Producing clean energy from Italian waste water with Finnish fuel cell expertise

December 14, 2015

In the European DEMOSOFC project, Convion Ltd and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd will demonstrate fuel cell systems for high-efficiency cogeneration of heat and power from biogas produced in connection with waste water treatment in Italy. Fuel cell systems enable the generation of electricity from biogas that would otherwise remain unused or be burned for heat. The fuel cell plant will be the first of its kind in Europe in terms of size and technology, and the fuel cells at the core of the operation are made by the Finnish company Convion.

Waste water treatment consumes large quantities of heat and power, but at the same time the process produces significant amounts of methane-containing biogas. Treatment plants are thus good application sites for local cogeneration of heat and power, and fuel cells are an excellent technological alternative for the purpose. At best, waste water treatment can become fully energy self-sufficient with the help of fuel cells. The biogas-fed fuel cell system being developed in the DEMOSOFC project will satisfy 30% of the electrical needs of the waste water treatment and 100% of the normal thermal needs of the treatment process.

There are two Finnish parties involved in the project: Convion, which makes fuel cell systems, and VTT. Convion's 175 kW fuel cell plant operates flexibly with natural gas or biogas, fuel flexibility being one of the special strengths of Convion's system. VTT's role in the project is acting as an expert in gas cleaning and the installation and operation of fuel cell plants. Both Convion and VTT are Finnish world-class experts in fuel cell technology.

Convion and VTT will install a fuel cell plant in the Collegno waste water treatment plant of the Italian Società Metropolitana Acque Torino S.p.A. (SMAT) in Turin. There are tens of thousands of waste water treatment plants in Europe and, due to similar treatment processes, the DEMOSOFC concept can be easily replicated. In addition, the modular structure of Convion's fuel cell plant enables scaling of energy production in accordance with the waste water treatment plant's gas production capacity.

The advantages of fuel cell technology over competing technologies become emphasised in small, less than 1-MW plants. Convion's fuel cell power plant operates at a more than 53% electrical efficiency rate, thus producing up to twice as much electric energy as power plants implemented using traditional technologies. When located in urban areas, it is also important that treatment plants have low local emission rates. Convion's fuel cell power plant's operation is noise free, and it does not produce particulate matter, hydrocarbon or nitrous oxide emissions.

The five-year DEMOSOFC project (2015-2020) has an overall budget of EUR 5.9 million and is financed by the European Union with EUR 4.2 million in the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme. The project is coordinated by the Italian Politechnico di Torino, and the multinational European project consortium consists of Convion and VTT from Finland, POLITO and SMAT from Italy, and the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine from the UK.

Definitions: SOFC

Energy production faces challenges posed by the requirements to produce electricity and heat by increasingly efficient and cleaner means. By using solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), energy is made out of fuel and air. The most notable advantage compared with the existing fuel cell technologies is the possibility of using conventional fuels such as natural gas, diesel fuel and biogas, instead of hydrogen. The fuel, and the oxygen present in the air injected into the fuel cell produce a direct electrochemical reaction in the fuel cell, generating electricity and heat.
For more information, please contact:

Convion Ltd, Tuomas Hakala, Manager,, +358 40 035 9776

VTT Ltd, Jari Kiviaho, Senior Principal Scientist,, +358 20 722 5298

VTT Ltd, Olli Himanen, Team Leader,, +358 20 722 5346

VTT Ltd, Markus Rautanen, Research Scientist,, +358 40 538 7552

For more about VTT, contact:

Olli Ernvall
Senior Vice President, Communications
tel. +358 40 840 0288,

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is the leading research and technology company in the Nordic countries. We use our research and knowledge to provide expert services for our domestic and international customers and partners, and for both the private and public sectors. We use four million hours of brainpower a year to develop new technological solutions.

Convion Ltd is a leading fuel cell system manufacturer committed to commercializing fuel cell systems in power range above 50kW. By Convion products customers can improve their energy efficiency, power security and energy independence. Since year 2000 Convion people have developed and operated several generations of 20kW and 50kW SOFC systems. Currently Convion is operating the first, highly efficient Convion product in Finland and plan to deliver first customer projects in 2016. Convion shareholders include VNT Management and Wärtsilä.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Related Natural Gas Articles from Brightsurf:

Study reveals how to improve natural gas production in shale
A new hydrocarbon study contradicts conventional wisdom about how methane is trapped in rock, revealing a new strategy to more easily access the valuable energy resource.

A new material for separating CO2 from industrial waste gases, natural gas, or biogas
With the new material, developed at the University of Bayreuth, the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) can be specifically separated from industrial waste gases, natural gas, or biogas, and thereby made available for recycling.

Study of natural gas flaring finds high risks to babies
Researchers from USC and UCLA have found that exposure to flaring -- the burning off of excess natural gas -- at oil and gas production sites is associated with 50% higher odds of preterm birth, compared with no exposure.

Sweet or sour natural gas
Natural gas that contains larger amounts of hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S) and carbon dioxide (CO(2)) is termed sour gas.

Visualizing chemical reactions, e.g. from H2 and CO2 to synthetic natural gas
Scientists at EPFL have designed a reactor that can use IR thermography to visualize dynamic surface reactions and correlate it with other rapid gas analysis methods to obtain a holistic understanding of the reaction in rapidly changing conditions.

Effects of natural gas assessed in study of shale gas boom in Appalachian basin
A new study estimated the cumulative effects of the shale gas boom in the Appalachian basin in the early 2000s on air quality, climate change, and employment.

The uncertain role of natural gas in the transition to clean energy
A new MIT study examines the opposing roles of natural gas in the battle against climate change -- as a bridge toward a lower-emissions future, but also a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Natural-gas leaks are important source of greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles
Liyin He, a Caltech graduate student, finds that methane in L.A.'s air correlates with the seasonal use of gas for heating homes and businesses

Enhanced natural gas storage to help reduce global warming
Researchers have designed plastic-based materials that can store natural gas more effectively.

Natural gas storage research could combat global warming
To help combat global warming, a team led by Dr.

Read More: Natural Gas News and Natural Gas Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to