The breadth and coverage of analytical expertise in the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs) are unique assets that underpin IEA efforts to support innovation for energy security, economic growth and environmental protection. The 39 TCPs operating today involve about 6 000 experts from government, industry and research organisations in more than 50 countries1.

Advanced Fuel Cells (AFC TCP)


Reducing emissions from power plants with fuel cells

The AFC TCP advances understanding of fuel cells through co-ordinated research, technology development and systems analysis. Promising, cost-effective new applications for fuel cells are emerging, including separating the CO2 from the exhaust gas of a coal‑fired power plant. 

The cost of reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants using molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFC) is lower than traditional methods.*

Fuel cells use a chemical reaction to generate electricity from fuels. This process does not cause greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with fuel combustion. Fuel cells provide electricity at the point of consumption, reducing losses and costs associated with the electricity distribution network. Generating hydrogen from biomass and other renewable energy sources leads to very low greenhouse gas emissions, and certain processes may even sequester carbon on net.

Molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFC) operate on a variety of fuel sources such as hydrogen, ammonia, gases (such as methane, syngas, ethanol, propane or liquefied petroleum gas), diesel or CO2. MCFCs are primarily used for stationary applications, enabling a decentralised, stable energy supply.

For these reasons, the AFC TCP studied the status of MCFC technology and deployment. The aims were to gather information in order to improve the performance, endurance, and cost-effectiveness of fuel cell technologies. Five case studies of commercial applications (including market perspectives) are featured as well as nine pilot or demonstration projects in participating countries. Investment and operating costs and promising new applications are also considered.

After several years of research programmes and extensive demonstrations, MCFC-based power systems are reaching the full commercial stage. Dedicated applications include industrial processes (food processing, manufacturing); high-density buildings requiring critical power requirements (hospitals, prisons, universities, and hotels); and utilities. Since MCFCs operate at 600°C and above, they produce both electricity and heat, thereby serving as stand-alone combined heat and power plants. MCFC power stations or “fuel cells parks” are also on the rise. Following 2013 construction of the 11.2 MW fuel cell park in Daegu City, Korea, further facilities offering capacities of 14.9 MW (Connecticut, United States) and 59 MW (Hwasung City, Korea) were completed and began operating in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Experiences gained from these systems demonstrate that lifetime enhancement and cost reductions are still needed.

Yet promising new applications for MCFCs are emerging, including separation of the CO2 from the exhaust gas of a coal-fired power plant. The MCFC uses CO2 as a fuel to produce electricity, increasing the overall efficiency of the plant. After the CO2 is consumed, 70% less CO2 is emitted. In addition, more MCFCs may be added depending on the flue gas exhaust of each plant. Thus the costs of CO2 separation using MCFCs (initial investment, operations and maintenance, fuel) may be considerably lower than those in traditional processes. These and other findings are synthesised in the report, International Status of Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell Technology.

* Graph adapted from data provided by the AFC TCP


  • Electrolysis
  • Modelling
  • Molten carbonate fuel cells
  • Polymer electrolyte fuel cells
  • Portable applications
  • Solid oxide fuel cells
  • Stationary applications
  • System analysis
  • Transportation


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1. Information or material of the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes, or IEA TCPs (formally organised under the auspices of an Implementing Agreement), including information or material published on this website, does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or of the IEA’s individual Member countries. The IEA does not make any representation or warranty (express or implied) in respect of such information (including as to its completeness, accuracy or non-infringement) and shall not be held liable for any use of, or reliance on, such information.