ExxonMobil & FuelCell Energy pursue novel technology in carbon capture with carbonate fuel cells; initial projected 1/3 cost savings
Exxon Mobil Corporation and FuelCell Energy, Inc. are pursuing novel technology in power plant carbon dioxide capture through a new application of carbonate fuel cells. The two companies said the technology could substantially reduce costs and lead to a more economical pathway toward large-scale application globally.
Two years of comprehensive laboratory tests have demonstrated that the unique integration of two existing technologies—carbonate fuel cells and natural gas-fired power generation—captures carbon dioxide more efficiently than existing scrubber conventional capture technology. The potential breakthrough comes from an increase in electrical output using the fuel cells, which generate power, compared to a nearly equivalent decrease in electricity using conventional technology.
Using fuel cells to capture carbon dioxide from power plants results in reduced emissions and increased power generation. In the carbon capture context, power plant exhaust is directed to the fuel cell system, replacing air that is normally used in combination with natural gas during the fuel cell power-generation process. As the fuel cell generates power, the carbon dioxide becomes more concentrated, allowing it to be more easily and affordably captured from the cell’s exhaust and stored.
The resulting net benefit has the potential to substantially reduce costs associated with carbon capture for natural gas-fired power generation, compared to the expected costs associated with conventional separation technology. A key component of the research will be to validate initial projected savings of up to one-third.
Advancing economic and sustainable technologies to capture carbon dioxide from large emitters such as power plants is an important part of ExxonMobil’s suite of research into lower-emissions solutions to mitigate the risk of climate change. Our scientists saw the potential for this exciting technology for use at natural gas power plants to enhance the viability of carbon capture and sequestration while at the same time generating additional electricity. We sought the industry leaders in carbonate fuel-cell technology to test its application in pilot stages to help confirm what our researchers saw in the lab over the last two years.—Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Company
The scope of the agreement between ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy will initially focus for about one to two years on how to further increase efficiency in separating and concentrating carbon dioxide from the exhaust of natural gas-fueled power turbines.
Depending on reaching several milestones, the second phase will more comprehensively test the technology for another one to two years in a small-scale pilot project prior to integration at a larger-scale pilot facility.
ExxonMobil is a leader in carbon capture and sequestration and has extensive experience in all of the component technologies of carbon capture and storage, including participation in several carbon dioxide injection projects over the last three decades. In 2015, ExxonMobil captured 6.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide for sequestration—the equivalent of eliminating the annual greenhouse gas emissions of more than 1 million passenger vehicles.