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FuelCell Energy and ExxonMobil reveal location for fuel cell carbon capture pilot

FuelCell Energy and ExxonMobil have announced the selection of a location to test a novel fuel cell carbon capture technology under development by the companies.

FuelCell Energy, Inc, a US-headed integrated fuel cell company that designs, manufactures, installs, operates and services stationary fuel cell power plants and ExxonMobil, a global energy major, have announced the selection of a location to test a novel fuel cell carbon capture technology under development by the companies.

The James M. Barry Electric Generating Station, a 2.7 GW mixed-use coal and gas-fired power station near Mobile in Buck, Alabama and operated by Southern Company subsidiary Alabama Power, will host pilot plant tests of the novel technology. Southern Company and Alabama Power have previously conducted carbon capture research at the location and at another power plant in Wilsonville, Alabama, near Birmingham.

Carbonate fuel cell

The tests will demonstrate carbon capture from natural gas-fired power generation under an agreement between FuelCell Energy and ExxonMobil announced in May, and from coal-fired power generation under a previously announced agreement between FuelCell Energy and the US Department of Energy (DOE).

The pilot plant tests will use FuelCell Energy’s commercial DFC3000 carbonate fuel cell power system to concentrate and capture a portion of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power plant as part of the fuel cells’ power generation process. Flue gas from power generation will be directed into the fuel cells’ air intake system where it is combined with natural gas.

FuelCell Energy’s DFC3000 system is the largest and capable of providing up to 2.8 MW power. It can be combined for higher outputs, this is a five-unit 15 MW fuel cell park located in Bridgeport, Connecticut (photo courtesy FuelCell Energy).

FuelCell Energy’s DFC3000 system is its largest unit and capable of providing up to 2.8 MW power such as the installation above at a university. It can be combined for higher outputs (photo courtesy FuelCell Energy).

The fuel cells concentrate and capture CO2 while also removing about 70 percent of nitrogen oxide from coal emissions. Following capture, the CO2 will be compressed and cooled utilising standard chilling equipment. Installation of the fuel cell plant will begin after completion of engineering studies that are under way.

Possible game-changer?

Both ExxonMobil and Fuelcell Energy hope that this fuel cell carbon capture solution could substantially reduce costs and lead to a more economical pathway toward large-scale carbon capture and sequestration globally.

According to Vijay Swarup, Vice President for R&D at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, ExxonMobil scientists “recognised an opportunity” to pursue the novel approach to use carbonate fuel cells at natural gas power plants. Current carbon capture processes consume energy, which increases costs. But carbonate fuel cells generate electricity and hydrogen while capturing and concentrating CO2 streams, which will reduce the cost of carbon capture.

– The world’s growing need for electricity makes it critical to continue finding affordable, scalable ways to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants to mitigate the risk of climate change. We’re excited about the potential of this novel approach as we continue to work on the scientific fundamentals in the lab and look to prove their viability in the field, said Swarup.

Results from the natural gas pilot test will help guide engineering studies for potential construction of a standalone pilot plant to test the technology at a larger scale, under FuelCell Energy’s existing agreement with ExxonMobil.

– The fuel cell carbon capture solution we are advancing with ExxonMobil could be a game-changer in affordably reducing CO2 emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants globally. The carbonate fuel cell solution uses a proven global platform to generate power while capturing CO2, said Chip Bottone, President and CEO of FuelCell Energy, Inc.

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