By Dave Melanson
The United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) selected the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) to receive a $2.9 million grant that will allow the center to develop new technologies to lower the cost of capturing carbon dioxide in its renowned post-combustion capture system.
The project is part of DOE’s Carbon Capture Program, which is developing transformational, step-change, low-cost capture processes and enabling technologies that will maximize the efficiency of our nation's fossil-based power generation infrastructure.
“Providing utility companies in Kentucky and across the nation with solutions to the toughest problems facing their industry has been the focus of our laboratory since I arrived at UK CAER,” said Kunlei Liu, associate director for research at CAER, associate professor of mechanical engineering and a co-principal investigator on this project. “This project will allow us to not only continue that work but will help us expand our approach to provide technology of broad spectrum for CO2 capture systems.”
The CAER project — titled “Advancing Post-Combustion CO2 Capture through Increased Mass Transfer and Lower Degradation” — proposes to “significantly advance deployment of CO2 capture through enabling technologies that increase CO2 mass transfer and reduce solvent loss.”
The project will involve the development and fabrication of customized dynamic packing to increase CO2 mass transfer in the absorber column, and an electrochemical cell to adsorb and decompose nitrosamines before they can be emitted into the environment. After both of these systems have been constructed, they will be tested on CAER’s bench-scale CO2 capture unit.
According to Liu, one of the obstacles to CO2 capture commercialization is due to the cost and energy output required to capture the carbon dioxide. One of the significant capital costs come in constructing the absorber column. The hope is that this customized approach to designing the packing material inside the absorber column can increase the capture rate and thereby decrease the size and cost of the absorber column.
Additionally, CAER’s post-combustion carbon capture system is solvent-based (the solvent captures the carbon dioxide). Many other carbon capture systems currently in development utilize a solvent-based approach. Liu says what makes this project particularly interesting to others in the field is the fact that this technology could be applied to all solvent-based systems.
“Finding a low-cost, effective and environmentally-sound method for solvent-based CO2 capture is in great demand in the energy world,” Liu said. “This could be a major breakthrough for all of us in the field.”
Partnering with UK CAER on this project is Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.