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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.

Fcel

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.

Comments

Engineer-Poet

I knew that MCFCs required a CO2 supply to the cathode to generate carbonate ions.

It never occurred to me to use this to scavenge CO2 from flue gases.

This is freaking genius.

Nick Lyons

I assume the fuel cells need a supply of H2 (from nat gas, bio gas, syn gas) as well as CO2 from flue gas, so the additional power generated is not exactly 'free'. However, good work on a more efficient way to sequester CO2.

Engineer-Poet

MCFCs do not need hydrogen.  They can use ANY reductant at the anode; pure carbon will do, as in direct-carbon FCs.  But they must have CO2 at the cathode to convert oxygen to CO3-- ions.

SJC

"In a molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC), carbonate salts are the electrolyte. Heated to 650 degrees C (about 1,200 degrees F), the salts melt and conduct carbonate ions (CO3) from the cathode to the anode. At the anode, hydrogen reacts with the ions to produce water, carbon dioxide, and electrons."

Engineer-Poet

SMDH again.

SJC, you err in parroting things you don't understand (and you quote but neither name nor link your source).  MCFCs can operate on pure carbon, as in example #3 of Direct Carbon Fuel Cells:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_carbon_fuel_cell

MCFCs cannot do WITHOUT carbon.  Had you given it any thought, you would have realized that there will inevitably be some CO2 "slip" at the cathode if air or flue gas is used; uptake cannot be 100% in an open system.  If the MCFC was being fed pure H2 and air, there would be no replacement for those CO2 losses and the cell would stop as no more CO3-- ions could be made.

There are at least two other possible anode reactions, depending on the fuel:

CH4 + CO3-- --> CO + CO2 + 2 H2 + 2 e- (this is the initial reaction in auto-reforming of methane, as at 650°C reactions between methane, CO, H2, CO2 and water still favor methane formation)
CO + CO3-- --> 2 CO2 + 2 e-

If you do the stoichiometry you get 4 CO2s pulled across the MCFC for each new CO2 formed from methane.

Now, for the sake of this blog and yourself, do your chem homework.

SJC

You never stop insulting, get mental help.

Engineer-Poet

If the truth about you is an insult, the problem is you.

A Facebook User

Does anyone wonder where the free oxygen O2 comes from to form CO2? Can the free oxygen O2 within our atmosphere remain unchanged as more and more Carbon is bonded with O2 to create CO2?

If indeed the O2 levels are reduced in order to form CO2 wouldn't there be a corresponding reduction in that same free oxygen needed by Oxygen breathing mammals?

The point being, what good is it to 'sequester' CO2 if the O2 needed for Oxygen breathing mammals remains bonded with the carbon in CO2?

Are there currently any methods to unbond the O2 from the CO2 creating more usable Oxygen?

Alain

Indeed, every carbon burnt is turned into CO2, even more, hydrocarbons are turned into CO2 and H2O, taking even more O2 out of the air. So for every CH4 burnt, two O2 molecules are lost. Luckyly, there is a lot of O2. 21% O2 = 210000 PPM, while CO2 is at 400 PPM. So even trippling CO2 to 1200PPM would consume about 1500PPM of O2, thus decreasing O2 from 21% to 20,985%. This decreases the partial pressure of O2 only as much as going opstairs about 10metres or so.

Turning biomass to charcoal (= pure carbon) or nanotubes would liberate the O2 again.

Also making aluminum from bauxite liberates a lot of oxygen if done with nonfossil energy.

Interestingly, all the O2 in the air comes from vulcanic CO2, of which the carbon is sequestered by ancient organisms and the O2 was released

Alain

Small addition: producing charcoal does not liberate free O2. The oxygen in the biomass is released as H2O. It is plants growing that releases O2. But you must prevent the biomass from decaying into CO2 again to keep the O2 in the air. For this, turning the biomass to charcoal or plastic or furniture will work.

Engineer-Poet
Does anyone wonder where the free oxygen O2 comes from to form CO2?

You mean CO2, or CO3-- (carbonate ion)?  There's residual oxygen in the flue gas, and air can always be mixed in.

Thomas Pedersen

"Does anyone wonder where the free oxygen O2 comes from to form CO2?"

No. It comes from photosynthesis in plants.

The 21% oxygen (by volume) in the atmosphere is balanced between photosynthesis and spontaneous fires. Increase the oxygen concentration by a single percentage point increases the likelihood of spontaneous fires significantly, and lowering it does the opposite.

Above every square meter of the Earth's surface, there are 2,3 metric tonnes of oxygen (O2), totaling 500 billion billion tonnes of free oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. Contrast that to about 2 thousand billion tonnes of fossil fuels, and you get the picture.

Nearly 50% (!!) of the mass of the Earth's crust is made up of oxygen. And oxygen makes up 89% of the mass of the World's oceans.

Don't worry, we will not run out of oxygen any time soon.

Robert Marlin Mroz

I have been following this application of fuel cell technology for some time.
The high CO2 content of the fuel cell output is a natural for feeding bioreactors of a unique strain of algae we had the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science isolate for us.This algae can thrive at up to 80% CO2.

Power plants typically utilize combustion turbines that produce only about 3% CO2. This is too diluted to efficiently capture or isolate. However, feeding power plant flue gas to the carbonate fuel cell will not only fire the fuel cell to produce more power, it will also concentrate the CO2 so it can be efficiently used... by feeding it to our unique strain of algae. The algae will consume (capture) 100% of the CO2 (and any residual NOx) where valuable by-products can be produced and sold into the marketplace to generate an additional revenue stream. These biodegradable products, when eventually disposed of, will wind up in a landfill to produce biogas that can be used to produce more power and corresponding flue gas to feed more carbonate fuel cells and more algal bioreactors.

I have a fully operational flue gas to algae facility running in Baltimore which can become a perfect test site for this marriage of technologies.

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