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Carbon Capture

Post-Combustion Carbon Capture Center (PC4), a part of the National Carbon Capture Center, located at the Alabama Power E.C. Gaston plant site.
Photo Source: Southern Company Services

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fossil Energy program has adopted a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to the research and development (R&D) of advanced carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technologies for coal-based power plants. The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is implementing the Carbon Capture R&D program to develop the next generation of advanced CO2 capture concepts. Current efforts cover not only improvements to state-of-the-art, first-generation technologies, but also the development of second-generation and transformational advanced CO2 capture technologies.

The success of this research will enable cost-effective implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies throughout the power-generation sector and ensure the United States will continue to have access to safe, reliable, and affordable energy from fossil fuels.

The Carbon Capture program consists of two core research areas, Post-Combustion Capture and Pre-Combustion Capture, composed of approximately 60 projects with technology readiness levels (TRL) ranging from conceptual engineering and materials design (i.e., TRL 2) to 25 megawatt-electrical equivalent pilot testing (i.e., TRL 5–7). The core research areas are focused on creating technological improvements to provide a step-change in both cost and performance as compared to current state-of-the-art solvent-based capture systems.

Post-combustion systems separate CO2 from the flue gas stream produced by conventional pulverized coal power plants after fuel combustion in air. In this approach, CO2 is separated from nitrogen, the primary constituent of the flue gas.

Pre-combustion systems are designed to separate CO2 from hydrogen and other constituents in the syngas stream produced by the gasifier in integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants.

In both cases, R&D is underway to develop solvent-sorbent-membrane- and novel concept-based capture technologies. Additionally, technologies are being investigated to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of CO2 compression.

DOE’s CCS R&D effort is implemented by NETL through contracted research activities and onsite research at NETL. Research projects are carried out under various award mechanisms—including partnerships, cooperative agreements, and financial assistance grants—with corporations, small businesses, universities, nonprofit organizations, and other national laboratories and Government agencies.