FuelCell Energy, Inc., a fuel cell power plant manufacturer, has entered into an agreement with Texas-based ExxonMobil Corporation to develop carbonate fuel cell technology in carbon dioxide (CO2) capture plants.

The aim is to substantially reduce costs and advance a more economical pathway toward a large-scale application on a global level.

The project, which has been undergoing comprehensive laboratory tests for the past two years, has proved to be more effective in capturing carbon than traditional methods of scrubbing technology by increasing the electrical output using fuel cells.

Exhaust from the power plant is directed to the fuel cell, which replaces air that is normally used in combination with natural gas during the fuel cell power generation process. As the fuel cell generates power, the CO2 becomes more concentrated and therefore more easily and affordably captured and stored from the cell’s exhaust.

Initially, the project will focus on increasing the efficiency of separating and concentrating CO2 from the exhaust of natural gas-fuelled power turbines. If this initial phase proves to be successful, the second phase will comprehensively test the technology over a two-year period, aiming to integrate it into larger facilities.

Most solutions that can make an impact of the scale that is required are not found overnight. Our research with FuelCell Energy will be conducted methodically to ensure that all paths toward viability are explored

The project seeks to impart that using environmentally-friendly fuel cells to capture excess CO2 from power plants could result in reduced emissions and increased power generation.

Additionally, a key element of the research will be in finding potential monetary savings, with both companies seeking to slash costs by a third.

Chip Buttone, President and CEO of Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy, underlined, “Carbon capture with carbonate fuel cells is a potential game-changer for affordably and efficiently concentrating CO2 for large-scale gas and coal-fired power plants. Ultra-clean and efficient power generation is a key attribute of fuel cells and the carbon capture configuration has the added benefit of eliminating approximately 70% of the smog-producing nitrogen oxide (NOx) generated by the combustion process of these large-scale power plants.”

Vijay Swarup, Vice-President for Research and Development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, confirmed, “We are continually researching technologies that have an ability to reduce CO2 emissions and most solutions that can make an impact of the scale that is required are not found overnight. Our research with FuelCell Energy will be conducted methodically to ensure that all paths toward viability are explored.”