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Carbon Capture Program

For the foreseeable future, coal will continue to play a critical role in powering the Nation’s electricity generation, especially for base-load power plants. Coal-fired power plants have made significant progress in reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide (contributors to acid rain), particulate matter, and mercury.

Research and development is currently being pursued for a new generation of clean coal-fueled energy conversion systems capable of producing competitively priced electric power with a focus on improving efficiency, increasing plant availability, reducing cooling water requirements, and achieving ultra-low emissions. A key aspect of this area of research is targeted at improving overall system thermal efficiency, reducing capital and operating costs, and enabling affordable capture including conversion techniques for the utilization of carbon dioxide (CO2) as fuel. Read more about the Carbon Capture Program.


Access specific areas of NETL's Carbon Capture program by clicking on the icons below.

Post CompressionPost-combustion CO2 capture technologies remove CO2 from the combustion flue gas of a power plant following combustion of a fossil fuel. It is primarily applicable to conventional coal-, oil-, or gas-fired power plants. In a typical coal-fired power plant, fuel is burned with air in a boiler to produce steam that drives a turbine/generator to produce electricity. Flue gas from the boiler consists mostly of nitrogen and CO2, along with small amounts of particulates, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. The CO2 capture process (or post-combustion capture) would be located downstream of the conventional pollutant controls.



PrecombustionPre-combustion capture technologies capture CO2 prior to fossil fuel combustion. Pre-combustion capture is mainly applicable to gasification-based power plants, where fuel is converted into gaseous components by applying heat under pressure in the presence of steam and oxygen. In this process, fuel is converted to a mixture of hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO), along with minor amounts of other gaseous constituents, called a synthesis gas (syngas). To enable carbon capture, the syngas is further processed in a water-gas shift reactor, which converts CO into CO2 while producing additional H2, thus increasing the CO2 and Hconcentrations. After CO2 removal (or pre-combustion capture), the H2 is used as a fuel in a combustion turbine combined cycle to generate electricity or other useful high-value products.




Carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from coal flue gas or synthesis gas must be compressed (to a pressure between 1,500 and 2,200 psi) to transport it via pipeline for geologic storage, enhanced oil recovery, or CO2 utilization. 

Compression of CO2 is challenging because it represents a potentially large auxiliary power load on the overall power plant system. For example, in an August 2007 study conducted for NETL, CO2 compression was accomplished using a six-stage centrifugal compressor with interstage cooling that required an auxiliary load of approximately 7.5 percent of the gross power output of a subcritical pressure, coal-fired power plant.

Active R&D project: Pilot Proposal for Reducing the Cost of CO2 Capture and Compression - Advanced CO2 Compression with Supersonic Technology, Dresser-Rand Company, FE0026727.

Market Pull Commercialization for Industrial Uses of Carbon Capture Technologies Sponsored by the National Energy Technology Laboratory
August 2017

Supporting the introduction of a technology into commercial use can greatly accelerate learning-by-doing, driving down costs and reducing operational risk for future commercial applications. Read More!

Success Story: National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC)
October 2016

Internationally recognized for excellence, the NCCC has established the United States as a global leader for testing of pre- and post-combustion carbon capture technologies as evidenced by the extensive use of the facility by international technology vendors. Read More!

DOE/NETL Carbon Capture Program: Carbon Dioxide Capture Handbook
August 2015

This Handbook focuses on advanced solvent, sorbent, and membrane technologies for CO2 capture, as well as advanced CO2 compression technologies. The significant advances that have been made with CO2 capture and compression technologies are summarized with regard to thermodynamic, cost, and process characteristics. In addition, recommendations are provided regarding future carbon capture and compression R&D.

DOE/NETL Carbon Capture Program R&D Compendium of Carbon Capture Technology
July 2015

This Technology Compendium provides a technical summary of DOE/NETL’s Carbon Capture program, assembling CO2 capture technology R&D descriptions in a single document. The R&D efforts include the development of advanced solvents, sorbents, and membranes for both post- and pre-combustion systems, as well as advanced CO2 compression technologies and R&D collaborations.

Carbon Capture Technology Program Plan
January 2013

The Carbon Capture Technology Program Plan describes the Carbon Capture R&D efforts.


Technology area contact:

Lynn Brickett 412-386-6574