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DOE Coal FIRST Initiative invests $80M in net-zero carbon electricity and hydrogen plants

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected four projects for cost-shared research and development under the funding opportunity announcement (FOA), DE-FOA-0002180, Design Development and System Integration Design Studies for Coal FIRST Concepts. When fully negotiated and awarded, it is estimated that approximately $80 million in federal funding will be provided to these projects.

DOE’s early stage research for the Coal FIRST Initiative supports the development of electricity and hydrogen energy plants that have net-zero carbon emissions. These plants will be fueled by coal, natural gas, biomass, and waste plastics and incorporate carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies.

The Coal FIRST energy plant concepts will be capable of Flexible operation to meet the needs of the grid; use Innovative components that improve efficiency and achieve net-zero emissions, including the potential for net-negative (CO2) emissions when co-firing moderate amounts of biomass; provide Resilient power; be Small (50-350MWe) compared to today’s conventional utility-scale power plants; and Transform how coal power plant technologies are designed and manufactured.

The Coal FIRST Initiative recognizes the importance of hydrogen production from coal, biomass, and waste plastics. A hydrogen economy is gaining global attention as part of a technology-based approach for reducing global carbon emissions. Even a partial move toward a hydrogen economy will require vast quantities of hydrogen at low cost. Fossil fuels with CCUS are already—and by far—the lowest cost source of low-carbon hydrogen. Gasification of coal and biomass with CCUS can be a large-scale source of carbon-negative hydrogen. Plastic waste could also be added to the fuel mix, mitigating plastics waste in the environment.

The selected projects will complete (1) design development; (2) host site evaluation and an environmental information volume; (3) an investment case analysis; and (4) a system integration design study to advance the design of an engineering-scale prototype. The National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage the four selected projects:

  1. Design Development and System Integration Design Study for an Advanced Pressurized Fluidized Bed Combustion Power Plant with Carbon Capture – CONSOL Energy Inc. aims to design an advanced coal-based power plant with the potential to be demonstrated in the next 5–10 years and begin achieving market penetration by 2030. As part of previous work performed under the Coal FIRST program, the CONSOL team completed conceptual design and pre-FEED studies for a ~300 MWnet advanced coal-based power plant using pressurized fluidized bed combustion (PFBC) technology. The goals of this project are to advance the development of the advanced PFBC power plant to a state of completion that provides adequate information—including information on the plant design, host site, environmental considerations, CO2 disposition strategy, and pro-forma financials—for use by decision makers and investors, and by engineering, procurement, and construction contractors for follow-on activities needed to construct a prototype plant.

  2. Front-End Engineering Design Study for Hybrid Gas Turbine and USC Coal Boiler Concept (HGCC) Plant with Post Combustion Carbon Capture and Energy Storage System at City, Water, Light and Power Plant – The University of Illinois seeks to complete a system-integrated design study for a Hybrid Gas Turbine and USC Coal Boiler Concept (HGCC) with a post-combustion carbon capture and energy storage system that meets the requirements of the Coal FIRST program. The project combines several strands of DOE research in a single next-generation plant design. Enhancements in power plant and component design, on-site energy storage, environmental gains from fuel-efficiency, and carbon utilization and storage will be combined to contribute to a modernized power supply that can readily adapt to and enable the growth of variable renewable energy. The project will combine a state-of-the-art 270 MW ultra-supercritical coal boiler subsystem with an 87 MW natural gas combustion turbine generator subsystem, a 50 MW energy storage system subsystem, a post combustion carbon capture subsystem, and an algae-based CO2 utilization subsystem.

  3. Gasification of Coal and Biomass: The Route to Net-Negative-Carbon Power and Hydrogen – Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. and partners plan to perform a system integrated design study on an oxygen-blown gasification system coupled with water-gas shift, pre-combustion CO2 capture, and pressure-swing adsorption working off a coal/biomass mix to yield high-purity hydrogen and a fuel off-gas that can generate power. There are several designs capable of producing 50 MW net from a flexible generator, more than 8500 kg/hr of hydrogen, and net-negative CO2 emissions. The plant will be hosted at one of two Nebraska Public Power District sites, where opportunities for enhanced oil recovery and sequestration have been investigated and where the need for low-carbon power and hydrogen is imminent. The principal biomass to be used is corn stover, prevalent in Nebraska where the plant will be located. It will be mixed with Powder River Basin coal, necessitating a gasifier that can use this feedstock and be flexible to allow other types.

  4. Wabash Hydrogen Negative Emissions Technology Demonstration – Wabash Valley Resources, LLC in coordination with the Gas Technology Institute, seeks to complete design development, an Environmental Information Volume, an investment case and a system integrated design study to redevelop the existing Wabash Valley Resources coal gasification site in West Terre Haute, Indiana, into a Coal FIRST power plant for flexible fuel gasification‑based carbon-negative power and carbon-free hydrogen co-production. Co‑firing an existing gasification facility with biomass (woody biomass and/or agricultural residue) will enable the project to achieve net-negative carbon emissions while producing hydrogen that can be used to generate electricity or be sold as coproduct. CO2 will be captured and sequestered in nearby deep saline reservoirs that have already demonstrated suitability for storage, enabling the project to efficiently complete preparation for permanent CO2 sequestration.


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