Hardware Simulation of Fuel Cell / Gas Turbine Hybrids
Smith, Thomas Paul
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Hybrid solid oxide fuel cell / gas turbine (SOFC/GT) systems offer high efficiency power generation, but face numerous integration and operability challenges. This dissertation addresses the application of hardware-in-the-loop simulation (HILS) to explore the performance of a solid oxide fuel cell stack and gas turbine when combined into a hybrid system. Specifically, this project entailed developing and demonstrating a methodology for coupling a numerical SOFC subsystem model with a gas turbine that has been modified with supplemental process flow and control paths to mimic a hybrid system. This HILS approach was implemented with the U.S. Department of Energy Hybrid Performance Project (HyPer) located at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. By utilizing HILS the facility provides a cost effective and capable platform for characterizing the response of hybrid systems to dynamic variations in operating conditions. HILS of a hybrid system was accomplished by first interfacing a numerical model with operating gas turbine hardware. The real-time SOFC stack model responds to operating turbine flow conditions in order to predict the level of thermal effluent from the SOFC stack. This simulated level of heating then dynamically sets the turbine's "firing" rate to reflect the stack output heat rate. Second, a high-speed computer system with data acquisition capabilities was integrated with the existing controls and sensors of the turbine facility. In the future, this will allow for the utilization of high-fidelity fuel cell models that infer cell performance parameters while still computing the simulation in real-time. Once the integration of the numeric and the hardware simulation components was completed, HILS experiments were conducted to evaluate hybrid system performance. The testing identified non-intuitive transient responses arising from the large thermal capacitance of the stack that are inherent to hybrid systems. Furthermore, the tests demonstrated the capabilities of HILS as a research tool for investigating the dynamic behavior of SOFC/GT hybrid power generation systems.