OIL GIANT Exxon Mobil and fuel cell power company FuelCell Energy have announced a new venture that could make carbon capture and storage (CCS) solutions cheaper for businesses to implement.
The US-based companies have agreed a new pilot-scale application of proprietary carbonate fuel cells that will generate electricity from waste gases while capturing CO2. They said power plant exhausts would be directed to the fuel cell to generate the extra power needed for carbon capture, 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 carbon dioxide becomes more concentrated, allowing it to be more easily and affordably captured from the cell’s exhaust and stored.
Exxon Mobil estimates that a 500 MW power plant fitted with the fuel cells could generate 120 MW of additional power, compared with the loss of 50 MW of power using conventional carbon capture technology. FuelCell added that the process would also eliminate around 70% of smog-producing nitrogen oxides from power plants.
The concept of generating the extra electricity needed to conduct carbon capture would eliminate part of what is seen as a burdensome cost to fully commercialise the process. Exxon Mobil estimates cost savings of up to one third compared to other methods.
When pressed for details of the cost and the timescales of the project at a press conference, Vijay Swarup, vice president for R&D at Exxon, said, “We don't discuss costs at this point of a research programme,” adding that the company “does not put a timeline on fundamental research.”
In 2015, Exxon Mobil captured 6.9m t of CO2 for underground storage, the equivalent of eliminating the annual emissions of more than 1m cars.
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