Several end-use industries, such as chemical, power generation, and automotive, are increasingly using planar solid oxide fuel cells
(SOFCs) due to the various advantages offered by such cells, such as fuel adaptability, high efficiency, and low sulfur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. The increasing adoption of these cells can be attributed to the surging enactment of stringent regulations in Germany, Japan, and the U.S. to curtail the generation of harmful emissions from such end-use industries. Additionally, these emission norms also aim to reduce the dependency of such countries on fossil fuels.
Additionally, the widening application base of SOFCs in the oil and gas industry will fuel the production of such products in the coming years. For example, the natural gas extracted on-site can be easily used as a fuel for direct fuel cell (DFC) power plants. Power generated at such plants can be used to support the extraction process. Moreover, the energy generated in DFC power plants is clean and can be injected underground for increased oil recovery.
To cater to the increasing application base, planar SOFC manufacturers, such as Ballard Power Systems Inc., FuelCell Energy Inc., Convion Ltd., Ultra Electronics Holdings plc., Chevron Corporation, and Ceres Power Holdings plc. are focusing on the introduction of advanced products by entering into strategic alliances with automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and cell manufacturers. For instance, in November 2016, Ballard Power Systems Inc. signed an agreement with Solaris Bus & Coach, Poland-based OEMs, to deploy its 10 FCveloCity-HD fuel cell modules in Trollino-model low-floor trolley buses of the former.
SOFCs manufactured by such companies are made of planar cells, seals, manifolds, and separator plates. Among these components, planar cells constitute the most vital part of a planar SOFC. At present, SOFCs are primarily used in stationary power applications. Stationary power includes any application in which the fuel cells are operated at a fixed location, such as combined heat and power and small systems or backup power for micro-combined heat and power (m-CHP) and large-scale systems for prime power for commercial and residential operations. Fuel cells offer reliable backup power for telecommunication networks, which are majorly located in remote areas, without proper power infrastructure.
According to P&S Intelligence, Asia-Pacific (APAC) dominated the planar solid oxide fuel cell market in the recent past, due to the wide-scale installation of such cells for power backup in Japan and South Korea, owing to the provision of subsidies for domestic production of fuel cells. Besides, the widening manufacturing base of the automotive industry in the region will create a huge requirement for planar SOFCs in the foreseeable future. In recent years, South Korea has become one of the leading consumers of SOFCs, due to the accelerating adoption rate of SOFC systems in the country.
Thus, the increasing shift toward alternative power production technologies and the surging focus of governments on renewable energy sources will augment the usage of SOFCs in the foreseeable future.