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NETL manages a vast portfolio of carbon capture research and development (R&D) projects that are successfully reducing costs to ensure the availability of clean, reliable and affordable energy from America’s abundant domestic resources. In 2007, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that current and projected atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.  Carbon capture technologies reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by capturing carbon dioxide from fossil energy-fueled power plants; however, existing technologies add additional costs for industry and consumers. NETL is leveraging cutting-edge research facilities, world-class technical expertise and strategic collaborations to develop efficient and economical solutions that make carbon capture technology viable for decades to come.
sCO2 power cycle (indirectly heated)
Turbines are important machines in our nation’s fleet of fossil-fueled power plants, extracting energy from domestic resources and converting it into the electricity we depend on. Turbines can also be key players in conserving resources because they can provide clean energy by using less fuel and generating fewer emissions. In a coal-fueled power plant, fuel is combusted in a large furnace to release heat energy. That energy is then used to heat a boiler that turns water into steam. The steam drives the plant’s turbine, which converts the heat energy into kinetic energy. Inside the turbine, steam flows past the turbine blades causing them to turn, like a windmill or pinwheel, except that turbines are much more sophisticated with hundreds of tightly packed blades. Steam exits the turbine and is cooled and condensed through a heat exchanger so the water can be pumped back for reuse. An axle connects the turbine to a generator that spins around with the turbine. The generator uses the kinetic energy from the turbine to make electricity, which travels out of the plant and eventually powers our businesses, homes, appliances, and more.
Kyle Rozman works with a crack sample in NETL’s load frame.
Because supercritical CO2 (sCO2) power cycles can improve thermal efficiency and enable energy production from domestic fossil fuels with responsible stewardship of the environment, NETL researchers are aggressively investigating how to maximize the service life of materials in sCO2environments. sCO2 power cycles operate similarly to other turbine cycles, but they use CO2 – rather than steam – as the working fluid in the turbomachinery.  In its supercritical state, CO2 remains liquid-like rather than gas-like and has unique properties for energy generation equipment. For example, turbomachinery that uses sCO2 can be very compact and highly efficient, requiring less compression and enabling better heat exchange. sCO2 power cycles operate at very high pressures, which means they operate more efficiently so more energy can be created from less fuel and with a reduced cost. Because sCO2power cycles require higher pressures than traditional power generation systems, the physics, chemistry, and components do not behave as they would in conventional systems.
Temperature contours from CFD simulation of a 300 bar oxycombustor.
NETL researchers are studying supercritical CO2 power cycles to improve thermal efficiency and alleviate adverse environmental impacts of using fossil fuels to generate power—work they hope will someday result in zero emissions and record-breaking efficiencies. This work features a special type of combustion known as oxyfuel combustion (or oxycombustion), in which oxygen rather than ambient air is used to combust fuel. The resulting flue gas is composed of highly concentrated, or supercritical, CO2.