U.S. DOE to provide US$14M to six projects to develop technologies that will lower cost of producing electricity in integrated gasification combined cycle coal-fired power plants using carbon capture

WASHINGTON , September 12, 2011 (press release) – U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today the selection of six projects aimed at developing technologies to lower the cost of producing electricity in integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants using carbon capture, while maintaining the highest environmental standards. Supported with up to $14 million in total funding, the selected projects will improve the economics of IGCC plants and promote the use of the Nation’s abundant coal resources to produce clean, secure, and affordable energy.

The successful development of advanced technologies and innovative concepts that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a key objective of the Obama Administration’s effort to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Today’s announcement is a direct investment in IGCC-related infrastructure among electric power and industrial facilities, academic institutions, and other organizations operating across the United States.

“Today’s announcement represents a commitment to working with industry partners to develop one of the most promising technologies for energy plants of the future. These new technologies will not only help reduce carbon pollution, they will keep America competitive, create the high-tech jobs of the future and drive down electricity costs for consumers,” said Secretary Steven Chu.

Compared to traditional power plants, IGCC power plants offer many advantages, including increased power plant efficiency. Higher efficiencies mean that less fuel is used to generate power; resulting in better economics, which can mean lower costs to consumers and the formation of fewer harmful pollutants. For example, a 60%-efficient gasification power plant can cut the formation of carbon dioxide by 40% compared to a typical coal combustion plant.

The six projects will promote the commercialization of IGCC with carbon capture by advancing technologies to make the process more economical. The projects support the Department’s goal of using gasification to provide power from coal with 90 percent carbon capture, utilization, and storage at minimal increase in the cost of electricity. DOE is developing advanced technologies to ensure that we can continue to rely on the nation’s most abundant energy resource in a clean and affordable way that strengthens the economy and protects the environment.

The projects, which will be managed by DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, are described below:

Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (Palo Alto, Calif.)—Slurries of liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) and low-rank coal can potentially lower the cost and increase the efficiency of IGCC power plants with carbon capture. The Electric Power Research Institute will confirm the potential advantages of these slurries by conducting plant-wide technical and economic simulations, developing a preliminary design and cost estimate of a slurry preparation and mixing system, and performing laboratory tests for increasing the knowledge and understanding of maximum solids loading capability for three coals. EPRI will team with Dooher Institute of Physics and Energy (Garden City, N.Y.), Worley Parsons Group, Inc. (Houston, Texas), Columbia University (New York, N.Y), and ATS Rheosystems/REOLOGICA (Bordentown, N.J.). (DOE share: $817,316; recipient share: $204,329; duration: 12 months)

TDA Research, Inc. (Wheat Ridge, Colo.)—Teaming with the University of California at Irvine, Southern Company (Birmingham, Ala.), and ConocoPhillips (Houston, Texas), TDA Research will demonstrate the technical and economic viability of a new IGCC power plant designed to efficiently process low-rank coals. The plant uses an integrated CO2 scrubber/water gas shift (WGS) catalyst to capture more than 90 percent of the CO2 emissions, while increasing the cost of electricity by less than 10 percent compared to a plant with no carbon capture. The team will optimize the sorbent/catalyst and process design, and assess the efficacy of the integrated WGS catalyst/CO2 capture system, first in bench-scale experiments and then in a slipstream field demonstration using actual coal-derived synthesis gas. The results will feed into a techno-economic analysis to estimate the impact of the WGS catalyst/CO2 capture system on the thermal efficiency of the plant and cost of electricity. (DOE share: $500,000; recipient share: $125,000; duration: 12 months)

General Electric Company (Houston, Texas)—The use of the nation’s large reserves of low-cost, low-rank coals in IGCC systems is currently limited by the capabilities of available coal feed systems. General Electric and partner Eastman Chemical Company (Kingsport, Tenn.) will evaluate and demonstrate the benefits of novel dry-feed technologies to effectively, reliably, and economically feed low-rank coal into commercial IGCC systems. Investigators will complete comparative techno-economic studies of two IGCC power plant cases, one without and one with advanced dry feed technologies. The study will focus on IGCC systems with 90 percent carbon capture, but the dry feed system will be applicable to all IGCC power generating plants and other industries requiring pressurized syngas. (DOE share: $695,194; recipient share: $173,798; duration: 12 months)

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (Allentown, Pa.)—Downstream processing of syngas for CO2 capture requires separation of the crude stream into the desired products (hydrogen and carbon monoxide), a sulfur stream (primarily hydrogen sulfide), and sequestration-ready CO2. Air Products has developed a three-step process to accomplish this separation at lower cost and greater efficiency than currently available technologies. Working with the Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota, Air Products and Chemicals will extensively test the process and use the results to generate a high-level pilot process design and to prepare a techno-economic assessment to evaluate the applicability of the technology to plants using low-rank coals. (DOE share: $799,944; recipient share: $199,986; duration: 12 months)

Reaction Engineering International (REI) (Salt Lake City, Utah)—In an IGCC plant, syngas coolers—heat exchangers located between the coal gasifier and the combustion turbine—offer high efficiency, but their reliability is generally lower than other process equipment in the gasification island. Downtime events associated with the syngas cooler are typically a result of ash deposits. REI, along with researchers from the University of Utah, will evaluate ash deposition and plugging in industrially relevant syngas cooler designs and evaluate methods to mitigate fouling and plugging. Improving the performance of the syngas cooler through reduced plugging and fouling will improve the reliability, availability and maintainability of IGCC plants. (DOE share: $702,186; recipient share: $175,865; duration: 24 months)

General Electric Company (Houston, Texas)—General Electric and partner Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport, Tenn., will work on the following four tasks, which were selected based on their broad applicability to the IGCC industry to better benefit the public: integrated operations philosophy, modularization of gasification/IGCC plant, active fouling removal, and continuous slag handling. (DOE share: $7,685,969; recipient share: $1,921,492; duration: 36 months)

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