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Ten Projects Selected by DOE to Advance State-of-the-Art Carbon Capture from Coal Power Plants

July 7, 2010 - 1:00pm


Washington, DC - Ten projects aimed at developing advanced technologies for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal combustion have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under its Innovations for Existing Plants (IEP) Program.

Valued at approximately $67 million ($15 million in non-federal cost sharing) over three years, the projects are focused on reducing the "energy and efficiency penalties" associated with applying currently available carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to existing and new power plants.

CO2 power plant capture systems currently require large amounts of energy for their operation, resulting in decreased efficiency and reduced net power output when compared to plants without CCS technology. These "penalties" can add as much as 80 percent to the cost of electricity for a new pulverized coal plant and about 35 percent to the cost of electricity for a new advanced gasification plant. The overall goal of research conducted by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and managed by FE's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is to improve efficiencies and reduce these costs to less than 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

CCS is considered by a number of experts to be an important option - along with increased use of renewable and nuclear energy - in a portfolio strategy for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and helping mitigate possible climate change. Because coal-based power plants account for about one-third of total U.S. emissions of CO2, a major GHG resulting from fossil fuel combustion, future federal legislation and/or regulations to limit U.S. power generation emissions of CO2, are considered likely by many observers.

The Obama Administration has made a goal of developing cost-effective deployment of CCS technologies within 10 years, with an objective of bringing 5 to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016.

"Charting a path toward clean coal is essential to achieving our goals of providing clean energy, creating American jobs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It will also help position the United States as a leader in the global clean energy race," said Secretary Steven Chu.

Today's selections will focus on bench-scale and slipstream-scale development (0.5 to 5 MWe) and testing of advanced post-combustion CO2 capture technologies that include membranes, solvents, and solid sorbents. Post-combustion CO2 capture offers great near-term potential for reducing power sector CO2 emissions because it can be retrofit to existing plants.

The projects are briefly described as follows:

Bench-Scale Development and Testing of Post-combustion CO2 Capture

Area of Interest--Membranes

  • American Air Liquide, Inc. (Newark, Dela.)--This two-year project will develop a cost-effective system for CO2 capture based on the performance achieved by the sub-ambient temperature operation of the Air Liquide hollow fiber membrane. The membrane will be coupled with cryogenic processing technology in a closed-loop test system that will verify the effect of possible contaminants, such as SOx, NOx and water, on membrane performance at levels relevant to coal-fired power plants. Experimental results will be used to refine the integrated process simulation and to design a slipstream facility. (DOE share: $1,266,249)
  • Gas Technology Institute (Des Plaines, Ill.)--Partnering with PoroGen Corporation and Aker Process Systems, Gas Technology Institute proposes a three-year effort to develop cost-effective hybrid separation technology for CO2 capture from flue gases based on a combination of absorption and hollow fiber membrane technologies. The technology could also apply to removal of numerous other gas pollutants such as NOx and SOx, separation of CO2 from hydrogen in refinery streams, and separation of CO2 from natural gas (natural gas sweetening). (DOE share: $2,986,063)

Area of Interest--Solvents

  • 3H Company, LLC (Lexington, Ky.)--3H Company and partners will confirm experimentally and analytically the feasibility of 3H Company patented "Self-Concentrating Absorbent CO2 Capture Process." The process is based on amines in a non-aqueous solvent, which upon reaction with CO2, will separate into two distinct phases: a CO2-rich liquid phase and a dilute lean phase. Preliminary experimental data show that the process has the potential of reducing the total regeneration energy by as much as 70 percent. During the three-year project, the team will also develop an engineering design, supported by laboratory data and economic justification, to construct and operate a slipstream demonstration facility at an E-ON power plant in the United States as a next stage of commercialization development. (DOE share: $2,740,033)
  • Akermin, Inc. (St. Louis, Mo.)--Akermin proposes to demonstrate the ability to capture up to 90 percent of CO2 from a simulated flue gas using a solvent with significantly lower regeneration energy at rates comparable to those of conventional monoethanolamine. Over the course of the two-year project, Akermin will optimize solvent formulation and demonstrate process efficacy for treating up to 2,000 standard liters of gas per hour. (DOE share: $2,608,759)
  • ION Engineering, LLC (Boulder, Colo.)--In a 15-month project, ION Engineering and partners will fabricate, install, and operate a bench-scale carbon capture unit to process flue gas at an operating power plant using amine-based solvents, which are highly effective for CO2 capture. ION's innovative approach to solvent formulation employs an ionic liquid instead of water as the physical solvent, greatly reducing the energy required to regenerate the amines and significantly lowering process water usage. In addition to a 60 percent reduction in energy requirement, ionic liquid-amine solvent mixtures offer higher CO2 capacities, reduced corrosion, reduced solvent losses, and other benefits when compared to traditional aqueous amine technologies. (DOE share: $2,999,614)
  • University of Illinois (Champaign, Ill.)--Collaborators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Parsons Corporation will investigate the use of a carbonate salt (potassium or sodium carbonate) as a solvent for absorption-based, post-combustion CO2 capture. A preliminary techno-economic evaluation shows that energy use with the Hot Carbonate Absorption Process (CAP) is about half that of a conventional monoethanolamine process. The research team will perform a proof-of-concept study aimed at generating process engineering and scale-up data to help advance Hot-CAP technology to the pilot-scale demonstration level within three years. (DOE share: $1,261,459)
  • URS Group (Austin, Texas)--URS Group, Inc. and partners will investigate the use of concentrated piperazine (PZ) as a solvent for absorbing CO2 from coal-fired power plant flue gas. PZ coupled with two-stage flash regeneration at 150°C offers several advantages over other solvents, including: faster CO2 absorption rate, higher CO2 capacity, lower volatility, negligible thermal degradation, negligible oxidative degradation when used with an inhibitor, and production of CO2 at elevated pressure (resulting in lower compression costs). The three-year project will be conducted initially at a 0.1 MW scale and ultimately with a 0.5 MW unit designed and constructed for a final test campaign with the absorber at DOE's National Carbon Capture Center. (DOE share: $3,000,000)

Slipstream Development and Testing of Post-combustion CO2 Capture

Area of Interest--Membranes

  • Membrane Technology and Research, Inc. (Menlo Park, Calif.)--Membrane Technology and Research (MTR) and partners will construct a 1 MW membrane skid capable of 90 percent CO2 capture from a slipstream flow of 20 tons-of-CO2/day in coal-fired flue gas during a six-month field test at the Arizona Public Service Cholla Power Plant. Field test data and membrane performance data obtained at the National Carbon Capture Center will allow a thorough techno-economic evaluation of the membrane capture process over the three-year project, and will clarify the relative potential of the approach. (DOE share: $14,756,199)

Area of Interest--Solvents

  • Siemens Energy, Inc. (Pittsburgh, Pa.)--Siemens Energy will design, install, and operate a pilot plant for treating a slipstream (1 MW equivalent) at the TECO Energy Big Bend Station to demonstrate POSTCAP technology for post-combustion CO2 gas capture. Siemens' POSTCAP technology utilizes an amino acid salt formulation as a solvent for CO2 absorption. (DOE share: $8,960,000)

Area of Interest--Solid Sorbents

  • ADA-ES, Inc. (Littleton, Colo.)--ADA-ES and partners will refine the conceptual design of a commercial solid sorbent-based, post-combustion CO2 capture technology through slipstream pilot testing and process modeling. A pilot unit (1 MW) will be designed and constructed for operation at one of the cost-share participant's power plant sites to demonstrate solid sorbent-based CO2 capture on actual flue gas for at least two continuous months. The pilot tests and process modeling during the 39-month project will provide the information necessary to complete a techno-economic analysis of the technology. (DOE share: $11,133,706)

Over the past two decades, DOE's IEP program has played a crucial role in moving advanced technologies - such as nitrogen oxide and mercury control technologies - from concepts to commercial demonstration and deployment. Helping to confront the climate change challenge is the current focus of the IEP program.