Exxon To Pursue New CO2 Capture Technology for Power Plants
US supermajor ExxonMobil, a company with thousands of patents under its belt, announced May 5 it is teaming up to work with Nasdaq-listed FuelCell Energy to pursue a novel technology in power-plant carbon dioxide (CO2) capture.
The duo will advance a novel application of carbonate fuel cells, which both believe could substantially cut costs and lead to a more economical path toward large-scale application globally.
“Carbon capture with carbonate fuel cells is a potential game-changer for affordably and efficiently concentrating carbon dioxide for large-scale gas and coal-fired power plants,” according to FuelCell Energy CEO Chip Bottone, adding that it could also slash 70% of smog-producing nitrogen oxide emitted from such plants. The company provides ultra-clean power plants around the world but today has just 300 MW of capacity installed or on order.
Exxon said that two years of laboratory tests have demonstrated that the unique integration of two existing technologies – carbonate fuel cells and natural gas-fired power generation – captures CO2 more efficiently than existing conventional capture technology. The potential breakthrough comes from an increase in electrical output using the fuel cells, which generate power, compared with a nearly equivalent decrease in electricity using conventional technology.
Vijay Swarup, vice-president of R&D at ExxonMobil Research & Engineering, said: “Our scientists saw the potential for this exciting technology for use at natural gas power plants to enhance the viability of carbon capture and sequestration while at the same time generating additional electricity.”
The resulting net benefit has the potential to substantially reduce costs associated with carbon capture for natural gas-fired power generation, compared with the expected costs associated with conventional separation technology. The two companies add that a key component of the research will be to validate initial projected savings of up to one-third.
Exxon’s strategy of reducing emissions in order to mitigate climate change has often not seized the public imagination, compared with Total’s investment in new photovoltaic technology, or Shell’s rollout of a CCS plant in Alberta. With a new emphasis on capturing CO2 at power plants, Exxon may hope to regain the initiative among the oil majors in reducing climate impact. But validating that the technology can be economically deployed will take time.
The scope of its agreement with FuelCell Energy will initially focus for about one to two years on how to further increase efficiency in separating and concentrating CO2 from the exhaust of gas-fired power turbines. A second phase may follow, more comprehensively test the technology for another one to two years in a small-scale pilot project prior to integration at a larger-scale pilot facility.