Carbon Capture R&D

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DOE’s Carbon Capture Program, administered by the Office of Fossil Energy and implemented at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, is conducting research and development activities on advanced carbon capture technologies that have the potential to provide step-change reductions in both cost and energy penalty as compared to currently available technologies.

The Carbon Capture Program consists of two core research Technology Areas:

  • Post-Combustion Capture; Post-combustion capture is primarily applicable to fossil fuel based systems such as conventional pulverized coal (PC)-fired power plants, where the fuel is burned with air in a boiler to produce steam that drives a turbine/generator to produce electricity. The carbon dioxide (CO2) is captured from the flue gas after fuel combustion.
  • Pre-Combustion Capture. Pre-combustion capture is applicable to integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants, where solid fuel is converted into gaseous components ("syngas") by applying heat under pressure in the presence of steam and oxygen. In this case, the carbon is captured from the syngas before completing the combustion process.  

In addition, the program is starting to consider the use of carbon capture technologies to natural fired gas power plants and industrial processes that utilize fossil energy for manufacturing fuels and chemicals.

The successful development of advanced CO2 capture technologies is critical to maintaining the cost-effectiveness of fossil fuel based power generation. Today, there are commercially available First Generation CO2 capture technologies that are being used in various small-scale industrial applications. At their current state of development these technologies are not ready for widespread deployment on fossil fuel based power plants for three primary reasons.

DOE is focused on supporting research and development (R&D) of novel technology solutions that address the three major issues with existing commercial CO2 capture technology:

  • Reducing the impact of CO2 capture on power generating capacity;
  • Scaling up novel CO2 capture technologies to the necessary size for full-scale deployment at fossil energy power systems; and
  • Improving the cost effectiveness of novel technologies for CO2 capture so that fossil based systems with carbon capture are cost competitive.

The core RD&D projects being pursued by the program leverage public and private partnerships to support the goal of broad, cost-effective carbon capture deployment. Fossil Energy is targeting demonstration of 2nd generation technologies that result in a captured cost of CO2 less than $40/tonne in the 2020-2025 timeframe. Fossil Energy is also committed to extending R&D support to even more advanced transformational carbon capture technologies that will further increase competitiveness of fossil based energy systems beyond 2035 where the cost of capture CO2 is approximately $30/tonne.

The Carbon Capture Program’s approach to achieve these goals is to utilize a combination of developments in process chemistry, new chemical production methods, novel process equipment designs, new equipment manufacturing methods, and optimization of the process integration with other power plant systems (e.g., the steam cycle, cooling water system, carbon dioxide compression, etc.). Additionally, advances in boiler/gasifier technologies, materials of construction, process stream handling, heat integration, compression technologies, gas cleanup and separation, and power cycle technology under development within the Department’s Clean Coal Research Program provide synergistic benefits are also required to meet program goals.