The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected 17 projects to receive approximately $18.7 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development. These projects will develop innovative technologies to generate novel, marketable products using carbon dioxide (CO2) or coal as a feedstock, potentially offering significant advantages over traditional products and creating new market opportunities for coal. The projects are supported through the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0001849, Novel Methods for Making Products from Carbon Dioxide or Coal.

These projects will advance FE’s efforts to 1) improve coal as a feedstock to produce value-added by-products and 2) develop and test technologies that can use CO2—from coal-based power systems or other industrial sources—as the primary feedstock to reduce emissions and create valuable products. The coal feedstock projects will use existing pilot plants to produce an upgraded coal fuel and value-added by-products.  The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the projects, which are described below:

Area of Interest 1: Lab-Scale CO2 Conversion

1. CO2 and Renewable Electricity into Chemicals: Formic Acid Production from Coal Flue GasDioxide Materials (Boca Raton, FL) will develop an electrolyzer technology to enable formic acid to be economically manufactured from flue gas from a coal-fired pilot plant. This project will potentially lower the cost of CO2 capture from coal-fired power plants; provide a feedstock for the bioprocessing industry that does not compete with the food supply; enable ethanol plants in the Midwest to meet the low-carbon fuel standards; and enable economic production of a biodegradable polymer.

DOE Funding: $800,000; Non-DOE Funding: $200,000; Total Value: $1,000,000

2. Design of Transition-Metal/Zeolite Catalysts for Direct Conversion of Coal-Derived CO2 to AromaticsThe Georgia Tech Research Corporation (Atlanta, GA) will develop a new catalytic process to produce valuable aromatic chemicals directly from CO2 in coal-fired power plant flue gas. The new catalysts will enable a single-reactor process for conversion of CO2 to aromatics that can be deployed onsite at coal-fired power plants.

DOE Funding: $800,000; Non-DOE Funding: $231,376; Total Value: $1,031,376

3. Sustainable Conversion of Carbon Dioxide and Shale Gas to Green Acetic Acid via a Thermochemical Cyclic Redox SchemeNorth Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC) will develop a comprehensive proof-of-concept for sustainable and cost-effective production of acetic acid, a critical building block for the plastic industry, from CO2 and domestic shale gas. The project will remove the remaining challenges for the hybrid redox process technology, pushing it toward practical implementations for power plant flue gas.

DOE Funding: $797,244; Non-DOE Funding: $199,606; Total Value: $996,850

4. Novel Modular Electrocatalytic Processing for Simultaneous Conversion of Carbon Dioxide and Wet Shale Gas into Valuable ProductsOhio University (Athens, OH) aims to develop a process that uses solid oxide electrolysis to simultaneously convert CO2 and ethane contained in wet natural gas into valuable products. This technology will provide fossil fuel-based power plants, oil and gas producers, and midstream gas processors a synergistic solution to carbon capture and ethane oversupply challenges.     

DOE Funding: $800,000; Non-DOE Funding: $200,000; Total Value: $1,000,000

5. Electrochemical Conversion of Coal-Derived CO2 into Fuels and Chemicals Using a Modified PEM ElectrolyzerOpus 12 (Berkeley, CA) will develop an electrochemical process to convert CO2 into chemicals and fuels using only CO2, water, and electricity as inputs. A prototype has been developed that demonstrates high selectivity and current density for CO2 conversion to carbon monoxide that can be used to make high-value products including methanol, acetic acid, polymers, and pharmaceuticals.

DOE Funding: $800,000; Non-DOE Funding: $200,000; Total Value: $1,000,000

6. Novel Process for CO2 Conversion to Fuel TDA Research (Wheat Ridge, CO) will develop a new sorbent-based process that can convert CO2 captured from power plants, or other large sources, by reducing it with methane and water into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, without generating additional CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions. The process modeling and analysis will be used to demonstrate the techno-economic feasibility of the carbon-neutral process to convert CO2 into fuel.

DOE Funding: $800,000; Non-DOE Funding: $200,000; Total Value: $1,000,000

7. CO2-to-Fuels through Novel Electrochemical CatalysisTrustees of the Colorado School of Mines (Golden, CO) will demonstrate a modular and scalable reactor that economically upgrades CO2 into fuels and chemicals. This project integrates carbon-carbon-coupling catalysts developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory with emerging proton-conducting ceramic membranes to directly produce synthetic fuels and high-value chemicals from CO2 feedstocks.

DOE Funding: $800,000; Non-DOE Funding: $206,467; Total Value: $1,006,467

8. Selective and Efficient Electrochemical Production of Neat Formic Acid from CO2 Using Novel PGM-Free CatalystsThe University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA) will develop a lab-scale abiotic electrolyzer that cost-effectively converts CO2 to formic acid. The project will design a process where CO2 is collected from the flue gas of coal or fossil fuel combustion and fed to the electrolyzer. Supercritical CO2 phase will be used for reduction, and a liquid water phase will be used for oxidation.

DOE Funding: $733,668; Non-DOE Funding: $199,933; Total Value: $933,601

9. An Intensified Electro-Catalytic Process for Production of Formic Acid from Power Plant CO2 EmissionsThe University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY) intends to develop and test an electro-catalytic method to produce formic acid from coal-derived CO2 feedstocks as an alternative to production from methanol. This project will result in two major benefits: 1) reducing the cost of capturing CO2 from utility coal-fired units and 2) producing formic acid at a lower cost, potentially disrupting and advancing fuel cell, hydrogen storage, and chemical manufacturing markets.

DOE Funding: $799,987; Non-DOE Funding: $201,977; Total Value: $1,001,964

10. Synthetic Calcium Carbonate Production by CO2 Mineralization of Industrial Waste BrinesThe University of Wisconsin (Madison, WI) will develop two novel routes to produce precipitated calcium carbonate utilizing reject streams—such as coal ashes and brines from oil and gas extraction or CO2 storage operations—that are available in substantial quantities within the vicinity of coal power plants. The proposed process provides a unique route to integrate CO2 emissions control and wastewater treatment for coal power plants, while producing a high-value product to offset the economic burden associated with waste management.

DOE Funding: $799,995; Non-DOE Funding: $199,998; Total Value: $999,993

11. Unique Nanotechnology Converts Carbon Dioxide to Valuable ProductsWest Virginia University (Morgantown, WV) will develop a lab-scale, innovative nanotechnology that uses select amino acids to produce a commercial-quality sodium bicarbonate directly from coal-fired power plant flue gas. The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions while producing a commercially valuable product to offset carbon capture costs.

DOE Funding: $800,000; Non-DOE Funding: $218,205; Total Value: $1,018,205

Area of Interest 2: Field-Scale CO2 Conversion

1. Novel Algae Technology to Utilize CO2 for Value-Added ProductsHelios-NRG (Amherst, NYrk) plans to develop an efficient process to convert CO2 to value-added products comprising three key technologies: algae with high productivity and robust performance in the flue gas environment, energy-efficient algae dewatering, and production of nutraceuticals. Beneficiaries of this technology include coal- and natural gas-fueled power plants; large industrial emitters of CO2; and entities involved in algae-to-biofuels, food, and nutraceuticals.

DOE Funding: $1,499,558; Non-DOE Funding: $375,082; Total Value: $1,874,640

2. Beneficial Use of CO2 from Coal-Fired Power Plants for Production of Animal FeedsMicroBio Engineering (San Luis Obispo, CA) intends to develop a process to produce microalgal biomass for the conversion of CO2 from coal-fired power plant flue gas into animal feeds, to demonstrate the potential of power plant CO2 utilization for generating products with large markets. The primary product will be air-dried algal biomass with value as a premium animal feed, based on the omega-3 oils, carotenoids, and protein content.

DOE Funding: $1,442,854; Non-DOE Funding: $368,155; Total Value: $1,811,009

3. Field-Scale Testing of the Thermocatalytic Ethylene Production Process Using Ethane and Actual Coal-Fired Flue Gas CO2The Southern Research Institute (Birmingham, AL) aims to demonstrate a nano-engineered, catalyst-driven thermochemical process at field scale that produces a high yield of ethylene using CO2 derived from coal-fired flue gas and ethane. The project’s long-term goal is a commercially viable and environmentally friendly technology for producing light olefins via CO2 utilization.

DOE Funding: $1,499,442; Non-DOE Funding: $375,458; Total Value: $1,874,900

4. A Scalable Process for Upcycling Carbon Dioxide and Coal Combustion Residues into Construction ProductsThe University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA) plans to accelerate the development of a CO2 mineralization process that uses CO2 in flue gas and coal combustion residues to synthesize CO2NCRETE, a functional replacement for traditional concrete. The process will offer the coal power sector a pioneering pathway for solid waste and CO2 utilization to produce a value-added product with a large addressable market.

DOE Funding: $1,500,000; Non-DOE Funding: $382,265; Total Value: $1,882,265

Area of Interest 3: Coal Beneficiation Pilot Plant Testing

1. The Novel Charfuel® Coal Refining Process 18 TPD Pilot Plant Project for Co-Producing an Upgraded Coal Product and Commercially Valuable Co-ProductsCarbonFuels LLC (Denver, CO) aims to employ the novel Charfuel® Coal Refining Process at its existing, permitted pilot plant to produce an upgraded coal product and a number of organic and inorganic coproducts in order to produce engineering and product data that will then be used to design a commercial-scale integrated facility.

DOE Funding: $2,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $1,180,519; Total Value: $3,180,519

2. Pilot-Scale Testing of the Hydrophobic-Hydrophilic Separation Process to Produce Value-Added Products from Waste Coal The Minerals Refining Company (Richmond, VA) plans to demonstrate the technical, economic, and environmental benefits of the hydrophobic-hydrophilic separation process for producing high-purity, value-added clean coal and specialty carbon products from discarded coal wastes. The project will provide thorough analyses to identify pathways for promoting commercial acceptance.

DOE Funding: $2,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $500,000; Total Value: $2,500,000

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.