Fuel cells fed with biofuel: Technical and economic analysis

Marco Buccarella, Piero Lunghi, Roberto Bove, Angelo Moreno

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Besides traditional approaches for the valorization of biogas, the possibility of using this fuel to feed Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC) for the production of heat and electric power (co-generation) is showing interesting results. The aim of this study is to assess the benefits and draw-backs of this energy system and to compare them with those of traditional applications of biogas. Results show that biogas/MCFC integrated systems offer the highest potential in terms of energy efficiency, environmental impact and economical revenue. Both technical and economical analyses of a real case-study have been carried out. The selected case-study was a pig manure treatment plant located at Marsciano-Perugia, Italy. Nowadays, fermentation and anaerobic digestion processes represent the most spread treatment applied in many different systems. The diffusion of these processes is continuously growing. This trend has generated a significant relevance of biogas within the current scenario of energy renewable sources, thus both energetic or economic assessment are highly interesting. The performance of MCFC operating on biofuels is assessed through experimental activities carried out at the Fuel Cell Group laboratory of the University of Perugia (Italy). Every test in which the MCFC was run with biogas from an anaerobic digester, shows a highly satisfactory operation of the fuel cell. The economical analysis is based on the net present value (NPV) of an MCFC system, compared to an internal combustion engine. Costs for the MCFC are assumed to be 1500 euro/kW, 2000 euro/kW and 3000 euro/kW. Green certificates (i.e. govermental incentives due to the low emissions) are also taken into account in the NPV calculation. The conclusion of the study shows that although fuel cell systems diffusion is still limited due to the high manufacturing costs and the need of technology improvements, the possibility of integrating an anaerobic digester with an MCFC represents a potential business especially if the environmental benefits are translated into an economical saving.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Event1st European Fuel Cell Technology and Applications Conference 2005, EFC2005 - , Italy
Duration: 1 Jan 2005 → …


Conference1st European Fuel Cell Technology and Applications Conference 2005, EFC2005
Period1/1/05 → …


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)

Cite this

Buccarella, M., Lunghi, P., Bove, R., & Moreno, A. (2005). Fuel cells fed with biofuel: Technical and economic analysis. Paper presented at 1st European Fuel Cell Technology and Applications Conference 2005, EFC2005, Italy.