Exergetic, environmental and economic sustainability assessment of stationary Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells

Andi Mehmeti, Juan Pedro Pérez-Trujillo, Francisco Elizalde-Blancas, Athanasios Angelis-Dimakis, Stephen McPhail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, exergetic, environmental and economic (3E) analyses have been performed in order to provide sustainability indicators from resource extraction to the final product of stationary power Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC) systems (500 kW). Two environmental life cycle impact assessment methods have been selected: the ReCiPe 2016 hierarchical midpoint and endpoint, and the Cumulative Exergy Extraction from the Natural Environment (CEENE). The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) under technology cost and performance parameters was calculated to analyze the system from the economic point of view. The global warming potential (GWP) is estimated to be 0.549 kg CO 2-eq/kWh while acidification (5.06e−4 kg SO 2-eq/kWh), eutrophication (9.81e−4 kg P-eq. freshwater/kWh), ozone layer depletion (4.11e−6 kg CFC-11-eq/kWh) and human toxicity (1.07 kg 1,4-DB-eq/kWh). Aggregated CEENE was estimated to be about 8.55 MJ ex/kWh. Results show that majority of impacts are dominated by fuel supply, while some others are dominated by manufacturing of system. GWP is the only impact category dominated by system operation. Due to potentially high electrical efficiency, MCFC energy systems can lead to lower CEENE and improvements of global warming, fossil fuel and resource scarcity, and photochemical oxidant formation potential with respect to other conventional energy conversion systems. Advances in longer lifetimes of the MCFC stack can help trigger innovation in manufacturing processes and will lead to less resource use of electricity, metal, and minerals, thus less resource scarcity and toxicity related burdens. The baseline LCOE is calculated 0.1265 €/kWh being comparable with the Italian grid (0.15-0.16 €/kWh). The costing results indicate that the unit decreasing the system capital cost could potentially reduce the LCOE by around 25%. Advancing the use of life-cycle thinking in MCFC industry with site-specific data raise systems credibility and enables clarifying the trade-offs between the sustainability pillars, thus designing more sustainable products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-287
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy Conversion and Management
Early online date10 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2018


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