In a joint research project called “Energy Self-Sufficient Borehole Sensor Technology Powered with Fuel Cells– GeoFuelCells”, the International Geothermal Centre Bochum and the Westphalian Energy Institute, with support from the funding programme Ziel2.NRW (2007-2013 EFRE) of the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia, developed a fuel-cell-based energy supply system for borehole applications.
One of the fundamental tasks of deep-drilling technology is the monitoring of the drilling process, as well as the in-situ characterisation of reservoirs during the exploration phase. In traditional facilities this is only possible at great expense, because the electricity necessary for the sensor technology must be supplied through cables going into the borehole or using batteries. Both systems have important disadvantages. Batteries have a short lifespan and tend to self-discharge quickly under growing temperatures. Even the single-cell lithium batteries currently in use cannot withstand the temperatures in drilling depths of several kilometres, with increases of 3°K to 6°K every 100 meters.
During the project, a system was developed, which would demonstrate the use of PEM fuel cells as autarkic, long-term energy supply. Moreover, an HTPEM fuel cell system is to be developed, which is adapted to temperature conditions of over 100°C and can withstand the vibrations and pressure changes at great depths during drilling. GeoFuelCells was jointly developed by the Westphalian Energy Institute and the International Geothermal Centre Bochum in cooperation with the companies ProPuls GmbH and Obitronik GmbH.
The developed concepts have led to a follow-up project, whose objective is the use of fuel cells in the monitoring of above and/or underground storage facilities (“Wireless long-term monitoring system for autarkic environmental monitoring above and underground powered by a fuel cell”, BMWi / ZIM.)
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Westphalian Energy Institute
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International Geothermal Centre
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Information on funding and further project participants
Funding code: 005-1009-0032