The U.S. Department of Energy has approved a large-scale field test of a promising technology that can separate and capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) from syngas, or gasified coal.
The system has great potential for reduced energy requirements, reasonable capture costs and greater efficiencies for post-combustion CO2 capture—all important factors for retrofitting existing pulverized coal-based plants.
In an $18.75 million project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Newark, California-based Membrane Technology and Research Inc. (MTR) and its partners tested the Polaris membrane system, which uses a CO2-selective polymeric membrane—a micro-porous film that acts as a semi-permanent barrier to separate two different mediums—to capture CO2 from a coal plant’s flue gas.
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Post-combustion separation and capture of CO2 is challenging, due to the:
· Low pressure and diluted concentration of CO2 in the waste stream;
· Trace impurities in the flue gas that affect removal processes; and
· Amount of energy required for CO2 capture and compression.
Demonstrating and further validating this innovative, cost-effective membrane CO2 separation process at the one- megawatt equivalent (MWe) pilot scale is expected to be a major step toward meeting DOE’s program goals of capturing more than 90 percent of CO2 from flue gas with less than a 35 percent increase in the cost of electricity.
MTR will now begin fabricating a one-megawatt (MW) system capable of meeting this goal from a 20-ton-per-day slipstream of coal-fired flue gas. The system will be tested at DOE’s National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) in Wilsonville, Ala., beginning in 2013.
The Post-Combustion Carbon Capture Center at the NCCC facilitates testing and integration of advanced CO2-capture technologies, at scale, using flue gas from Alabama Power’s Gaston power plant Unit 5, an 880-MWt supercritical pulverized coal unit. Data generated in during a six-month field test of the one-megawatt system will be used by MTR to develop a preliminary 20-megawatt full-scale commercial design in cooperation with their partners, Vectren, an Evansville, Indiana-based distributor of electricity and natural gas; and WorleyParsons, a North Sydney, Australia-based provider of professional services to the energy industry.
Other collaborators on the three-year project include the Babcock & Wilcox Company, Electric Power Research Institute, and Southern Company. Objectives of the project – part of DOE’s Clean Coal Research Program portfolio – include reducing the capital cost, footprint, and energy penalty for CO2 capture in conventional coal-fired power plants, compared to existing commercial systems.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo