Design & Build Fuel Cell Test Systems
Fuel cells are a new clean energy technology that can be used in a wide range of applications, including transportation, material handling, and emergency backup power generation. Many industries today are relying on vehicles powered by Fuel Cell Engines, where hydrogen is used to generate power by a chemical reaction, rather than the typical gasoline-powered combustion engine. This new alternative energy engine produces electricity to drive them, with only water and heat as the waste products – a considerable improvement over the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) produced from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles (and per various scientific studies, did you know that all that additional CO2 emitted over the past 100 yrs has warmed the planet by 50%?).
Enter a new technology looking to replace the traditional gasoline-powered engine – a Fuel Cell.
A prominent Fuel Cell Manufacturing Co was looking for a firm to do final design/build of a new Fuel Cell Test System to test their products under various utility load conditions. The Client was developing Fuel Cell Engines primarily for the material handling and transportation industries for the ever-growing need of Fuel Cell powered equipment and vehicles. As part of their development process, an intensive verification program was planned to ensure their new flagship products can satisfy customer requirements for performance, safety and reliability. The completion of this verification program depended on the Client expanding its current testing infrastructure for larger sized engine products.
For this reason, the Client partnered with Optimation to design, fabricate, test, and deliver a fully functional test system to satisfy the program’s requirements.
Optimation and the Client worked together to establish a final system design to meet the requirements of the project. The design used facility gases hydrogen, nitrogen, and air, as well as clean DI water and utility chilled water for cooling, with all components being mounted on a high strength portable cart so that it could be moved from lab to lab if needed. Once design agreement was finalized, we procured equipment, fabricated parts and sub-assemblies, and then assembled all items onto the cart as shown in the pictures above.
After all piping and equipment was pressure tested, and after all electrical and pneumatic communication was established with the field devices on the cart, we worked with the client to install their proprietary software into the control panel PLC, so that the final control system could be tested by the Client in our shop prior to shipment. By performing this final software test, the Client was able to establish a full chain of communication between their software and all end-of-line devices on the portable Test System.
Once the system had established software communication, all devices operating as designed, and all instruments measuring properly, the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) was deemed complete. The system was then disassembled, securely packaged, and shipped to the client’s site for hook up to their site utilities. The only remaining item was for the Client to perform actual Fuel Cell product testing at their facility and evaluate how their products perform under different utility conditions. The project was a success, the Client’s existing and new Fuel Cell products are being tested at their facility, and Optimation continues to work with them on future test systems for new product lines.