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DOE to Provide $36 Million to Advance Carbon Dioxide Capture from Coal-Fired Power Plants

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will provide $36 million for 15 projects aimed at furthering the development of new and cost-effective technologies for the capture of carbon dioxide from the existing fleet of coal-fired power plants. Research areas supported in the award include membrane technology; solvents; solid sorbents; oxycombustion, flue gas purification; oxycombustion boiler development; and chemical looping combustion.

Membranes. Membrane-based CO2 capture uses permeable or semi-permeable materials that allow for the selective transport and separation of CO2 from flue gas. Research projects in this area will address key technical challenges to the use of membrane-based systems such as large flue gas volume, relatively low CO2 concentration, low flue gas pressure, flue gas contaminants, and the need for high membrane surface area.

  • Membrane Technology and Research Inc. (Menlo Park, Calif.) Researchers will prepare commercial-scale membrane modules that meet low pressure-drop and high packing-density performance targets using CO2 capture membranes developed under a previous agreement with NETL (National Energy Technology Laboratory). The new research will involve the construction of an approximately 1-ton-of-CO2-per-day membrane skid for use in a 6 month pilot-scale field test with real coal-fired flue gas. (DOE share: $3,437,119; recipient share: $957,630; duration: 24 months)

  • Research Triangle Institute (Research Triangle Park, NC) Research Triangle Institute (RTI) will research novel fluorinated polymer membranes with a focus on total process design and integration of the membrane-based CO2 separation technology into an existing coal-fired power plant. RTI researchers will focus on novel high-performance membrane materials, improved hollow-fiber membrane module design, and process development for efficient integration of the CO2-capture system into an existing coal-fired power plant. (DOE share: $1,944,821; recipient share: $486,205; duration: 24 months)

Solvents. Solvent-based CO2 capture involves chemical or physical sorption of CO2 from flue gas into a liquid carrier. Solvent-based systems are in commercial use today scrubbing CO2 from industrial flue gases and process gases; however, they have not been applied to removing large volumes of CO2, as would be encountered in the flue gas from a coal-fired utility boiler. Projects in this area will address technical challenges to solvent-based CO2 capture such as large flue gas volume, relatively low CO2 concentration, flue gas contaminants, and high parasitic power demand for solvent recovery.

  • Georgia Tech Research Corporation (Atlanta, Ga.). The objective of this project is to develop a novel class of solvents, called “reversible ionic liquids,” to capture CO2 from coal-fired power plant flue gas. Reversible ionic liquids change properties abruptly in response to some stimulus. Investigators will focus on the synthesis, characterization, and testing of novel reversible ionic liquids, and then use structure/property relationships to optimize their physical and thermodynamic properties for CO2 capture. (DOE share: $1,620,479; recipient share: $413,072; duration: 36 months)

  • GE Global Research (Niskayuna, N.Y.). In this project, researchers will use both computational and laboratory methods to identify and produce novel oligomeric solvents for post-combustion capture of CO2 from coal-fired power plants. Molecular and system modeling, advanced synthetic methods, and laboratory testing will be used to identify oligomeric solvents having potential for high CO2 capture capacity under low energy-use conditions. (DOE share: $2,546,303; recipient share: $636,575; duration: 24 months)

  • Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, Illinois State Geological Survey (Champaign, Ill.). The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) plans to develop an integrated vacuum carbonate absorption process (IVCAP) for post-combustion CO2 capture. This process employs potassium carbonate as an absolvent and can be uniquely integrated with the power plant steam cycle by using the waste steam or low-quality steam from the power plant. Researchers aim to confirm IVCAP process parameters through laboratory testing, identify an effective catalyst for accelerating CO2 absorption rates, and develop an additive for reducing the stripping heat. (DOE share: $691,191; recipient share: $339,259; duration: 36 months)

Solid sorbents. Solid particles can be used to capture CO2 from flue gas through chemical absorption, physical adsorption, or a combination of the two. Possible configurations for contacting the flue gas with the solid particles include fixed, moving, and fluidized beds. The projects selected in this area of interest will address key technical challenges to sorbent-based systems such as large flue gas volume, relatively low CO2 concentration, flue gas contaminants, and high parasitic power demand for sorbent recovery.

  • ADA-ES, Inc. (Littleton, Colo.). The objective of this project is to assess the viability and accelerate development and scale-up of sorbent-based CO2 capture. Investigators will evaluate sorbents at laboratory- to bench-scale for their performance in a CO2 capture process. Criteria for optimal sorbents will include availability of raw material, ability to manage disposal costs, CO2 working capacity, interaction with flue gas constituents and sufficient hardness to mitigate attrition. Test results will aid in the development of the conceptual design for integration of the sorbent system into a coal-fired power plant. (DOE share: $2,000,000; recipient share: $500,000; duration: 36 months)

  • SRI International (Menlo Park, Calif.)—SRI International will develop a novel, high-capacity carbon sorbent with moderate thermal requirements for regeneration. Specific objectives are to validate the performance of the sorbent concept on a bench-scale system, to perform parametric experiments to determine optimum operating conditions, and to evaluate the technical and economic viability of the technology. (DOE share: $1,799,962; recipient share: $450,000; duration: 36 months)

  • TDA Research Inc. (Wheat Ridge, Colo.). In this project, TDA Research Inc. will produce and evaluate its low-cost solid sorbent developed in prior laboratory testing. A bench-scale CO2 capture unit will be designed and constructed using the developed sorbent, and it will be tested on a coal-derived flue gas. Mass and energy balances for a commercial-scale coal-fired power plant retrofit with the CO2 capture system will also be determined.    (DOE share: $1,097,839; recipient share: $276,541; duration: 36 months)

Oxycombustion, flue gas purification. Oxycombustion systems combust a fuel in pure or nearly pure oxygen, producing a flue gas that has high CO2 concentration but may also include water, excess oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and other contaminants. Projects in this research area will develop methods to reduce the levels of these unwanted compounds in the flue gas.

  • Air Products and Chemicals Inc. (Allentown, Pa.). Researchers in this project will demonstrate the feasibility of purifying the CO2 derived from an actual oxycombustion flue gas. Special attention will be paid to acidic impurities within the captured CO2 product such as sulfur oxides, hydrogen chloride and nitrogen oxides. In commercial application, it may be necessary to remove these acidic impurities from the CO2 stream before the purified CO2 is introduced into a pipeline in order to prevent corrosion or problems at the geologic sequestration site. (DOE share: $1,003,995; recipient share: $251,000; duration: 24 months)

  • Praxair Inc. (Tonawanda, N.Y.). Praxair will develop a near-zero emissions flue gas purification technology for existing pulverized-coal power plants retrofitted with oxycombustion technology. Goals of this project are to cost-effectively capture more than 95% of CO2 emissions from a boiler with high air ingress. Atmospheric emissions of sulfur oxides and mercury will be reduced by at least 99%, and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be reduced by greater than 90% without the need for wet flue gas desulfurization and selective catalytic reduction. (DOE share: $3,241,989; recipient share: $2,161,326; duration: 36 months)

Oxycombustion boiler development. The characteristics of oxycombustion have not yet been fully developed. Oxycombustion flame characteristics, burner and coal-feed design, and analyses of the interaction of oxycombustion products with boiler materials are all areas needing further work. The research projects selected in this area of interest will conduct laboratory- and bench-scale research into oxycombustion boiler characteristics and innovative oxy-burner design.

  • Alstom Power Inc. (Windsor, Conn). A test program to develop an oxycombustion system for tangentially fired (T-fired) coal boiler units will be conducted in this project by Alstom. T-fired boilers make up 44% of the installed base of utility boilers in the world and 41% in the United States. The project aims to develop an innovative oxycombustion system for existing T-fired boiler units that minimizes overall capital investment and operating costs by measuring the performance of these systems in pilot-scale tests at Alstom’s 15 MW T-Fired Boiler Simulation Facility and its 15 megawatt Industrial Scale Burner Facility. (DOE share: $5,000,000; recipient share: $2,229,966; duration: 24 months)

  • Foster Wheeler North America Corp. (Livingston, NJ). Foster Wheeler will conduct an in-depth test program to determine how oxycombustion will affect the life of electric utility boiler tube materials. The program will involve computational fluid dynamics modeling to predict the gas compositions that will exist throughout and along the walls of oxycombustion boilers, laboratory testing to determine the effects of oxycombustion conditions on conventional boiler tube materials and coverings, and laboratory testing the determine the effects of oxycombustion on alternative higher-alloy tube materials and coverings. (DOE share: $1,593,437; recipient share: $398,357; duration: 36 months)

  • Reaction Engineering International (Salt Lake City, Utah). In this project, investigators will conduct multi-scale experiments, coupled with mechanism development and computational fluid dynamics modeling, to elucidate the impacts of retrofitting existing coal-fired utility boilers for oxycombustion. Test data will be obtained from oxycombustion experiments at 0.1 kW, 100 kW and 1.2 MW scale. (DOE share: $2,376,443; recipient share: $617,767; duration: 36 months)

Chemical looping combustion. Chemical looping involves the use of a solid oxygen carrier particle in the combustion of fuels. The oxygen carrier particle is oxidized in one reactor and is used to combust the fuel in another reactor. Projects in this area of interest will advance the development of chemical looping systems by addressing key issues such as solids handling and oxygen carrier capacity, reactivity, and attrition.

  • Alstom Power Inc. (Windsor, Conn.)—This project will further development of Alstom’s chemical looping technology for CO2 capture and separation. The technology uses a limestone-based oxygen carrier to create power from coal while creating a concentrated CO2 flue gas. Researchers will design, construct, and operate a prototype facility that includes all of the equipment required to operate the chemical looping plant in a fully integrated manner, with all major systems in service. (DOE share: $4,999,614; recipient share: $1,249,900; duration: 24 months)

  • The Ohio State University Research Foundation (Columbus, Ohio). Coal direct chemical looping (CDCL) technology will be further developed under this project. CDCL technology can be retrofitted to existing pulverized-coal power plants to efficiently convert coal while capturing CO2 through the assistance of a patented iron oxide–based composite oxygen carrier particle. Development of the CDCL system will be conducted through experimental testing under bench and sub-pilot scales. (DOE share: $2,860,141; recipient share: $1,126,513; duration: 36 months)

The funding is part of DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy’s Innovations for Existing Plants (IEP) program, which is managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). The IEP program maintains a portfolio of research projects to address these and other environmental challenges faced by America’s existing fleet of coal-fired power plants.



The DOE's efforts in this area have been a sad record of government inefficiency. After spending five years and who knows how many hundreds of billions of dollars on their "FutureGen" initiative, going through an elaborate competition to select a site for a new CCS coal plant, suddenly in 2008 the whole thing was declared inoperative. Never mind, says DOE. We're going to start over from scratch.

So now we have these small scale grants, better than nothing I guess.

Here's a fact sheet on the new and improved FutureGen:

Rather alarming to learn that they plan to fill the Empire State Building in New York with CO2 in compressed liquid form...


Agree with Hal. The record of DOE does seem sad. I say seems because I can't really know if the big change of direction for FutureGen made sense.

Sometimes pulling the plug is best. I don't want a DOE that can't change. But I don't want one that just shifts money according to political instructions either.

I'm glad to see this fundamental research on a variety of CO2 capture methods. $36M is a very small amount, the recipients seem to also be putting in few million.

I hope DOE will quickly determine which of these 15 projects merit real funding and development. And kill the others.

At least this article didn't contain one of the usual statements telling us that:

"Agency XYZ is engaged in a brilliant program to determine, by 2021, what brilliant follow-up programs will be needed."


They can capture 80% of it with algae bio-reactors and made foods and fuel with these algae. No need to study what have been already found to work for cheap.

tom deplume

Interesting that the Futuregen project that was set for construction in Illinois was dropped about the same time the junior senator from Illinois became the apparent nominee for president. Couldn't be any connection?

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