Wartsila tests landfill gas fuel cell unit

Helsinki, Finland, February 22, 2010 — Wartsila has tested a solid oxide fuel cell unit, running on landfill gas, in the first phase of its validation program.

The power generating unit, which is developed and run by Wärtsilä, has been operating for more than 1,500 hours producing electricity with extremely low emissions to households in Vaasa, Finland.

The WFC20, which is developed and operated by Wärtsilä, runs on methane rich gas, originating from a nearby landfill. Methane is a strong greenhouse gas that would otherwise be harmful to the environment.

The WFC20 is based on planar solid oxide fuel cell technology, which is supplied by the Danish company Topsoe Fuel Cell A/S. Wärtsilä is one of the world’s leading companies in the development of fuel cell products based on SOFC technology.

The main project targets set by Wärtsilä for this groundbreaking power generation unit have all been achieved. The fuel cell unit has been in successful operation for more than 1,500 hours.

The demonstrated energy efficiency has reached very high levels, exhaust gas emissions are low, and the unit has been able to operate consistently despite the biogas having low and fluctuating methane content.

The fuel cell unit produces an electric output of about 20 kW, which is enough to power about 10 households in the area. The thermal output of the unit ranges from 14 to 17 kW.

The varying composition of the methane rich gas from the landfill has been one of the main engineering challenges for the test site, and it has led to the development of an efficient control system.

Landfill gas contains also a number of impurities, such as sulphur compounds, which need to be removed from the fuel before being fed to the fuel cell system. This has also been successfully achieved.


The exhaust gas emissions from WFC20 are measured as being extremely low. The fuel cell unit does not produce any measurable levels of harmful particles, sulphur oxide (SOx), or nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, even at part load conditions. When using biogas as fuel, the emissions of CO2 are very close to carbon neutral. 

The landfill gas used by the fuel cell power plant is a renewable fuel, which means that the fuel cell technology enables the energy and climate package targets of the EU Commission to be attained.

According to the EU’s climate and energy package, Finland is expected to increase its share of renewable sources from the present 28 percent to 38 percent of energy production by 2020.

Wärtsilä’s centre of competence for fuel cell technology is located at Otaniemi in Espoo, and the operation of the New Energy site is supported by personnel from the company’s Vaasa engine laboratory.


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