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Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Evaluating a new approach to CO2 capture and storage

In a perspective paper published in Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology, researchers examined a new approach that could potentially overcome many barriers to deployment and jumpstart this process on a commercial scale.
September 13, 2015
Map of the contiguous United States shows the location of facilities that produce high-value chemicals/products and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted.

Map of the contiguous United States shows the location of facilities that produce high-value chemicals/products and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted.

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The researchers examined near-term market-viable opportunities to demonstrate integrated CO2 capture, utilization, and storage while other pathways for technology development are pursued.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture, utilization and storage is a climate mitigation technology that could dramatically reduce global emissions of this greenhouse gas, while allowing the energy sector to continue generating electricity at coal-fired and natural-gas power plants. The strategy involves capturing and compressing CO2 at large, stationary sources, such as power plants, and transporting the CO2 in dedicated pipelines to utilization or storage reservoirs. In a perspective paper published in Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology, researchers examined a new approach that could potentially overcome many barriers to deployment and jumpstart this process on a commercial scale.

Significance of the research

At present, 68 percent of the electricity generated in the United States results from burning fossil fuels, more than half of which uses coal — the most CO2 -intensive source — as the primary energy source. Implementing a capture, utilization, and storage might enable a gradual transition to energy sources that emit less CO2 per unit of energy while continuing to leverage the useful lifetime of the existing energy infrastructure. The strategy could also be employed developing countries that are expanding their fleet of coal-fired power plants. However, the cost of CO2 capture has hindered commercial-scale application of this climate mitigation approach. Implementing CO2 capture in coal-fired power plants could result in almost a doubling of electricity prices for consumers.

The researchers examined near-term market-viable opportunities to demonstrate integrated CO2 capture, utilization, and storage while other pathways for technology development are pursued. As a result of their comparison of approaches, the researchers concluded that a financially viable demonstration of a large-scale process requires offsetting the costs of CO2 capture by using the CO2 as an input to the production of marketable products. The scientists propose that a near-term demonstration of this technology could focus on implementing CO2 capture on facilities that produce high-value chemicals/products such as such as ethanol, iron/steel production, and oil refining. High-value chemicals/products industries collectively emit 360 million tons of CO2 per year, which is roughly the same amount of CO2 that natural gas power plants emit. The scientists’ calculations suggest that the high-value chemicals/products facilities could better absorb the expected impact of the marginal increase than could coal-fired power plants. In addition, the captured CO2 could be sold for market-viable products. This alternative method of capturing CO2 and storing from stationary sources could enable a viable commercial-scale demonstrate of the technology.

Research achievements

The researchers calculated and compared the estimated increase in the cost of the production price of product due to the addition of CO2 capture and storage for fossil fuel-fired power plants and for a series of high-value chemicals/products. Many of the high-value chemicals/products facilities are large in size and clustered in location, which provides logistical advantages for this approach. The estimated proportional increases in price for high-value chemicals/products facilities range between 1 and 15 percent, which is substantially less than the estimated relative increases in the price of fossil-based electricity. The team performed a case study of a successful integrated CO2 capture, utilization, and storage system where CO2 is captured from ethylene producers and used for enhanced oil recovery in the US Gulf Coast region.

The research team

The researchers include Richard Middleton, Philip Stauffer and Hari Viswanathan of LANL's Computational Earth Science group; J. William Carey of LANL's Earth System Observations group; Jonathan Levine of the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory; and Jeffrey Bielicki of The Ohio State University.

The US-China Clean Energy Research Center, Advanced Coal Technologies Consortium (ACTC), the DOE Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership CO2-EOR, and the Los Alamos Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program funded different aspects of the work. The research supports the Lab’s Energy Security mission area and the Materials for the Future science pillar via the evaluation of technologies to capture and sequester anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

Caption for image below:  Estimated produce price increase due to the captured CO2 process.


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