As it does annually at this time of year, NETL chose Pittsburgh to host the 2017 review of the results and future plans of CO2 capture technology projects that currently receive funding from the US Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy. With the DOE having some involvement in the vast majority of research and development on CO2 capture in the United States, the event marks an excellent opportunity to catch up on progress.
Lynn Brickett, NETL's Carbon Capture Technology Manager, opened the meeting by welcoming the 160 or so attendees. While the attendance comprised largely of representatives from the DOE, NETL, the national laboratories, industry and various research organisations, there was also a strong international contingent present. During her welcome, Lynn advised that there would be a break in proceedings shortly after lunch on the first day to allow those that wished to go outside for the solar eclipse. As it turned out, Pittsburgh was an excellent location to experience this phenomenon; an added attraction that not all events can offer!
John Litynski, DOE's Acting CCS Division Director, delivered the opening presentation, where he spoke on the revised DOE strategy going forward. He said there would be a shift in approach from testing in pilot-scale and larger facilities to earlier stage R&D and lower TRLs. Interestingly, industry would be expected to take much more of a lead in progressing technologies post-TRL5 to commercial. And 90% capture would no longer be a technology target, with the new priority to focus rather on the economics of the process. Otherwise, current priorities on such things as materials, oxy-combustion and chemical looping, for example, would remain.
Following a series of opening keynotes from EPRI, IEAGHG, Gassnova, TCM, Gamma Energy Technology and Southern Company, the meeting continued with its extensive coverage of the full portfolio of CO2 capture-related technologies, systems studies, modelling and technologies for CO2 re-use. Ongoing work on solvents, sorbents, membranes, hybrid approaches, oxy-combustion, chemical looping, post- and pre-combustion, and CO2 compression technologies at various stages of development was described. Presentations covered work undertaken at lab/bench-scale, small pilot-scale and large pilot-scale.
Highlights over the week included presentations on advances in post-combustion, where topics such as the characterisation of new solvents, studies on improved materials for membrane separation and novel process configurations were covered, a good part at high TRLs. There was also significant coverage of CO2 utilisation projects at lower TRLs and just beginning their funding cycle. Lines of research included the use of CO2 in synthesising chemicals and fuels, plus other final products such as cement. CO2 re-use involved new chemical routes, novel catalytic processes and the use of lower footprint materials such as algae. Presentations during the final session were focused on chemical looping and oxy-combustion. Results showing microscopic observations of haematite at high temperature in chemical looping opened an interesting discussion on the chemical reactions taking place.
There was also a feature during the meeting on NETL's Carbon Capture Simulation for Industry Impact (CCSI2), a computational tool arising from the premise that developing a capture technology from inception to commercial availability is a tremendously costly endeavour. If a single stage, or even more than one stage, of the development could be achieved less expensively and/or more quickly, it would be very attractive and would accelerate the commercialisation of carbon capture technologies. CCSI2 is a partnership among national laboratories, industry and academic institutions to apply cutting edge computational modelling and simulation tools to precisely this aim.
It was evident from the numbers in attendance and the breadth of information imparted that R&D on CO2 capture in the United States is in a healthy state. Options at various stages of development bode well for the future. Efforts to drive down costs are progressing. With its new strategy and renewed funding commitments, the DOE's programme looks set to continue the good work for which it is internationally renowned.