Carbon capture involves the separation of CO2 from coal-based power plant flue gas or syngas. Commercially available first-generation CO2 capture technologies are currently being used in various industrial applications. However, in their current state of development, these technologies are not ready for implementation on coal-based power plants because they have not been demonstrated at appropriate scale, require approximately one-third of the plant’s steam and power to operate, and are cost prohibitive.
The Carbon Capture R&D Program consists of two core research technology areas: post-combustion capture and pre-combustion capture. The program also supports related CO2 compression efforts. Post-combustion capture is primarily applicable to conventional pulverized coal (PC)-fired power plants, where the fuel is burned with air in a boiler to produce steam that drives a turbine/generator to produce electricity. The carbon is captured from the flue gas after fuel combustion. Pre-combustion capture is applicable to integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants, where solid fuel is converted into gaseous components (syngas) by applying heat under pressure in the presence of steam and oxygen. In this case, the carbon is captured from the syngas before combustion and power production occur. Although R&D efforts focus on capturing CO2 from the flue gas or syngas of coal-based power plants, the same capture technologies are applicable to natural gas- and oil-fired power plants and other industrial CO2 sources.
Current R&D efforts conducted within the Carbon Capture Program include development of advanced solvents, sorbents, and membranes for both the post- and pre-combustion technology areas. Under both technology areas, the program is developing second-generation and transformational CO2 capture technologies that could provide step-change reductions in both cost and energy penalty compared to currently available first-generation technologies. The success of the program in developing these technologies will enable cost-effective implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) throughout the power-generation sector and ensure that the United States will continue to have access to safe, reliable, and affordable energy from fossil fuels.