Carbon Capture and Control Systems

Unlike the SO2/acid rain program, there is no established process in place to mitigate CO2 at the scale being proposed. The technology that is well understood now and could be deployed is expensive (nearly doubling the price of a gas fired facility) [3] and is accompanied by substantial energy penalties [4] (the primary application is treatment of pressurized gases to pipeline specifications in the Oil & Gas industry). The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has outlined objectives to advance carbon capture technologies that can achieve 90% reduction while minimizing the electricity cost increase to 35% [5]. That's a major improvement from the estimated 85% price increase expected to result with the current stable of technologies.

Lacking a significant technical breakthrough, CO2 reductions of 50-80 % are more likely only to be achieved with a shift towards non-fossil fixed energy resources, use of more renewable sources, or just reduced usage of fossil fuel. The benefit here is that these technical choices are commercially available, but it would not be possible to switch the entire generation mix quickly. Alternatively, on the time scales under consideration (next 20 or 30 years), there may be serious concerns about the adequacy of some fossil reserves, which could invoke an entirely different dynamic that would mitigate the rapid increase of CO2 emissionsā€”the price of energy.

There is working experience base for recovery of CO2 from energy sources. In 1999, approximately 20 carbon capture systems were operating globally, most using the Fluor-EconomineĀ® process which is based on liquid amine solvent. By 2008, this base had expanded to 24 plants. To yield a high quality product (usually high purity CO2), with minimal contamination of the solvent, CO2 is extracted from a relatively clean exhaust (often natural gas is the fuel, although there are coal plants operating with this process). The product is a commodity for food and beverage processes [6]. In most of the commercial CO2 exhaust recovery processes, the total volume fraction of flue gas processed is small, usually less than 1%; small enough to limit the parasitic loads on the overall plant.

In these operating plants the carbon capture process here is not tightly integrated into the power production phase of operations, so that failure of the CO2 recovery process has virtually not impact on the overall power generation capability of the unit. In addition, the carbon capture component of these facilities is not installed as environmental control, but rather devoted to product recovery (CO2).

As a starting point, this can serve as a template for future process designs, but it is a very long way from a full-scale commercial offering to broadly treat emissions from power generation sources.

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