Battelle gets grant for clean coal technology

RICHLAND -- Battelle researchers have received nearly $2 million from the Department of Energy to test a more economical system to remove carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plant emissions.

The current technology available to remove greenhouse gases increases the cost of power by 85 percent, and the Department of Energy is seeking technology that can reduce that to no more than a 35 percent increase.

"Coal is one of the natural resources that the nation has a lot of," but using it for power production produces a lot of carbon dioxide, said David Heldebrant, Battelle senior research scientist.

Because of the size of a coal-fired power plant it can produce more than 1 million pounds of carbon dioxide an hour, he said.

Capturing the carbon dioxide at that volume and speed requires a highly effective sorbent, he said. Then the carbon dioxide has to be stripped off the sorbent so the material can be reused.

Existing technology is water based, requiring substantial energy to boil it and kick off the carbon dioxide. That reduces the net power output of the plant compared to plants not using the technology and makes it potentially prohibitively expensive.

However, technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland is based on organic liquids that don't require as much energy to heat up to release the carbon dioxide. PNNL is operated by Battelle for DOE.

Heating water to boiling requires 70 percent more energy than heating the organic sorbent to boiling, Heldebrant said. But the organic sorbent captures the same amount of gases per weight.

Not only is the process being investigated by Battelle less expensive because it uses more energy, but it also could be used to retrofit existing coal-powered steam plants in addition to being used on new plants if it proves out.

"This could be a very effective way for power producers to reduce their environmental footprint and realize some major cost benefits," Heldebrant said.

During the three-year research project, Battelle scientists will lead a team that includes Fluor Corp. and Queens University.

The Obama administration has set a goal of developing cost-effective deployment of carbon capture, use and storage technologies within a decade, with an objective of bringing five to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016.

"Charting a path toward clean coal is essential to achieving our goals of providing clean energy, creating American Jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. "It will also help position the United States as a leader in the global clean energy race."

The $1.9 million award to Battelle was one of 16 awards announced this week by DOE to research ways to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of carbon capture systems for coal-fired power plants.

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