DOE awards research funding for coal, fuel cell systems

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Aug. 24 announced the selection of 14 research and development projects to advance energy systems that will enable cost-competitive, fossil fuel–based power generation with near-zero emissions.

The new projects will accelerate the scale-up of coal-based advanced combustion power systems, advance coal gasification processes, and improve the cost, reliability, and endurance of solid oxide fuel cells. The total award value of the projects exceeds $36 million, which includes a federal investment of more than $28 million and recipient cost-sharing of $8.4 million.

Funding for the new projects is provided by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE). The projects will be managed by FE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. The selected projects will support DOE’s Advanced Combustion Systems Program, which is developing efficient and economically attractive combustion systems that generate electricity with near-zero emissions.

Advanced Combustion Pilot Plants

Three projects were selected to complete preliminary designs of pilot plants based on advanced combustion systems. They will accelerate the scale-up of coal-based advanced combustion power generation technologies capable of 90% CO2 capture with substantially improved cost and performance. The pilot plants will be at least 10 MW electrical (MWe) in scale or equivalent and contain design features that will be assessed prior to commercial-scale demonstration. Technical and economic analyses will also be conducted at commercial-scale to evaluate the ultimate cost and performance relative to DOE goals.

  • Pre-Project Planning for a GE CLC 10 MWe Pilot Plant — Alstom Power Inc. (Windsor, CT) and General Electric,. DOE: $3,209,578
  • Pre-Project Planning for a Flameless Pressurized Oxy-combustion Pilot Plant — Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, TX), ITEA S.p.A., Jacobs, the Electric Power Research Institute, General Electric Global Research and Peter Reineck Associates, DOE: $3,279,208
  • 10 MWe Coal Direct Chemical Looping Large Pilot Plant, Front End Engineering and Design Study — Babcock & Wilcox (Barberton, OH) with The Ohio State University,  DOE: $3,330,452

Modular Oxygen Production in Fossil Energy Gasification Systems

Two projects were selected to develop stand-alone oxygen-production technologies for use in coal gasification processes. The new technologies will produce oxygen of at least 95% purity for use in small-scale (500 kW to 5 MW) modular power plants at significantly lower cost than commercial state-of-the-art oxygen-production technologies. This, in turn, will help reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of producing syngas, a gaseous mixture composed mainly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can be converted into clean electricity, fertilizer, chemicals, or liquid fuel for internal combustion engines.

  • Low-cost Oxygen for Small-scale Modular Gasification Systems —Thermosolv LLC, LP Amina Inc. (Laramie, WY), the Western Research Institute, and the University of Wyoming, DOE: $2,000,000
  • Oxygen Binding Materials and Highly Efficient Modular System for Oxygen Production — Research Triangle Institute (Research Triangle Park, NC) and Air Liquide, DOE: $1,999,602

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Technology

Nine research projects were selected to improve the cost, reliability, and endurance of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). An SOFC is a solid-state electrochemical device that directly converts reformed hydrocarbon fuels to electricity. Advantages of SOFCs include high efficiency, long-term stability, fuel flexibility, low emissions, and relatively low costs. The projects were selected based upon responses to a funding opportunity announcement soliciting proposals in two topic areas: SOFC core technology and innovative concepts.

Five core technology projects were selected. These projects will focus on applied laboratory or bench-scale R&D that improves the cost, robustness, reliability, and endurance of SOFC stack and or balance-of-plant technology:

  • Chromium Vapor Sensor for Monitoring SOFC Systems – Auburn University (Auburn, AL), DOE: $171,465
  • Development of Chromium and Sulfur Getter for SOFC Systems — University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT), DOE: $500,000
  • High Temperature Anode Recycle Blower for SOFC — Mohawk Innovative Technology (Albany, NY) in collaboration with FuelCell Energy., DOE: $600,000
  • Highly Selective and Stable Multivariable Gas Sensors for Enhanced Robustness and Reliability of SOFC Operation – General Electric (Niskayuna, NY) in partnership with SUNY Polytechnic Institute and GE-Fuel Cells LLC., DOE: $545,290
  • Minimizing CR-Evaporation From Balance of Plant Components by Utilizing Cost-Effective Alumina-Forming Austenitic Steels — West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV) in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Carpenter Technology Corp. and FuelCell Energy., DOE: $369,999

Four innovative concept projects were selected. These projects will support the research and development of SOFC technology that has the potential to surpass current SOFC technology in terms of cost, robustness, reliability, or endurance:

  • Robust SOFC Stacks for Affordable and Reliable Distributed Generation Power Systems — Redox Power Systems (College Park, MD), the University of Maryland Research Center, and the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering, DOE: $3,000,000
  • Transformational SOFC Technology — Fuel Cell Energy (Danbury, CT), DOE: $3,000,000
  • Metal-Supported Ceria Electrolyte-Based SOFC Stack for Scalable, Low Cost, High Efficiency and Robust Stationary Power Systems — Cummins Power Generation (Minneapolis, MN), DOE: $3,935,630
  • Performance and Reliability Advancements in a Durable Low Temperature Tubular SOFC — Acumentrics (Walpole, MA) and the University of South Carolina, DOE: $2,456,233
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.