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DOE Invests $17 Million to Advance Carbon Utilization Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have selected 11 projects to receive approximately $17 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects for carbon utilization. The projects will develop and test technologies that can utilize carbon dioxide (CO2) from power systems or other industrial sources as the primary feedstock. The research goal of DOE’s Carbon Utilization Program  is to reduce emissions and transform waste carbon streams into value-added products.

“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency, fossil fuels will continue to power our world well into the future. Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure these fuels are utilized as cleanly and efficiently as possible,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “DOE’s Carbon Utilization Program is investing in cutting-edge technologies to allow us to capture carbon oxides, which will reduce emissions, and then recycle them into economically valuable services like enhanced oil recovery or products like plastics and carbon fibers.”

Projects resulting from this FOA will validate the concept, estimate the technology cost, and demonstrate that the carbon lifecycle of the products offers a path toward an environmentally sustainable and economically viable product.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the selected projects, which follow under four areas of interest (AOI):

AOI 1: Synthesis of Value-Added Organic Products

  1. Dehydration Membrane Reactor for Direct Production of Dimethyl Carbonate (DMC) from CO2 and H2 – The Gas Technology Institute (Des Plaines, IL) seeks to develop a process and catalytic membrane reactor for producing DMC from captured CO2 and hydrogen (H2). The proposed technology offers an alternative to mitigating CO2 emissions in areas where geologic storage may not be a feasible solution or where the production of DMC could be a low-cost alternative.

DOE Funding: $1,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $269,664; Total: $1,269,664

  1. A Novel Molten Salt System for CO2-Based Oxidative Dehydrogenation with Integrated Carbon Capture – North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC) will develop a proof-of-concept for production of propionic acid and C3/C4 olefins from CO2 in power plant flue gas and domestic shale gas. Successful completion of the project will enable CO2 capture and beneficial utilization with lower energy consumption while producing high-value products.

DOE Funding: $999,993; Non-DOE Funding: $254,637; Total: $1,254,630

  1. Plasma Assisted Catalytic Conversion of CO2 and Propane to Propylene and CO – Susteon Inc. (Cary, NC) aims to develop a novel catalytic non-thermal plasma technology with metallic/bi-metallic catalysts for utilizing CO2 as a soft-oxidant to produce ethylene and propylene from ethane and propane. The technology will operate at low temperatures, have flexible operations, be modular, and create a smaller carbon footprint than conventional methods.

DOE Funding: $999,722; Non-DOE Funding: $255,642; Total Value: $1,255,364

  1. A Tandem Electrolysis Process for Multi-Carbon Chemical Production from Carbon Dioxide – The University of Delaware (Newark, DE) aims to develop a tandem two-step electrochemical process utilizing power plant CO2 to convert it into ethylene and acetate. Catalytic CO2 conversion is key to harnessing waste emissions as the feedstock for the chemical industry, and it is critical to developing disruptive technologies to meet far-reaching needs.

DOE Funding: $1,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $250,000; Total: $1,250,000

  1. Intensified Catalytic Conversion of CO2 into High-Value Chemicals – The University of Kentucky Research Foundation (Lexington, KY) plans to develop an electrochemical catalyst system that can be used to convert CO2 to high-value chemicals, such as formic acid. The project will incentivize the utilization of CO2 by creating valuable commercial products while reducing the emission of CO2 from utility sources.

DOE Funding: $999,984; Non-DOE Funding: $250,113; Total: $1,250,097

  1. High-Efficiency Electrochemical Conversion of CO2 to Ethylene – The University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Lafayette, LA) seeks to develop a catalytic, pulsed electrolysis technology for the conversion of CO2 to value-added ethylene. When coupled with low-carbon electricity, the proposed technology could reduce CO2 emissions by 200 percent when compared to steam cracking, which is the current primary ethylene production method.

DOE Funding: $1,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $250,000; Total: $1,250,000

  1. Electrochemical Reduction of Flue Gas CO2 to Commercially Viable Tetrahydrofuran and C4 Products – The University of Louisville Research Foundation Inc. (Louisville, KY) aims to convert waste CO2 to tetrahydrofuran through an electrolysis process using a catalyst and a heterogeneous metal alloy electrode in a methanol catholyte. The project has the potential to bring simultaneous benefits to utilities and manufacturers, such as reducing harmful emissions while providing a new source of revenue.

DOE Funding: $1,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $254,039; Total: $1,254,039

AOI 2: Production of Inorganic Materials: Solid Carbon Products

  1. Electrochemical Production of Highly Valuable Carbon Nanotubes from Flue Gas-Sourced CO2 – SkyNano LLC (Knoxville, TN) aims to demonstrate the ability to utilize synthetic and real flue gas provided by a utility to produce carbon nanotubes through a novel electrochemical process. If the proposed tasks are completed successfully, the improved economics will support the commercialization of the technology, which has favorable market adoption potential due to the lack of sources of low-cost carbon nanotubes at prices competitive to carbon black.

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

AOI 3: Integrated CO2 Capture with Algae

  1. NH4OH Looping with Membrane Absorber and Distributed Stripper for Enhanced Algae Growth – The University of Kentucky Research Foundation(Louisville, KY) seeks to develop an integrated CO2 capture and utilization technology for algae production. The technology will boost algae production by up to 50 percent by continuously supplying CO2 and ammonium in the appropriate growth ratio. The membrane absorber will be coupled with distributed, solar-energy powered strippers located near bioreactor modules for solvent regeneration.

DOE Funding: $2,999,564; Non-DOE Funding: $751,764; Total: $3,751,328

  1. A Highly Efficient Microalgae-Based Carbon Sequestration System to Reduce CO2 Emissions from Power Plant Flue Gases – The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (Baltimore, MD) plans to harness photosynthetic microalgae to maintain a high-pH and high-alkalinity culture to create a carbon-negative system from CO2 sequestration from power plant flue gases. The outcome of this project will be a scalable and deployable carbon-negative bioreactor system for CO2 capture from flue gases.

DOE Funding: $3,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $750,002; Total: $3,750,002

AOI 4: Production of Inorganic Materials: Maximizing Uptake in Concrete and Cement

  1. Achieving Unprecedented CO2 Utilization in CO2Concrete™: System Design, Product Development, and Process Demonstration – The University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA) will exploit CO2Concrete™ technology’s ability to readily upcycle gaseous CO2 emissions and coal combustion residuals into low-carbon “green” CO2Concrete™ products. The project’s outcome will enhance the CO2Concrete™ process uptake while producing construction components with a CO2 footprint that is 50-70 percent lower than traditional products.

DOE Funding: $2,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $905,000; Total: $2,905,000

To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit the Office of Fossil Energy website . More information about the National Energy Technology Laboratory is available on the NETL website.