CCS and Power Systems

Crosscutting Research - Plant Optimization Technologies


DOE-WRI Cooperative Research and Development Program for Fossil Energy-Related Resources


Performer: University of Wyoming Research Corporation

Project No: FC26-08NT43293


Program Background and Project Benefits

Our nation’s demand for cleaner and more efficient fossil energy production will increase during the coming decades, necessitating the development of new energy technologies to achieve energy independence in an environmentally responsible manner.

The University of Wyoming (UW) Research Corporation’s Western Research Institute (WRI) has been supporting the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and its mission of developing fossil energy and related environmental technologies for over two decades. Federal funding for these research efforts has usually been provided through congressionally mandated cooperative agreements, with cost share funding and project oversight provided by the DOE’s National Energy Technology aboratory (NETL). For this purpose, there were two types of cooperative agreements: the Base Program, which was fully funded by federal money, and the Jointly Sponsored Research (JSR) Program, which required at least 50 percent cost-sharing by non-federal sources.

As a follow-on to these two cooperative research and development (R&D) programs that were completed in fiscal year 2008, NETL awarded a new five-year program requiring 20 percent cost-sharing to WRI to support the performance of fossil energy R&D.

WRI is a not-for-profit research and technology development organization that is developing coal utilization technologies of the future, providing support to the coal and utility industries in Wyoming, and delivering research and technology services to the oil and gas industry.

This WRI project will advance technologies for:

  • Increasing the production of U.S. energy resources

  • Enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. technologies

  • Reducing dependence on foreign energy supplies and strengthening national and regional economies

  • Minimizing environmental impacts of energy production and utilization processes

  • Use of CO2 as a beneficial resource

Goal and Objectives

The goal of the WRI cooperative R&D program is to develop, commercialize, and deploy technologies of value to the nation’s fossil fuel and renewable energy industries. The overall objective is to conduct both fundamental and applied research that will assist industry in developing, deploying, and commercializing efficient, nonpolluting fossil energy technologies that can compete effectively in meeting requirements for clean fuels, chemical feedstocks, electricity, and water resources in the 21st century.

Current Active Projects

  • Integrated Freezer System: The goals of this task are to design and construct prototype integrated freezer systems for shipping frozen environmental samples from the field to the laboratory, optimize the prototype design for use in validation testing, and perform validation testing that will lead to commercialization.

  • Heavy Oil Processing: The objective of this project is to enhance understanding of the chemical changes that occur during thermal processing of heavy oils. Building on the new on-column precipitation and re-dissolution technique developed in prior work, rapid methods will be explored and developed to provide measurements that can be integrated into a refinery process control system. Methods will also be explored to provide component distribution based on solubility for upstream and downstream oil materials. The proposed work will result in significant efficiency improvement and less down time and heat wasted in refinery operations.

  • Pilot-Scale Demonstration of Cowboy Coal Upgrading Process: The goal of this task is to demonstrate the Cowboy Coal Upgrading Process at a 100 tons per day (tpd) scale. The process upgrades low-rank coals with high moisture content and produces a high-Btu, stable product. A mine to mouth plant produces a high-Btu product suitable for transport, storage and export. When integrated with an overall power production system, the process can reduce the cost of producing electricity from low-rank coals. The upgrading process is also being used to produce a high-Btu feedstock from biomass for utility and industrial applications.

  • Alternate Environmental Processes/Sorbents to Reduce Emissions and Recover Water for Power Plant Use: The goal is to develop and test unique and cost-effective processes or sorbents to reduce treatment of alternative water sources (such as from WRITECoal) and synthesis gas (syngas) and capture carbon dioxide (CO2).

  • Screening Used Oil for Chlorinated Solvent Contamination: The goal of this task is to develop a method for using WRI’s X-Wand® technology (hand-held instrument utilizing a heated diode sensor) to check used oil for chlorinated solvent contamination. The instrument performance will be evaluated in an industrial setting when this method is developed. The ASTM D 7203 method describing the technology for screening trichloroethylene contamination in water and soil will be revised and balloted within ASTM Committee D34 on Waste Management.

  • Development and Testing of Compact Heat Exchange Reactors (CHER) for Synthesis of Liquid Fuels: The goal of this task is to design and test a prototype bench-scale compact heat exchange reactor for the purpose of converting syngas from coal gasification to liquid fuel via Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis. This technology could potentially be used to reduce the capital cost and increase the overall efficiency of FT plants.

  • Optimization of Novel Sorbents for Multipollutant Emission Reduction from Coal Combustion: The goal of this task is to determine the capability of special Nalco/Mobotec sorbents to remove mercury compounds and hydrogen chloride (HCl) from coal combustor flue gas.

  • Novel Fixed-Bed Gasifier for Wyoming Coal: The goal of the task is to demonstrate cost-effective fixed-bed gasification of Wyoming coals at high altitude.

  • Comparative Performance of MoS2-and Mo2C-based Mixed Alcohol Synthesis Catalysts: WRI has been developing molybdenum-based catalyst formulations for the synthesis of mixed alcohol fuels from syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2). Various bench- and pilot-scale synthesis facilities have been developed to test catalysts and reactor configurations. The goal of this task is to test new catalysts and corresponding appropriate reactors at the pilot and demonstration scale.

  • A Novel Integrated Oxycombustion Flue Gas Purification Technology: A Near Zero Emissions Pathway: The goals of this task are (1) design and operate a one (1) MW equivalent pilot system of an integrated system of novel oxy-combustion and flue gas purification technologies; and (2) perform process simulations and techno-economic analyses on a commercial scale system utilizing the pilot plant data for the conceptual design. The performance goal of this patent pending technology is to achieve 90 percent carbon capture with less than 35 percent increase in the cost of electricity.

  • Hydrogen Separation: The goal of this task is to develop H2 separation technologies for Wyoming coal gasification systems and CO2 sequestration with a focus on H2 adsorption and membrane separation systems. The task will advance H2 membrane materials and build a bench scale system for high pressure H2 production using a ceramic based adsorbent and a thermal cycling adsorption/desorption process.

  • Conversion of Low-Rank Wyoming Coals into Gasoline by Direct Liquefaction: The goal of this task is to establish coal processing and hydrogenation conditions, including choice of catalyst that will allow economical utilization of low-rank coals for the production of liquid fuels.

  • Mercury Continuous Emission Monitor Calibrator Source Stability: The goal of this task is to investigate the nature of, and provide recommendations to minimize incidents of, source fouling of elemental mercury vapor pressure- based calibrator units. Experiments will be designed and conducted to develop an understanding of the cause of source passivation in elemental mercury calibrator units.

  • Reduction of Heavy Oil Viscosity using Solid Sorbents: The goal of this task is to explore the concept of reducing the viscosity of heavy oil by the selective removal of the most pericondensed aromatic components from oil using an adsorption process.

  • WRI’s Chemoautotrophic (CAT) Biological Carbon Capture and Re-Use Process: Process Development: The goal of this task is to optimize and validate WRI’s patented process to capture CO2 from major emitting sources, such as fossil-fuel power plants using a unique chemoautotrophic bacteria and energy shuttling process. The CO2 recovered through the growth of the bacteria can be harvested and used to make various bioproducts, and is expected to reduce the impact of the cost of electricity compared to post-combustion processes.


Project Details