Features - March 2014

Building Bridges to Solve National Energy Challenges


The federal government has a long history in funding major projects that serve the American people for generations. Without successful public-private partnerships, grand public works achievements such as The Golden Gate Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, and Hoover Dam would not have been possible.

Addressing major national energy challenges, such as global climate change, requires investment from both government and industry to help reduce the risks associated with first-of-a-kind technologies. Implementing clean coal technologies can help meet our country's energy goals, stimulate U.S. manufacturing, create jobs, and improve the environment. However, industry is hesitant to adopt many high-performance technologies due to lack of information about their real-world performance.

Bridging the gaps from the laboratory bench to successful demonstration to commercial deployment is a major challenge to putting applied energy technologies to work. Shepherding high-risk, high-return technologies through the commercialization gap requires significant financial support. In an effort to nurture new technology and accelerate commercial adoption, the Energy Department supports cost-sharing demonstration projects with industry partners. Successful public-private partnerships have the ability to provide a win-win-win outcome. The public wins through clean affordable energy; the Energy Department wins through meeting its mission to accelerate technology adoption for the public good; and industry partners win through commercial acceptance of new technologies providing an acceptable return on their investment.

For over 25 years, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has been co-funding and managing major demonstrations of clean coal technologies to hasten their adoption into the commercial marketplace. Through public-industry partnerships, NETL’s Clean Coal Technology Demonstration Program has resulted in the wide-scale commercial deployment of technologies that have improved power plant efficiencies and reduced sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and airborne particulate matter—all of which have resulted in dramatically improved air quality.

While the major demonstration projects performed to date have made important contributions related to environmental performance and efficiency, the greatest challenge ahead may be from restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. To address these concerns, NETL’s recent efforts have focused on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

CO2 emissions from industrial processes and fossil-fuel power plants, among other sources, are linked to global climate change. Widespread deployment of large-scale CCS technologies at stationary sources offers significant potential for reducing CO2 emissions and mitigating global climate change, while minimizing the economic impact of technology deployment.


Under the Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (ICCS) Program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Energy Department is collaborating with industry in cost-sharing arrangements to demonstrate the next generation of technologies that will capture CO2 emissions from industrial sources and either store or beneficially re-use them. The technologies included in the ICCS program have progressed beyond the research and development stage to a scale that can be readily replicated and deployed into commercial practice. NETL manages the ICCS program (Area 1) under the Major Demonstrations Program.

If NETL’s CCS-related technology demonstration projects prove to be as successful as previous endeavors to enhance power plant efficiency and reduce harmful emissions, economic solutions to the control of carbon emissions will be found and our nation will continue to benefit from fossil fuels and the security of its domestic availability.

Discussed below are two major ICCS major demonstration projects that have made great strides in advancing CCS technology. Such advancements are only made possible through strong public-private partnerships.


Aerial view of existing Port Arthur 1 SMR facility with new carbon capture units. Image courtesy of Air Products

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (Air Products)—Air Products is demonstrating a state-of-the-art system to concentrate CO2 from two steam methane reformer (SMR) hydrogen production plants located in Port Arthur, Texas.
Air Products has retrofitted its two Port Arthur SMRs with a vacuum swing adsorption system to separate CO2 from the process gas stream, followed by drying and compression processes.

This process concentrates the initial stream containing from 10 to 20 percent CO2 to greater than 97 percent CO2 purity. The compressed CO2 is transported by Air Products via a pipeline owned by Denbury Green Pipeline, LLC for injection into the Denbury Onshore-operated West Hastings Unit, an enhanced oil recovery project in Texas. A monitoring, verification, and accounting program will ensure the injected CO2 remains in the underground geologic formation. Overall, the technology demonstrated in this project removes more than 90 percent of the CO2 from the process gas stream used in a hydrogen production facility with negligible impact on the efficiency of hydrogen production. Hydrogen is widely used in the petroleum refining processes to remove impurities found in crude oil such as sulfur, olefins, and aromatics to meet product fuels specifications.

Fully operational since early 2013, this project is demonstrating commercial-scale viability of CCS technologies. The project has captured and sent for storage over 880,000 metric tons of CO2 since its startup. The Energy Department has estimated that Air Products’ Port Arthur facility will assist in recovering 1.6‒3.1 million barrels of domestic oil annually. Broad-scale implementation of these technologies will address climate change concerns through CO2 mitigation, enhance U.S. economic and energy security, and boost domestic oil production.


ADM’s agricultural processing and biofuels plant, Decatur, IL.
Image courtesy of ADM

Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM)—The objective of this project is to develop and demonstrate an integrated system for collecting CO2 from an ethanol production plant and geologically storing the CO2 in a deep underground sandstone reservoir. The CO2 produced is a byproduct from processing corn into fuel-grade ethanol at the ADM ethanol plant in Decatur, Illinois. Because all of the collected CO2 is produced from biologic fermentation, an important feature of the Illinois ICCS project is its “negative carbon footprint,” meaning that the storage results in a net reduction of atmospheric CO2.

Captured CO2 will be stored in the Mt. Simon Sandstone, a prolific saline reservoir in the Illinois Basin with the capacity to store billions of tons of CO2. The geological features of this reservoir (porosity and permeability) make it a favorable location for CO2 storage. Supercritical CO2 fluid will be injected into the saline reservoir at a depth of approximately 7,000 feet at a site adjacent to the ADM ethanol plant. Nearly 50 years of successful natural gas storage in the Mt. Simon Sandstone indicates that this saline reservoir and overlying seals should effectively contain sequestered CO2.


The Illinois ICCS project is the largest saline storage demonstration project under construction in the United States. This project will demonstrate a cost-effective technology for the separation and capture of CO2 while promoting awareness of CCS technologies through its outreach program at the National Sequestration Education Center in Decatur, IL. This project presents a unique opportunity to gather crucial scientific and engineering data in advance of carbon capture requirements and to add to the understanding of large-scale CO2 storage in saline formations. Successful implementation of this project will facilitate exploration of long-term CO2 utilization options, such as enhanced oil recovery, in the Southern Illinois Basin. Project partners include Schlumberger Carbon Services, Illinois State Geological Survey (University of Illinois), and Richland Community College.

Additional information about these projects, as well as other partnership initiatives, is available at NETL’s ICCS program webpage. To learn more about establishing business relationships, visit NETL’s Business Opportunities webpage.