Washington, D.C.  — Today, construction began on an innovative $19.5 million carbon-capture pilot, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), at Kentucky Utilities’ E.W. Brown Generating Station near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. The 2 megawatt thermal system will be the first megawatt-scale carbon-capture pilot unit in the Commonwealth.

Officials of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and energy leaders — including Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, State Energy Secretary Len Peters, DOE representatives, and other dignitaries and project partners — marked the start of construction with a formal ribbon-cutting and press conference at the power plant. When completed later this year, the unit will test a system conceived by the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UKCAER) at slipstream-scale to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the flue gas of an operating coal-fired power plant.

"This project reinforces coal as part of the President's "All of the Above" strategy, and underscores the viability of coal as part of America's low-carbon economy," said Julio Friedmann, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal and Carbon Management at the Department of Energy.

The UKCAER project, managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, was competitively selected for funding by the Energy Department in 2011. The project is part of DOE’s Carbon Capture Program, which is developing technologies for both pre- and post-combustion carbon capture. The program supports national efforts to mitigate climate change by capturing CO2 at large point sources, such as power plants, and permanently storing the greenhouse gases to prevent its release into the atmosphere.

Three concepts demonstrated in the UKCAER project will include:

  • An advanced solvent system, with lower heat of regeneration, higher capacity, and lower solvent degradation than conventional amine solvents.
  • A two-stage CO2-stripping process that increases solvent working capacity, reduces the energy required for solvent regeneration, and reduces capital costs.
  • An integrated cooling tower that recovers energy from the carbon-capture system and improves power plant efficiency.

The system will use a sampling port to redirect a portion of the power plant’s flue gas just before it enters the stack. The redirected gas will be shunted into modules where it will react with an advanced liquid solvent to extract CO2. The gas stream, now carrying less than 1 percent CO2, will exit the modules and return to the stack. The liquid solvent, carrying the removed CO2, will be put through a two-stage process to strip the CO2 from the solvent, producing a concentrated stream of CO2. The solvent will then be recycled to the modules to process more flue gas, while so-called “waste heat” from the carbon-capture system will be recovered in the cooling tower.  This robust system integration will improve the power plant’s cooling-tower and steam-turbine efficiency.

The Energy Department is contributing $14.5 million for the 5 year project. A total of nearly $5 million will be provided by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems America (Basking Ridge, N.J), the University of Kentucky, the Electric Power Research Institute, the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, and the Carbon Management Research Group. The Carbon Management Research Group comprises government agencies, electric utilities, and research organizations; current members include LG&E and KU Energy (Louisville, Ky.), Duke Energy (Charlotte, N.C.), American Electric Power, and the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence.

For more information about the UKCAER project, please visit NETL’s project webpage.