25 June 2018
DEMOSOFC - The first industrial size biogas fed CHP system based on fuel cells


Summer 2018

High efficiency and Zero emissions

The DEMOSOFC project, funded by FCH-JU, has put into operation the largest industrial size biogas-fed fuel cell plant in Europe. The plant is a combined heat and power energy system, working by recovering the biogas obtained from the digestion of the sewage sludge in a wastewater treatment plant located near Torino (IT).

Thanks to the anaerobic digestion, sludge is turned into a useful fuel – biogas – made of methane and carbon dioxide. This 100% renewable fuel is fed to an innovative Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC), able to produce high efficiency electrical power, heat, and zero emissions to the atmosphere (because the electrochemical process, which occurs inside the SOFC, is indeed generating no combustion products).


The DEMOSOFC plant is able to generate, from a by-product of the wastewater purification line, CHP energy for the plant. The installed 174 kWe system (3 modules, 58 kWe each) will be able to cover around 25-30% of the plant electrical load and around 50% of the thermal load on a yearly basis.

The first of the three SOFC modules started its operation in the Collegno site (Torino, IT) on October 30, 2017 and has now reached more than 2000 hours of operation. Results confirmed the high efficiency of the SOFC module (always higher than 50%, with peaks at 55-56%) and the zero emissions to atmosphere. A dedicated onsite emissions analysis – carried out by the Finnish partner VTT in December 2017 – showed that all potential pollutants (NOx, SOx, particulates, VOC, etc) are below detection limits of the traditional instrumentation (e.g. < 20 mg/m3 for NOx and < 8 mg/m3 for SO2).

Key advantages of the DEMOSOFC concept, compared to traditional internal combustion engines and micro-turbines, are the very high electrical efficiency (50-55% compared to 35-40% for traditional engines), emissions and modularity: the SOFC technology shows in fact stable performance despite the plant size (from kW to hundreds of kW to, in perspective, MW-size).


The replication potential of this installation is significant. The DEMOSOFC project estimated that, among the 23'423 wastewater treatment plants in Europe, more than 50% are small-medium size plants, where the installation of a traditional piston engine is less convenient and efficient. The potential SOFC power installation in the wastewater treatment sector in Europe ranges from 930 to 2550 MWe. Furthermore, the DEMOSOF concept could be replicated in other biogas sectors like organic fraction of municipal solid waste treatment, agriculture, food industry and landfill.

Advanced solutions such as the one demonstrated in DEMOSOFC can finally play a role in the transition to a Circular Economy.


Politecnico di Torino (Project Coordinator: Prof. Massimo Santarelli), SMAT (Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator), Convion Oy (SOFC System Supplier) and VTT (Finnish Research Center), with the support and the business analysis of Imperial College of London, have developed the DEMOSOFC plant and concept.

The DEMOSOFC plant has generated a growing interest in industry, utilities and R&D experts: POLITO and SMAT, together with all the consortium, are available to organize meetings and visits to the demo plant, to analyse technical and economic benefits of the proposed solution. For more info, contact: demosofc@polito.it

Contact information
DEMOSOFC Website: www.demosofc.eu
DEMOSOFC Blog: demosofc.wordpress.com
Twitter: twitter.com/Steps_Polito
Facebook: facebook.com/StepsPolito/

"This project has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 671470. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe research."