ExxonMobil, FuelCell Energy expand agreement to optimize carbonate fuel cell technology for large-scale carbon capture
ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy, Inc. signed a new, two-year expanded joint-development agreement to further enhance carbonate fuel cell technology for the purpose of capturing carbon dioxide from industrial facilities.
The agreement, worth up to $60 million, will focus efforts on optimizing the core technology, overall process integration and large-scale deployment of carbon capture solutions. ExxonMobil is exploring options to conduct a pilot test of next-generation fuel cell carbon capture solution at one of its operating sites.
FuelCell Energy’s proprietary technology uses carbonate fuel cells to efficiently capture and concentrate carbon dioxide streams from large industrial sources. Combustion exhaust is directed to the fuel cell, which produces power while capturing and concentrating carbon dioxide for permanent storage.
The modular design enables the technology to be deployed at a wide range of locations, which could lead to a more cost-efficient path for large-scale deployment of carbon capture and sequestration.
ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy began working together in 2016 with a focus on better understanding the fundamental science behind carbonate fuel cells and how to increase efficiency in separating and concentrating carbon dioxide from the exhaust of natural gas-fueled power generation.
Laboratory tests indicated that applying carbonate fuel cells to natural gas power generation could capture carbon dioxide more efficiently than current, conventional CCS technology. The early research indicated that by applying this new technology, more than 90% of a natural gas power plant’s carbon dioxide emissions could be captured.
>Using fuel cells to capture carbon dioxide from power plants can result in a more efficient separation of carbon dioxide from power plant exhaust with an increased output of electricity. Power plant exhaust is fed into the cathode side of the fuel cell (which is deployed at the power plant), replacing the ambient air used in typical applications.
The CO2 in the exhaust is transferred to the anode side, where it is much more concentrated and easy to separate. The CO2 from the anode exhaust stream is purified by chilling the stream to extract CO2 liquid. This enables a cost effective capture as the purified CO2 can then be transported by pipeline for Enhanced Oil Recovery applications or underground storage.
ExxonMobil’s research indicates that a typical 500 megawatt (MW) power plant using a carbonate fuel cell may be able to generate an additional 120 MW of power, while current CCS technology actually consumes about 50 MW of power.
The new and expanded agreement will prioritize the optimization of the core carbon capture technology for integration into large-scale industrial facilities such as refineries and chemical plants.
ExxonMobil engineers and scientists have researched, developed and applied technologies that could play a role in the widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage for more than 30 years. The company has a working interest in approximately one-fifth of the world’s total carbon capture capacity, and has captured about 7 million tonnes per year of carbon dioxide. ExxonMobil says it has captured more carbon dioxide than any other company.