KENAI (AP) -- BP's gas-to-liquids plant in Nikiski will be powered by fuel cell technology by mid-2003, company officials said.
The GTL plant, where natural gas will be transformed into liquid fuel, is scheduled to begin operating by March. BP will install a Siemens Westinghouse ''solid oxide fuel cell'' unit that will convert low-pressure natural gas directly into electricity through a chemical reaction similar to what is used in a battery.
The fuel cell will produce direct current electricity and convert it to alternating current, the kind of electricity commonly found in household power outlets.
GTL engineering manager Steve Fortune said the technology designed around the unit is more efficient and more environmentally sound.
''The fuel cell is far more efficient,'' Fortune said. ''It produces far more power per gallon of diesel and produces less emissions.''
The unit reuses the heat produced during the biochemical process, thus reducing waste and increasing efficiency. And the cell actually reduces carbon dioxide emissions by more than a third from equivalently sized diesel generators and nearly eliminates emissions of other harmful gases generally produced by combustion energy systems.
The project is expected to cost $6.5 million and will operate at the GTL plant for two years.
The cell that will be used at the Nikiski plant will be 40-feet long by about 9-feet wide, said BP project manager Paul Richards, who addressed the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce last week.
It will generate 250 kilowatts of electricity and be used to power the warehouse, administrative facilities and possibly some of the GTL mechanisms at the plant.
The fuel cell will be connected to the local electrical grid operated by Homer Electric Association to study operating characteristics and costs.
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