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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Joint IEA-NEA report details plunge in costs of renewable electricity; nuclear competitive with other baseload power sources

August 31, 2015

2010 and 2015 LCOE ranges for solar and wind technologies. Source: IEA/NEA. Click to enlarge.

The cost of producing electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar has been falling for several years. A new report, a joint project by the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency, provides in detail the contrasting costs for different power generation technologies around the world and shows that renewable sources can produce electricity at close to or even below the cost of new fossil fuel-based power stations, depending upon conditions such as resources and appropriate market and regulatory frameworks.

The report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2015 Edition, also shows that new nuclear power plants generate electricity more cheaply than other established “baseload” sources—mainly coal- and gas-fired power plants—over the full lifetime of facilities when financing costs are relatively low.

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Proposed process for low-emissions coal-to-liquids

August 05, 2015

The EMS (Earth and Mineral Science) Energy Institute at Penn State has developed a conceptual novel process configuration for producing clean middle-distillate fuels from coal with some algal input with minimal emissions.

The Institute was involved for about 20 years in a project intended to develop a coal-derived jet fuel; a number of papers and reports have already been published on that work. In a new paper in the journal Technology, Professor (Emeritus) Harold Schobert combined a review of the two decades of development with the novel conceptual approach for near-zero emissions coal-to-liquids.

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DOE selects 7 gasification projects for funding; focus on reducing cost of coal conversion

July 15, 2015

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected seven projects to receive funding through NETL’s Gasification System Program. This program supports a wide range of research and development activities aimed at improving fuel and product versatility, efficiency, and economics of gasification processes.

The projects conducted through this program are geared toward reducing the cost of coal conversion and mitigating the environmental impacts of fossil-fueled power generation. The funded research projects fall under two subtopic areas: development of gasification technologies applicable to in situ bio-gasification of coal to methane; and the development of low cost advanced air separation technologies that can produce oxygen for use in coal gasification processes.

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DOE selects 16 research projects for more than $19M in funding to advance Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology

July 14, 2015

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected 16 solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology research projects for a total of more than $19 million ($19,358,915) in funding.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, NETL issued two funding opportunities announcements (FOAs) to support programs that enable the development and deployment of this energy technology. The projects selected under the two FOAs will receive funding through NETL’s Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Program. The FOAs were awarded with two primary objectives: to design, construct, and field-test a SOFC prototype system; and to support innovations that improve the reliability, robustness, and endurance of SOFC cell and stack technology.

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DOE to award $20M to projects to recover rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts

June 29, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001202) that will award an estimated $20 million to projects quickly to develop bench scale and pilot scale projects for recovering Rare Earth Elements (REE)—a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table and key components of electronics and renewable energy technologies—from coal and coal byproducts.

The DOE has begun investigating the economic feasibility of recovery of REEs from domestic United States coal and coal byproducts. n FY14, DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) conducted a preliminary, short-term, baseline field evaluation of coal and coal by-products as potential domestic resources of REEs. NETL has characterized a number of REE-bearing samples of coal and coal related materials, and posted the associated results and reports here.

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Kyoto team develops two-stage process for direct liquefaction of low-rank coal and biomass under mild conditions

May 11, 2015

Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have proposed a novel two-stage process to convert low-rank coals or biomass wastes under mild conditions to high-quality liquid fuel. A paper describing the process, which combines a degradative solvent extraction method they had developed earlier with the liquefaction of the resulting soluble, appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

One of the issues hampering the development of direct liquefaction of low-grade carbonaceous resources—such as low-rank coals and biomass wastes—to produce liquid fuel is their oxygen content. In low rank coals, cross-linking reactions among oxygen functional groups form large-molecular-weight compounds at temperatures lower than the liquefaction temperature; the oxygen-functional-group-derived cross-links may change to stronger carbon−carbon covalent linkages, suppressing the formation of light hydrocarbons.

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Lux: alternative fuels in China could replace up to 483B GGE in 2020; coal-to-ethanol conversion offers near-term potential

April 14, 2015

China’s shift toward alternative fuels in order to cut its reliance on imported oil is creating large opportunities, notably in natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and in the conversion of coal to ethanol, according to a new report from Lux Research. China is seeking to reduce its imports of oil from the current 50% of domestic demand. Further, its plans to limit coal-fired power plants due to pollution problems, means that oversupplied coal is available for conversion to alternative fuels.

Lux Research analysts evaluated China’s alternative fuels landscape to assess opportunities and identified potential domestic partners across diverse feedstocks, technologies and fuels. Among their findings:

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DOE awarding about $16M to four projects for advanced gasification systems; focus on coal

November 06, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four projects to receive funding for next-generation gasification systems. Awardees will receive approximately $16 million to advance the gasification process, which converts carbon-based materials such as coal into syngas for use as power, chemicals, hydrogen, and transportation fuels.

Gasification plants have the potential for greater power generation efficiency and environmental performance than conventional coal-fired plants, and serve as the basis for integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) advanced power generation and co-production plants capable of 90% CO2 capture. The funded research projects will focus on developing technologies that can significantly reduce the cost of producing hydrogen-rich syngas derived from fossil fuels, enabling coal resources to both improve US economic competitiveness and provide global environmental benefits, DOE said.

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Rice BN-doped graphene quantum dots/graphene platelet hybrid material can outperform platinum as fuel cell catalyst

October 13, 2014

Preparation procedure for the BN-GQD/G nanocomposite. Credit: ACS, Fei et al. Click to enlarge.

A team at Rice University has created a hybrid material combining graphene quantum dots (GQDs) and graphene platelets that can—depending upon its formulation—outperform platinum as a catalyst for fuel cells.

The material showed an oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) of about 15 millivolts more in positive onset potential—the start of the reaction—and 70% larger current density than platinum-based catalysts. The materials required to make the flake-like hybrids are much cheaper, too, said Dr. James Tour, whose lab created GQDs from coal last year. A paper on their new work is published in the journal ACS Nano.

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