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FuelCell Energy and ExxonMobil to pursue novel technology in carbon capture

FuelCell Energy and ExxonMobil have announced an agreement to pursue novel technology in power plant carbon dioxide (CO2) capture through a new application of carbonate fuel cells.

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 an agreement to pursue novel technology in power plant carbon dioxide (CO2) capture through a new application of carbonate fuel cells.

According to a statement, two years of comprehensive laboratory tests have demonstrated that the unique integration of two existing technologies — carbonate fuel cells and natural gas-fired power generation — captures CO2 more efficiently than existing scrubber conventional capture technology. The potential breakthrough comes from an increase in electrical output using the fuel cells, which generate power, compared to a nearly equivalent decrease in electricity using conventional technology.

The resulting net benefit has the potential to substantially reduce costs associated with carbon capture for natural gas-fired power generation, compared to the expected costs associated with conventional separation technology. A key component of the research will be to validate initial projected savings of up to one-third.

– Our scientists saw the potential for this exciting technology for use at natural gas power plants to enhance the viability of carbon capture and sequestration while at the same time generating additional electricity. We sought the industry leaders in carbonate fuel-cell technology to test its application in pilot stages to help confirm what our researchers saw in the lab over the last two years, said Vijay Swarup, Vice President for R&D at ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Company.

Two-phase pilot testing

The scope of the agreement between ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy will initially focus for about one to two years on how to further increase efficiency in separating and concentrating CO2 from the exhaust of natural gas-fuelled power turbines. The exhaust is directed to the fuel cell, replacing air that is normally used in combination with natural gas during the fuel cell power generation process.

As the fuel cell generates power, the CO2 becomes more concentrated, allowing it to be more easily and affordably captured from the cell’s exhaust and stored. Depending on reaching several milestones, the second phase will more comprehensively test the technology for another one to two years in a small-scale pilot project prior to integration at a larger-scale pilot facility.

– Carbon capture with carbonate fuel cells is a potential game-changer for affordably and efficiently concentrating carbon dioxide for large-scale gas and coal-fired power plants. Ultra-clean and efficient power generation is a key attribute of fuel cells and the carbon capture configuration has the added benefit of eliminating approximately 70 percent of the smog-producing nitrogen oxide generated by the combustion process of these large-scale power plants, said Chip Bottone, President and CEO of FuelCell Energy, Inc.

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