Office of Fossil Energy

Energy Department Invests $4M in Air Separation Research at National Labs

October 26, 2018

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy is investing $4 million in federal funding for four national lab-led research and development projects to identify new concepts and technologies for producing oxygen via air separation for use in flexible, modular gasification systems.

These projects are supported through a Laboratory Research Call, Technical Support for Advanced Air Separation Concepts and Technologies for the Production of Oxygen, issued in June 2018. The objective is to develop air separation technologies to be used in advanced fossil energy-based modular energy systems that will make progress toward enabling cost-competitive, coal-based power generation with near-zero emissions. The air separation technologies developed could eventually find applications in coal-fed, small-scale (1-5 MWe) modular gasification-based power plants.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the projects, which are described below:

Advanced Oxygen Separation from Air Using Novel Mixed-Matrix MembranesIdaho National Laboratory (Idaho Falls, ID) intends to create a durable, high-performing membrane material that dramatically advances current technology by taking advantage of an oxygen (O2)/nitrogen (N2)-selective polymer material and minimizing or eliminating its loss of performance through the inclusion of chemically tailorable and durable nanoparticles.

High Selectivity and Throughput Carbon Molecular Sieve Hollow Fiber Membranes-based Modular Air Separation Unit for Producing High-Purity O2 Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos, NM) intends to develop and demonstrate a modular air separation unit (ASU) for producing high purity O2 using novel membranes with O2/N2 selectivity. The design will be optimized to minimize compression/vacuum needs and energy losses enabling realization of an energy efficient modular ASU for integration with a modular 1-5 MWe gasification system.

Magnetocaloric Oxygen Liquefaction System for High Efficiency Air SeparationsPacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA) aims to explore the feasibility of magnetocaloric technology as a replacement for compression-intensive cryogenic ASUs. Once the technical feasibility has been demonstrated, techno-economic analyses will be conducted to validate the economic viability.

Pressure Driven Oxygen Separation via Mixed Conducting Dual Phase TechnologyPacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA) plans to develop a modular ASU capable of producing 10 tons per day of oxygen using a thin-mixed conducting two-phase composite deposited onto a porous support to maximize oxygen permeability through the membrane.

The Office of Fossil Energy funds research and development projects to reduce the risk and cost of advanced fossil energy technologies and further the sustainable use of the Nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit the Office of Fossil Energy website or sign up for FE news announcements. More information about the National Energy Technology Laboratory is available on the NETL website.