Plant Optimization Technologies

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The Plant Optimization Technologies Program is a diverse, scientifically oriented research and development program that addresses issues affecting the way coal is used. The program's primary emphasis is to support the development of advanced technologies that use coal with near-zero emissions.

To provide this support, the program identifies scientific and technological needs and develops a basic understanding of the underlying chemical and physical processes that, unless resolved, could create a technological barrier to these new coal-based concepts.

The program serves as a bridge between basic science and the fabrication and testing of new technologies. Currently researchers supported by this program are working on:

Sensors, Controls and Other Novel Concepts

The Instrumentation, Sensors & Control element focuses on the development of novel sensors critical to the implementation and optimization of advanced fossil fuel-based power generation systems, including new classes of sensors capable of monitoring key parameters (temperature, pressure, and gases) and operating in harsh environments. This involves development of innovative analytical techniques for on-line industrial use, along with technologies that meet the immediate high-priority measurement need. The controls development work centers around self-organizing information networks and distributed intelligence for process control and decision making. This activity also embeds other novel concepts that possess the potential for eliminating technology barriers in fossil energy systems. These novel concepts include: investigating fundamental combustion and gasification chemistry to discern rates and mechanisms affecting emissions behavior under combustion/ gasification conditions; examining the fundamental parameters, kinetics, and thermodynamics involved in CO2 mineral sequestration; and, initiating a broad scope of technology development for advanced power systems.

Crosscutting Material R&D

This Crosscutting activity involves the development of computational techniques for the virtual and rapid design of materials that show promise in satisfying the demanding requirements for advanced combustion systems. These efforts involve:

  • Development of a technology base in the synthesis, processing, life-cycle analysis, and performance characterization of advanced materials;
  • Development of new alloy materials that have the potential to improve the performance and/or reduce the cost of existing fossil fuel technologies. For example, operation of pulverized coal plant at Advanced Ultrasupercritical (AUSC) conditions of up to 760°C and 5000 psi would increase plant efficiency and reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent per MW over current plants;
  • Development of materials for new energy systems and capabilities, such as gasifiers, oxy-combustion, which promises to lower emissions of NOx and CO2, and gas separation membranes; and
  • Combination of above technologies to allow simultaneous achievement of multiple objectives, such as cost effective, efficient, and low emission plant enabled by a combination of AUSC and oxycombustion.

More specifically, these efforts include exploration of developing chemistries that will form either protective chromia oxide scales or alumina oxide scales, depending upon application environment and performance requirement needs. The work also continues the development of alloys based on refractory metal elements to withstand the high temperatures and aggressive environments that are predicted for oxy-fuel turbines, hydrogen turbines, and syngas turbines, such as Nb, Mo, Cr, and W. Work will continue on the mechanical testing and microstructural analyses necessary to prove the performance of the nickel-based alloys, which has not been used in pulverized coal-fired power generation plants. The results of this testing will be used for the code qualification of this material certification.

Water Management R&D

The Water Management Research and Development (R&D) element supports sustainability and improved water efficiency with the goal of reducing freshwater usage and consumption in thermoelectric cooling applications. Focused R&D includes developing technologies to reduce water use and processes for treating water produced by injection of carbon dioxide in deep saline aquifers. This includes exploratory research and concept development of desalination processes for production of potable water from carbon capture and storage activities.  Water Management R&D also explores innovative filtration technologies, including membrane-based, evaporative, chemical, electrochemical and biological systems for the purpose of producing potable water and exploits the opportunity for water-limited cooling provided by the supercritical carbon dioxide fuel cycle.