspond to refinery and/or other industrial process output streams. For example, coking is a common process in many refineries for converting heavier compounds to lower boiling ranges. Coking typically produces an off-gas containing a variety of compounds that are gases at room temperature, including CO and various C1 - C4 hydrocarbons. This off-gas can be used as at least a portion of an anode input stream. Other refinery off-gas streams can additionally or alternately be suitable for inclusion in an anode input stream, such as light ends (C1 - C4) generated during cracking or other refinery processes. Still other suitable refinery streams can additionally or alternately include refinery streams containing CO or CO2 that also contain H2 and/or reformable fuel compounds.

Still other potential sources for an anode input can additionally or alternately include streams with increased water content. For example, an ethanol output stream from an ethanol plant (or another type of fermentation process) can include a substantial portion of H2O prior to final distillation. Such H2O can typically cause only minimal impact on the operation of a fuel cell. Thus, a fermentation mixture of alcohol (or other fermentation product) and water can be used as at least a portion of an anode input stream.

Biogas, or digester gas, is another additional or alternate potential source for an anode input. Biogas may primarily comprise methane and CO2 and is typically produced by the breakdown or digestion of organic matter. Anaerobic bacteria may be used to digest the organic matter and produce the biogas. Impurities, such as sulfur-containing compounds, may be removed from the biogas prior to use as an anode input.

The output stream from an MCFC anode can include H2O, CO2, CO, and H2. Optionally, the anode output stream could also have unreacted fuel (such as H2 or CH4) or inert compounds in the feed as additional output components. Instead of using this output stream as a fuel source to provide heat for a reforming reaction or as a combustion fuel for heating the cell, one or more separations can be performed on the anode output stream to separate the CO2 from the components with potential value as inputs to another process, such as H2 or CO. The H2 and/or CO can be used as a syngas for chemical synthesis, as a source of hydrogen for chemical reaction, and/or as a fuel with reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Cathode Inputs and Outputs

Conventionally, a molten carbonate fuel cell can be operated based on drawing a desired load while consuming some portion of the fuel in the fuel stream delivered to the anode. The voltage of the fuel cell can then be determined by the load, fuel input to the anode, air and CO2 provided to the cathode, and the internal resistances of the fuel cell. The CO2 to the cathode can be conventionally provided in part by using the anode exhaust as at least a part of the cathode input stream. By contrast, the present invention can use separate/different sources for the anode input and cathode input. By removing any direct link between the composition of the anode input flow and the cathode input flow, additional options become available for operating the fuel cell, such as to generate excess synthesis gas, to improve capture of carbon dioxide, and/or to improve the total efficiency (electrical plus chemical power) of the fuel cell, among others.

In various aspects, an MCFC can be operated to cause alterative ion transport across the electrolyte for the fuel cell. In order to cause alternative ion transport, the CO2 content of the cathode input stream can be 5.0 vol% or less, or 4.0 vol% or less, such as 1.5 vol% to 5.0 vol%, or 1.5 vol% to 4.0 vol%, or 2.0 vol% to 5.0 vol%, or 2.0 vol% to 4.0 vol%.

One example of a suitable CO2-containing stream for use as a cathode input flow can be an output or exhaust flow from a combustion source. Examples of combustion sources include, but are not limited to, sources based on combustion of natural gas, combustion of coal, and/or combustion of other hydrocarbon-type fuels (including biologically derived fuels). Additional or alternate sources can include other types of boilers, fired heaters, furnaces, and/or other types of devices that bum carbon-containing fuels in order to heat another substance (such as water or air).

Other potential sources for a cathode input stream can additionally or alternately include sources of bio-produced CO2. This can include, for example, CO2 generated during processing of bio-derived compounds, such as CO2 generated during ethanol production. An additional or alternate example can include CO2 generated by combustion of a bio-produced fuel, such as combustion of lignocellulose. Still other additional or alternate potential CO2 sources can correspond to output or exhaust streams from various industrial processes, such as CO2-containing streams generated by plants for manufacture of steel, cement, and/or paper.

Yet another additional or alternate potential source of CO2 can be CO2-containing streams from a fuel cell. The CO2-containing stream from a fuel cell can correspond to a cathode output stream from a different fuel cell, an anode output stream from a different fuel cell, a recycle stream from the cathode output to the cathode input of a fuel cell, and/or a recycle stream from an anode output to a cathode input of a fuel cell. For example, an MCFC operated in standalone mode under conventional conditions can generate a cathode exhaust with a CO2 concentration of at least about 5 vol%. Such a CO2-containing cathode exhaust could be used as a cathode input for an MCFC operated according to an aspect of the invention. More generally, other types of fuel cells that generate a CO2 output from the cathode exhaust can additionally or alternately be used, as well as other types of CO2-containing streams not generated by a“combustion” reaction and/or by a combustion-powered generator. Optionally but preferably, a CO2-containing stream from another fuel cell can be from another molten carbonate fuel cell. For example, for molten carbonate fuel cells connected in series with respect to the cathodes, the output from the cathode for a first molten carbonate fuel cell can be used as the input to the cathode for a second molten carbonate fuel cell.

In addition to CO2, a cathode input stream can include O2 to provide the components necessary for the cathode reaction. Some cathode input streams can be based on having air as a component. For example, a combustion exhaust stream can be formed by combusting a hydrocarbon fuel in the presence of air. Such a combustion exhaust stream, or another type of cathode input stream having an oxygen content based on inclusion of air, can have an oxygen content of about 20 vol% or less, such as about 15 vol% or less, or about 10 vol% or less. Additionally or alternately, the oxygen content of the cathode input stream can be at least about 4 vol%, such as at least about 6 vol%, or at least about 8 vol%. More generally, a cathode input stream can have a suitable content of oxygen for performing the cathode reaction. In some aspects, this can correspond to an oxygen content of about 5 vol% to about 15 vol%, such as from about 7 vol% to about 9 vol%. For many types of cathode input streams, the combined amount of CO2 and O2 can correspond to less than about 21 vol% of the input stream, such as less than about 15 vol% of the stream or less than about 10 vol% of the stream. An air stream containing oxygen can be combined with a CO2 source that has low oxygen content. For example, the exhaust stream generated by burning coal may include a low oxygen content that can be mixed with air to form a cathode inlet stream.

In addition to CO2 and O2, a cathode input stream can also be composed of inert/non-reactive species such as N2, H2O, and other typical oxidant (air) components. For example, for a cathode input derived from an exhaust from a combustion reaction, if air is used as part of the oxidant source for the combustion reaction, the exhaust gas can include typical components of air such as N2, H2O, and other compounds in minor amounts that are present in air. Depending on the nature of the fuel source for the combustion reaction, additional species present after combustion based on the fuel source may include one or more of H2O, oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and/or sulfur (SOx), and other compounds either present in the fuel and/or that are partial or complete combustion products of compounds present in the fuel, such as CO. These species may be present in amounts that do not poison the cathode catalyst surfaces though they may reduce the overall cathode activity. Such reductions in performance may be acceptable, or species that interact with the cathode catalyst may be reduced to acceptable levels by known pollutant removal technologies.

The amount of O2 present in a cathode input stream (such as an input cathode stream based on a combustion exhaust) can advantageously be sufficient to provide the oxygen needed for the cathode reaction in the fuel cell. Thus, the volume percentage of O2 can advantageously be at least 0.5 times the amount of CO2 in the exhaust. Optionally, as necessary, additional air can be added to the cathode input to provide sufficient oxidant for the cathode reaction. When some form of air is used as the oxidant, the amount of N2 in the cathode exhaust can be at least about 78 vol%, e.g., at least about 88 vol%, and/or about 95 vol% or less. In some aspects, the cathode input stream can additionally or alternately contain compounds that are generally viewed as contaminants, such as H2S or NH3. In other aspects, the cathode input stream can be cleaned to reduce or minimize the content of such contaminants.

A suitable temperature for operation of an MCFC can be between about 450°C and about 750°C, such as at least about 500°C, e.g., with an inlet temperature of about 550°C and an outlet temperature of about 625 °C. Prior to entering the cathode, heat can be added to or removed from the cathode input stream, if desired, e.g., to provide heat for other processes, such as reforming the fuel input for the anode. For example, if the source for the cathode input stream is a combustion exhaust stream, the combustion exhaust stream may have a temperature greater than a desired temperature for the cathode inlet. In such an aspect, heat can be removed from the combustion exhaust prior to use as the cathode input stream. Alternatively, the combustion exhaust could be at very low temperature, for example after a wet gas scrubber on a coal-fired boiler, in which case the combustion exhaust can be below about 100°C. Alternatively, the combustion exhaust could be from the exhaust of a gas turbine operated in combined cycle mode, in which the gas can be cooled by raising steam to run a steam turbine for additional power generation. In this case, the gas can be below about 50°C. Heat can be added to a combustion exhaust that is cooler than desired.

Additional Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell Operating Strategies

In some aspects, when operating an MCFC to cause alternative ion transport, the anode of the fuel cell can be operated at a traditional fuel utilization value of roughly 60% to 80%. When attempting to generate electrical power, operating the anode of the fuel cell at a relatively high fuel utilization can be beneficial for improving electrical efficiency (i.e., electrical energy generated per unit of chemical energy consumed by the fuel cell).

In some aspects, it may be beneficial to reduce the electrical efficiency of the fuel cell in order to provide other benefits, such as an increase in the amount of H2 provided in the anode output flow. This can be beneficial, for example, if it is desirable to consume excess heat generated in the fuel cell (or fuel cell stack) by performing additional reforming and/or performing another endothermic reaction. For example, a molten carbonate fuel cell can be operated to provide increased production of syngas and/or hydrogen. The heat required for performing the endothermic reforming reaction can be provided by the exothermic electrochemical reaction in the anode for electricity generation. Rather than attempting to transport the heat generated by the exothermic fuel cell reaction(s) away from the fuel cell, this excess heat can be used in situ as a heat source for reforming and/or another endothermic reaction. This can result in more efficient use of the heat energy and/or a reduced need for additional external or internal heat exchange. This efficient production and use of heat energy, essentially in-situ, can reduce system complexity and components while maintaining advantageous operating conditions. In some aspects, the amount of reforming or other endothermic reaction can be selected to have an endothermic heat requirement comparable to, or even greater than, the amount of excess heat generated by the exothermic reaction(s) rather than significantly less than the heat requirement typically described in the prior art.

Additionally or alternately, the fuel cell can be operated so that the temperature differential between the anode inlet and the anode outlet can be negative rather than positive. Thus, instead of having a temperature increase between the anode inlet and the anode outlet, a sufficient amount of reforming and/or other endothermic reaction can be performed to cause the output stream from the anode outlet to be cooler than the anode inlet temperature. Further additionally or alternately, additional fuel can be supplied to a heater for the fuel cell and/or an internal reforming stage (or other internal endothermic reaction stage) so that the temperature differential between the anode input and the anode output can be smaller than the expected difference based on the relative demand of the endothermic reaction(s) and the combined exothermic heat generation of the cathode combustion reaction and the anode reaction for generating electrical power. In aspects where reforming is used as the endothermic reaction, operating a fuel cell to reform excess fuel can allow for production of increased synthesis gas and/or increased hydrogen relative to conventional fuel cell operation while minimizing the system complexity for heat exchange and reforming. The additional synthesis gas and/or additional hydrogen can then be used in a variety of applications, including chemical synthesis processes and/or collection/repurposing of hydrogen for use as a“clean” fuel.

The amount of heat generated per mole of hydrogen oxidized by the exothermic reaction at the anode can be substantially larger than the amount of heat consumed per mole of hydrogen generated by the reforming reaction. The net reaction for hydrogen in a molten carbonate fuel cell (H2 + ½ O2 => H2O) can have an enthalpy of reaction of about -285 kJ/mol of hydrogen molecules. At least a portion of this energy can be converted to electrical energy within the fuel cell. However, the difference (approximately) between the enthalpy of reaction and the electrical energy produced by the fuel cell can become heat within the fuel cell. This quantity of energy can alternatively be expressed as the current density (current per unit area) for the cell multiplied by the difference between the theoretical maximum voltage of the fuel cell and the actual voltage, or <current density>*(Vmax - Vact). This quantity of energy is defined as the“waste heat” for a fuel cell. As an example of reforming, the enthalpy of reforming for methane (CH4 + 2H2O => 4 H2 + CO2) can be about 250 kJ/mol of methane, or about 62 kJ/mol of hydrogen molecules. From a heat balance standpoint, each hydrogen molecule electrochemically oxidized can generate sufficient heat to generate more than one hydrogen molecule by reforming. In a conventional configuration, this excess heat can result in a substantial temperature difference from anode inlet to anode outlet. Instead of allowing this excess heat to be used for increasing the temperature in the fuel cell, the excess heat can be consumed by performing a matching amount of the reforming reaction. The excess heat generated in the anode can be supplemented with the excess heat generated by the combustion reaction in the fuel cell. More generally, the excess heat can be consumed by performing an endothermic reaction in the fuel cell anode and/or in an endothermic reaction stage heat integrated with the fuel cell.

Depending on the aspect, the amount of reforming and/or other endothermic reaction can be selected relative to the amount of hydrogen reacted in the anode in order to achieve a desired thermal ratio for the fuel cell. As used herein, the“thermal ratio” is defined as the heat produced by exothermic reactions in a fuel cell assembly (including exothermic reactions in both the anode and cathode) divided by the endothermic heat demand of reforming reactions occurring within the fuel cell assembly. Expressed mathematically, the thermal ratio (TH) = QEX/QEN, where QEX is the sum of heat produced by exothermic reactions and QEN is the sum of heat consumed by the endothermic reactions occurring within the fuel cell. Note that the heat produced by the exothermic reactions can correspond to any heat due to reforming reactions, water gas shift reactions, combustion reactions (i.e., oxidation of fuel compounds) in the cathode, and/or the electrochemical reactions in the cell. The heat generated by the electrochemical reactions can be calculated based on the ideal electrochemical potential of the fuel cell reaction across the electrolyte minus the actual output voltage of the fuel cell. For example, the ideal electrochemical potential of the reaction in an MCFC is believed to be about 1.04 V based on the net reaction that occurs in the cell. During operation of the MCFC, the cell can typically have an output voltage less than 1.04 V due to various losses. For example, a common output/operating voltage can be about 0.7 V. The heat generated can be equal to the electrochemical potential of the cell (i.e., ~1.04 V) minus the operating voltage. For example, the heat produced by the electrochemical reactions in the cell can be ~0.34 V when the output voltage of ~0.7 V is attained in the fuel cell. Thus, in this scenario, the electrochemical reactions would produce ~0.7 V of electricity and ~0.34 V of heat energy. In such an example, the ~0.7 V of electrical energy is not included as part of QEX. In other words, heat energy is not electrical energy.

In various aspects, a thermal ratio can be determined for any convenient fuel cell structure, such as a fuel cell stack, an individual fuel cell within a fuel cell stack, a fuel cell stack with an integrated reforming stage, a fuel cell stack with an integrated endothermic reaction stage, or a combination thereof. The thermal ratio may also be calculated for different units within a fuel cell stack, such as an assembly of fuel cells or fuel cell stacks. For example, the thermal ratio may be calculated for a fuel cell (or a plurality of fuel cells) within a fuel cell stack along with integrated reforming stages and/or integrated endothermic reaction stage elements in sufficiently close proximity to the fuel cell(s) to be integrated from a heat integration standpoint.

From a heat integration standpoint, a characteristic width in a fuel cell stack can be the height of an individual fuel cell stack element. It is noted that the separate reforming stage and/or a separate endothermic reaction stage could have a different height in the stack than a fuel cell. In such a scenario, the height of a fuel cell element can be used as the characteristic height. In this discussion, an integrated endothermic reaction stage can be defined as a stage heat integrated with one or more fuel cells, so that the integrated endothermic reaction stage can use the heat from the fuel cells as a heat source for reforming. Such an integrated endothermic reaction stage can be defined as being positioned less than 10 times the height of a stack element from fuel cells providing heat to the integrated stage. For example, an integrated endothermic reaction stage (such as a reforming stage) can be positioned less than 10 times the height of a stack element from any fuel cells that are heat integrated, or less than 8 times the height of a stack element, or less than 5 times the height of a stack element, or less than 3 times the height of a stack element. In this discussion, an integrated reforming stage and/or integrated endothermic reaction stage that represents an adjacent stack element to a fuel cell element is defined as being about one stack element height or less away from the adjacent fuel cell element.

A thermal ratio of about 1.3 or less, or about 1.15 or less, or about 1.0 or less, or about 0.95 or less, or about 0.90 or less, or about 0.85 or less, or about 0.80 or less, or about 0.75 of less, can be lower than the thermal ratio typically sought in use of MCFC fuel cells. In aspects of the invention, the thermal ratio can be reduced to increase and/or optimize syngas generation, hydrogen generation, generation of another product via an endothermic reaction, or a combination thereof.

In various aspects of the invention, the operation of the fuel cells can be characterized based on a thermal ratio. Where fuel cells are operated to have a desired thermal ratio, a molten carbonate fuel cell can be operated to have a thermal ratio of about 1.5 or less, for example about 1.3 or less, or about 1.15 or less, or about 1.0 or less, or about 0.95 or less, or about 0.90 or less, or about 0.85 or less, or about 0.80 or less, or about 0.75 or less. Additionally or alternately, the thermal ratio can be at least about 0.25, or at least about 0.35, or at least about 0.45, or at least about 0.50. Further additionally or alternately, in some aspects the fuel cell can be operated to have a temperature rise between the anode input and anode output of about 40°C or less, such as about 20°C or less, or about 10°C or less. Still further additionally or alternately, the fuel cell can be operated to have an anode outlet temperature that is from about 10°C lower to about 10°C higher than the temperature of the

anode inlet. Yet further additionally or alternately, the fuel cell can be operated to have an anode inlet temperature greater than the anode outlet temperature, such as at least about 5°C greater, or at least about 10°C greater, or at least about 20°C greater, or at least about 25 °C greater. Still further additionally or alternately, the fuel cell can be operated to have an anode inlet temperature greater than the anode outlet temperature by about 100°C or less, or about 80°C or less, or about 60°C or less, or about 50°C or less, or about 40°C or less, or about 30°C or less, or about 20°C or less.

Operating a fuel cell with a thermal ratio of less than 1 can cause a temperature drop across the fuel cell. In some aspects, the amount of reforming and/or other endothermic reaction may be limited so that a temperature drop from the anode inlet to the anode outlet can be about 100°C or less, such as about 80°C or less, or about 60°C or less, or about 50°C or less, or about 40°C or less, or about 30°C or less, or about 20°C or less. Limiting the temperature drop from the anode inlet to the anode outlet can be beneficial, for example, for maintaining a sufficient temperature to allow complete or substantially complete conversion of fuels (by reforming) in the anode. In other aspects, additional heat can be supplied to the fuel cell (such as by heat exchange or combustion of additional fuel) so that the anode inlet temperature is greater than the anode outlet temperature by less than about 100°C or less, such as about 80°C or less, or about 60°C or less, or about 50°C or less, or about 40°C or less, or about 30°C or less, or about 20°C or less, due to a balancing of the heat consumed by the endothermic reaction and the additional external heat supplied to the fuel cell.

The amount of reforming can additionally or alternately be dependent on the availability of a reformable fuel. For example, if the fuel only comprised H2, no reformation would occur because H2 is already reformed and is not further reformable. The amount of “syngas produced” by a fuel cell can be defined as a difference in the lower heating value (LHV) of syngas in the anode input versus an LHV of syngas in the anode output. Syngas produced LHV (sg net) = (LHV(sg out) - LHV(sg in)), where LHV(sg in) and LHV(sg out) refer to the LHV of the syngas in the anode inlet and syngas in the anode outlet streams or flows, respectively. A fuel cell provided with a fuel containing substantial amounts of H2 can be limited in the amount of potential syngas production, since the fuel contains substantial amounts of already reformed H2, as opposed to containing additional reformable fuel. The lower heating value is defined as the enthalpy of combustion of a fuel component to vapor phase, fully oxidized products (i.e., vapor phase CO2 and H2O product). For example, any

CO2 present in an anode input stream does not contribute to the fuel content of the anode input, since CO2 is already fully oxidized. For this definition, the amount of oxidation occurring in the anode due to the anode fuel cell reaction is defined as oxidation of H2 in the anode as part of the electrochemical reaction in the anode.

An example of a method for operating a fuel cell wi th a reduced thermal ratio can be a method where excess reforming of fuel is performed in order to balance the generation and consumption of heat in the fuel cell and/or consume more heat than is generated. Reforming a reformable fuel to form H2 and/or CO can be an endothermic process, while the anode electrochemical oxidation reaction and the cathode combustion reaction(s) can be exothermic. During conventional fuel cell operation, the amount of reforming needed to supply the feed components for fuel cell operation can typically consume less heat than the amount of heat generated by the anode oxidation reaction. For example, conventional operation at a fuel utilization of about 70% or about 75% produces a thermal ratio substantially greater than 1, such as a thermal ratio of at least about 1.4 or greater, or 1.5 or greater. As a result, the output streams for the fuel cell can be hotter than the input streams. Instead of this type of conventional operation, the amount of fuel reformed in the reforming stages associated with the anode can be increased. For example, additional fuel can be reformed so that the heat generated by the exothermic fuel cell reactions can either be (roughly) balanced by the heat consumed in reforming and/or consume more heat than is generated. This can result in a substantial excess of hydrogen relative to the amount oxidized in the anode for electrical power generation and result in a thermal ratio of about 1.0 or less, such as about 0.95 or less, or about 0.90 or less, or about 0.85 or less, or about 0.80 or less, or about 0.75 or less.

Either hydrogen or syngas can be withdrawn from the anode exhaust as a chemical energy output. Hydrogen can be used as a clean fuel without generating greenhouse gases when it is burned or combusted. Instead, for hydrogen generated by reforming of hydrocarbons (or hydrocarbonaceous compounds), the CO2 will have already been “captured” in the anode loop. Additionally, hydrogen can be a valuable input for a variety of refinery processes and/or other synthesis processes. Syngas can also be a valuable input for a variety of processes. In addition to having fuel value, syngas can be used as a feedstock for producing other higher value products, such as by using syngas as an input for Fischer-Tropsch synthesis and/or methanol synthesis processes.

In some aspects, the reformable hydrogen content of refonnable fuel in the input stream delivered to the anode and/or to a reforming stage associated with the anode can be at least about 50% greater than the net amount of hydrogen reacted at the anode, such as at least about 75% greater or at least about 100% greater. Additionally or alternately, the reformable hydrogen content of fuel in the input stream delivered to the anode and/or to a reforming stage associated with the anode can be at least about 50% greater than the net amount of hydrogen reacted at the anode, such as at least about 75% greater or at least about 100% greater. In various aspects, a ratio of the reformable hydrogen content of the reformable fuel in the fuel stream relative to an amount of hydrogen reacted in the anode can be at least about 1.5 : 1, or at least about 2.0 : 1, or at least about 2.5 : 1, or at least about 3.0 : 1. Additionally or alternately, the ratio of reformable hydrogen content of the reformable fuel in the fuel stream relative to the amount of hydrogen reacted in the anode can be about 20 : 1 or less, such as about 15 : 1 or less or about 10 : 1 or less. In one aspect, it is contemplated that less than 100% of the reformable hydrogen content in the anode inlet stream can be converted to hydrogen. For example, at least about 80% of the reformable hydrogen content in an anode inlet stream can be converted to hydrogen in the anode and/or in an associated reforming stage(s), such as at least about 85%, or at least about 90%. Additionally or alternately, the amount of reformable fuel delivered to the anode can be characterized based on the lower heating value (LHV) of the reformable fuel relative to the LHV of the hydrogen oxidized in the anode. This can be referred to as a reformable fuel surplus ratio. In various aspects, the reformable fuel surplus ratio can be at least about 2.0, such as at least about 2.5, or at least about 3.0, or at least about 4.0. Additionally or alternately, the reformable fuel surplus ratio can be about 25.0 or less, such as about 20.0 or less, or about 15.0 or less, or about 10.0 or less.

Example 1

In this example, a molten carbonate fuel cell having a size of 50 cm x 50 cm was modified to include baffles, to make a configuration similar to the configuration shown in FIG. 3. The baffles were added to the space between the cathode and the separator plate (i.e., the cathode gas collection volume) by spot welding five stainless steel wires (316 stainless steel) to the bipolar plate. The wires occupied roughly 80% of the available flow channel height between the cathode and cathode collector. The five wires spanned the full width of the 50 x 50 cm flow field. After insertion of the wires, the unblocked flow cross-section was roughly 20%. However, a portion of the flow cross-section was already blocked

due to the cathode collector structure, so the wires resulted in an increase in the amount of blocked flow cross-section of roughly 70%.

FIG. 7 and FIG. 8 show results from operating an unmodified fuel cell (50 x 50 cm flow field) and a fuel cell containing baffles as described above. The fuel cells were operated at elevated CO2 utilization conditions that included a temperature of 650°C and a current density of 90 mA/cm2. The cathode input gas included 4 vol% CO2, 10 vol% O2, and 10 vol% H2O (balance N2). The anode input gas corresponded to 72 vol% H2, 18 vol% CO2, and 10 vol% H2O. The fuel cells were operated at apparent CO2 utilizations of roughly 90%, roughly 105%, and roughly 120%, as shown in FIG. 7. The actual CO2 utilizations were measured via gas chromatography sampling of the oxidant inlet and outlet. The apparent CO2 utilizations are based on the measured current density.

FIG. 7 shows the actual CO2 utilization versus the apparent CO2 utilization for both the fuel cell containing baffles and the reference cell. As shown in FIG. 7, at roughly comparable levels of apparent CO2 utilization, the presence of the baffle structures unexpectedly increased the actual CO2 utilization by roughly 4% to 5%. As shown in FIG. 8, this increase in the actual CO2 utilization also provided an unexpected increase in the operating voltage of roughly 0.15 mV for the fuel cell including the baffle structures. Without being bound by any particular theory, it is believed that reducing the amount of alternative ion transport at a constant level of apparent CO2 utilization resulted in the higher voltage. Additional Embodiments

Embodiment 1. A method for producing electricity in a molten carbonate fuel cell, the method comprising: passing an anode input stream comprising H2, a reformable fuel, or a combination thereof into an anode gas collection volume, the anode gas collection volume being defined by an anode surface, a first separator plate, and an anode collector providing support between the anode surface and the separator plate; introducing a cathode input stream comprising O2 and CO2 into a cathode gas collection volume, the cathode gas collection volume being defined by a cathode surface, a second separator plate, and a cathode collector providing support between the cathode surface and the second separator plate, the cathode gas collection volume having a flow cross-section based on a direction of flow of the cathode input stream; operating the molten carbonate fuel cell at a transference of 0.97 or less and an average current density of 60 mA/cm2 or more to generate electricity, an anode exhaust comprising H2, CO, and CO2, and a cathode exhaust comprising 2.0 vol% or less CO2, 1.0 vol% or more H2O, and 1.0 vol% or more O2, wherein the cathode gas collection

volume is further defined by one or more baffles in contact with the second separator plate, the one or more baffles reducing an unblocked flow cross-section of the cathode gas collection volume by 10% or more.

Embodiment 2. The method of Embodiment 1, wherein the transference is 0.95 or less, or 0.90 or less.

Embodiment 3. The method of any of the above embodiments, wherein the cathode input stream comprises 5.0 vol% or less of CO2, or wherein the cathode exhaust comprises 1.0 vol% or less of CO2, or a combination thereof.

Embodiment 4. The method of any of the above embodiments, wherein the one or more baffles reduce the unblocked flow cross-section by 10% to 80% (or 25% to 80%, or 50% to 80%, or 10% to 50%, or 25% to 50%).

Embodiment 5. The method of any of the above embodiments, wherein the one or more baffles are aligned substantially perpendicular to a direction of flow in the cathode gas collection volume.

Embodiment 6. The method of any of the above embodiments, wherein an open area of the cathode surface is 50% or less, or 45% or less, or 40% or less.

Embodiment 7. The method of any of Embodiments 1 - 5, wherein an open area of the cathode surface is 45% or more, or 50% or more, or 60% or more.

Embodiment 8. The method of any of the above embodiments, wherein the cathode collector comprises the one or more baffles; or wherein the one or more baffles are attached to the second separator plate.

Embodiment 9. The method of any of the above embodiments, a) wherein the voltage drop across the cathode is 0.4 V or less; b) wherein the electricity is generated at a voltage of 0.55 V or more; c) wherein a H2 concentration in the anode exhaust is 5.0 vol% or more; d) wherein a combined concentration of H2 and CO in the anode exhaust is 6.0 vol% or more; e) a combination of two or more of a) - d); or f) a combination of three or more of a) -d).

Embodiment 10. The method of any of the above embodiments, wherein a fuel utilization in the anode is 60% or more, or wherein a fuel utilization in the anode is 55% or less.

Embodiment 11. A molten carbonate fuel cell, comprising: an anode; a first separator plate; an anode collector in contact with the anode and the first separator plate to define an anode gas collection volume between the anode and the first separator plate; a cathode; a second separator plate; a cathode collector in contact with a cathode surface of the cathode and the second separator plate to define a cathode gas collection volume between the cathode and the second separator plate, the cathode gas collection volume being in fluid communication with a cathode inlet; one or more baffles in contact with the second separator plate, the one or more baffles reducing an unblocked flow cross-section of the cathode gas collection volume by 10% or more; and an electrolyte matrix comprising an electrolyte between the anode and the cathode.

Embodiment 12. The molten carbonate fuel cell of Embodiment 11, wherein the one or more baffles reduce the unblocked flow cross-section by 10% to 80% (or 25% to 80%, or 50% to 80%, or 10% to 50%, or 25% to 50%).

Embodiment 13. The molten carbonate fuel cell of Embodiment 11 or 12, wherein the one or more baffles are aligned substantially perpendicular to a direction of flow in the cathode gas collection volume.

Embodiment 14. The molten carbonate fuel cell of any of Embodiments 11 13, wherein an open area of the cathode surface is 50% or less, or 45% or less, or 40% or less; or wherein an open area of the cathode surface is 45% or more, or 50% or more, or 60% or more.

Embodiment 15. The molten carbonate fuel cell of any of Embodiments 11 -14, wherein the cathode collector comprises the one or more baffles; or wherein the one or more baffles are attached to the second separator plate.

All numerical values within the detailed description and the claims herein are modified by “about” or “approximately” the indicated value, and take into account experimental error and variations that would be expected by a person having ordinary skill in the art.

Although the present invention has been described in terms of specific embodiments, it is not necessarily so limited. Suitable alterations/modifications for operation under specific conditions should be apparent to those skilled in the art. It is therefore intended that the following claims be interpreted as covering all such alterations/modifications that fall within the true spirit/scope of the invention.