DOE Invests $28M in Research Projects to Enable Near-Zero-Emitting Fossil Fuel–Based Power Generation

Fourteen research and development projects to scale up coal-based advanced combustion power systems and gasification processes and improve costs and endurance of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) have won investments of more than $28 million from the Department of Energy (DOE).

The Energy Department on August 24 announced it has selected the projects to help “enable cost-competitive, fossil fuel–based power generation with near-zero emissions.”

Projects to Support 10-MW Pilots with Near-Zero Emissions

Three of the 14 projects were selected to complete preliminary designs of 10-MW pilot plants based on advanced combustion systems. The DOE invested $3.2 million in pre-project planning for a General Electric (GE) chemical looping combustion pilot plant. It also invested $3.3 million for pre-project planning for a flameless pressurized oxycombustion pilot plant spearheaded by San Antonio–based Southwest Research Institute, ITEA, Jacobs, the Electric Power Research Institute, General Electric Global Research, and Peter Reineck. Another $3.3 million went to Babcock & Wilcox and  The Ohio State University for a front-end engineering and design study for their coal-direct chemical looping pilot plant

Each of the 10-MW pilots will be capable of capturing 90% of carbon dioxide emissions and will contain design features that will be assessed prior to commercial-scale demonstration, the DOE said. “Technical and economic analyses will also be conducted at commercial-scale to evaluate the ultimate cost and performance relative to DOE goals.”

Modular Oxygen Production in Fossil Energy Gasification Systems

The DOE picked two projects to develop stand-alone oxygen-production technologies for use in coal gasification processes. The Western Research Institute and the University of Wyoming got $2 million for their small-scale modular gasification systems, and the Research Triangle Institute and Air Liquide received another $2 million for their oxygen-binding materials and modular system for oxygen production.

The DOE said that the new technologies will produce oxygen of at least 95% purity for use in small-scale (500 kW to 5 MW) modular power plants at a significantly lower cost than commercial state-of-the-art oxygen-production technologies. That would help reduce costs and increase the efficiency of producing syngas, it said.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Technologies

The remaining nine projects were chosen to improve the cost, reliability, and endurance of SOFCs, which are solid-state electrochemical devices that directly convert reformed hydrocarbon fuels to electricity.

The projects include:

  • Chromium Vapor Sensor for Monitoring SOFC Systems—Auburn University (Auburn, Ala.). DOE: $171,465
  • Development of Chromium and Sulfur Getter for SOFC Systems—University of Connecticut (Storrs, Conn.). DOE: $500,000
  • High Temperature Anode Recycle Blower for SOFC—Mohawk Innovative Technology (Albany, N.Y.) in collaboration with FuelCell Energy. DOE: $600,000
  • Highly Selective and Stable Multivariable Gas Sensors for Enhanced Robustness and Reliability of SOFC Operation— General Electric (Niskayuna, N.Y.) in partnership with SUNY Polytechnic Institute and GE-Fuel Cells LLC.  DOE: $545,290
  • Minimizing CR-Evaporation From Balance of Plant Components by Utilizing Cost-Effective Alumina-Forming Austenitic Steels— West Virginia University (Morgantown, W.Va.) in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Carpenter Technology Corporation, and FuelCell Energy.  DOE: $369,999
  • Robust SOFC Stacks for Affordable and Reliable Distributed Generation Power Systems— Redox Power Systems (College Park, Md.), the University of Maryland Research Center, and the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering.  DOE: $3,000,000
  • Transformational SOFC Technology—Fuel Cell Energy (Danbury, Conn.). DOE: $3,000,000
  • Metal-Supported Ceria Electrolyte-Based SOFC Stack for Scalable, Low Cost, High Efficiency and Robust Stationary Power Systems—Cummins Power Generation (Minneapolis, Minn.).  DOE: $3,935,630
  • Performance and Reliability Advancements in a Durable Low Temperature Tubular SOFC— Acumentrics (Walpole, Mass.) and the University of South Carolina. DOE: $2,456,233


Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)