Energy Department picks 18 projects for CO2 capture research

As part of the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Energy on Nov. 7 announced the selection of 18 projects across the country to research innovative, second-generation carbon capture technologies.

These technologies are designed to improve the efficiency and drive down costs of carbon capture processes for new and existing coal-fired power plants.

“In the past four years we’ve more than doubled renewable energy generation from wind and solar power. However, coal and other fossil fuels still provide 80 percent of our energy, 70 percent of our electricity, and will be a major part of our energy future for decades,” said DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz.

“That’s why any serious effort to protect future generations from the worst effects of climate change must also include developing, demonstrating and deploying the technologies to use our abundant fossil fuel resources as cleanly as possible,” Moniz added. “As part of the President’s all-of-the-above approach to develop clean and affordable sources of American energy, the projects announced today will focus on the next generation of carbon capture technologies – helping to drive down the cost, increase efficiency and ensure America’s continued international leadership in combating climate change.”

Industry critics point out that despite DOE’s efforts, commercially viable CO2 capture and storage technologies that financiers would actually lend money to build are at least 10 years off. They say that will be too late to save many coal plants that will have to shut in the meantime due to various clean-air mandates.

To date, DOE said that the Obama Administration has invested $6bn in clean coal technologies to ensure the U.S. continues to have access to safe, sustainable and affordable energy from abundant domestic fossil resources.

With nearly $84m in investments from the Energy Department – and additional cost-share from industry, universities, and other research institutions – the 18 projects will support the development of advanced technologies that will help enable efficient, cost-effective application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) processes for new and existing coal-fired power plants.

Projects will conduct carbon capture research for two different fossil power generation processes. For traditional, combustion-based power plants – like most coal-fired plants today – research will focus on more efficiently capturing carbon emissions post combustion. More advanced coal gasification plants break down coal – or almost any carbon-based feedstock – into its chemical constituents before any combustion takes place. Research into this technology will improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of pre-combustion carbon capture.

An example of the funding winners is SRI International of Menlo Park Calif., with DOE help of $10.5m, for a test of a CO2 sorbent capture process and to conduct pilot-scale testing of the sorbent under realistic conditions to validate affordability and opportunities for CO2 use in commercial applications such as enhanced oil recovery or chemical operations. SRI also got two other awards for various technology testing.

Another winner, of about $1m, was ADA-ES of Highlands Ranch, Colo. The project team, partnering with leading solids-to-solids heat exchanger company Solex Thermal, will advance carbon capture technologies with solid sorbents by reducing the energy penalty and overall cost for CO2 capture by recovering heat generated by the sorbent during the capture process.

Akermin Inc. of St. Louis is getting about $3m to test a new online catalyst replacement system that will reduce the energy requirements and cost of capturing CO2 using solvents from coal-based power systems, which will be tested at the bench scale.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.