Texaco, Reliant Developing Fuel Reformer System

Texaco Energy Systems Inc. has teamed up with Reliant Energy Power Systems to develop a space-age sounding energy system for residential and business use. TESI plans to tailor its existing fuel processing technology for REPS' proton-exchange-membrane (PEM) fuel cell system prototype. Called the "fuel reformer," the system would deliver personal power to homes and businesses during peak demand periods.

TESI will use REPS's PEM fuel cell prototype is a 7.5 kW unit that extracts hydrogen from natural gas. The fuel reformer uses a chemical process to create electricity. Among other things, the completed system would allow homeowners the option of disconnecting from their electric utility by using the reformer to power their homes using natural gas as the primary feed source.

"This project is aimed at producing a cost-effective, high efficient fuel reformer that is commercial and meets specific cost and performance standards," said Greg A. Romney, vice president of Fuel Cells and Fuel Processing at TESI. "We were attracted to Reliant because of its substantial market presence and knowledge, and by the fuel cell's commercial, cost effective design.

Dick Snyder, REPS's COO, said Reliant was looking for a "proven fuel processor provider" that was "tuned in" to the needs of the residential market. "We share two goals: to accelerate the path to market and provide customers with environmentally smart, advanced energy solutions in step with the evolving marketplace."

TESI is developing a proprietary multi-fuel processor that is capable of converting commonly available fuels, such as natural gas and liquefied petroleum gases, into hydrogen, the necessary fuel for fuel cells. While the initial development is targeted at serving Reliant's fuel cell needs, the reformer is adaptable to other fuel cell systems.

The companies said in a statement that their goal is to "further the development and integration of their prototype units, which include plans to combine both technologies for testing in homes." No timeline was given for delivery of the system. REPS, a unit of Houston-based Reliant Energy, was formed to bring the PEM fuel cell technology to the marketplace. TESI, a subsidiary of Texaco Inc., was formed in 1999 to develop and commercialize several advanced energy technologies.

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