Air Products and the ElectricPower Research Institute (EPRI) have announced the signing of an agreement which will help advance Air Products’ ongoing ion transport membrane (ITM) project with the US Department of Energy.

The agreement will support Air Products’ ITM development for use in integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), oxyfuel combustion, and other advanced power generation systems.

The company has an ongoing ITM project with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop this new oxygen production technology, which could significantly increase the efficiency and reduce the costs of advanced coal-fired power plants, both with and without carbon dioxide capture and storage systems.

EPRI’s global collaborative efforts will focus on power industry-relevant design cases and features, and specific tests to help advance the overall ITM programme toward successful deployment in the power industry.

Ted Foster, Director of Business Development for Advanced Gas Separation at Air Products said, “ITM technology would change the way oxygen is separated and used. EPRI’s involvement with this technology is important as EPRI will directly involve the electric utility industry in helping to guide scale-up and integration of ITM technology for clean energy. This collaboration will give the industry a first-hand understanding of the technology.”

ITM technology uses a ceramic material which, under pressure and temperature, ionises and separates oxygen molecules from air; no external source of electrical power is required in this process.

The technology would be an alternative to traditional cryogenic air separation units, the conventional means of producing the large quantities of oxygen required by an IGCC plant and by any oxyfuel combustion power system.

ITM technology would typically decrease internal power demand by as much as 30% and capital costs by approximately 30% in the oxygen supply systems at these power plants.

Bryan Hannegan, Vice President of Environment and Generation at EPRI commented, “By reducing the cost of coal gasification and oxy-fuel combustion, ITM technology will help enable a future generation of coal-fired power plants that will capture and store their CO2 emissions while using less of the world’s limited land and water resources.”

“EPRI is pleased to bring together a collaborative of several utility companies in support of Air Products’ development of ITM technology for power applications, and we expect that our efforts will help accelerate ITM technology to market.”

Hannegan added that other potential benefits of this technology could include reduced cooling water use and land or space requirement for oxygen separation plants.

The oxygen requirements for the power generation industry could grow substantially in supporting advanced coal-based generation and integrated carbon capture technology.

EPRI estimates the current US power generation industry share of the oxygen market is about 4%, but it could become the dominating market driver, accounting for more than 60% of the future market, or approximately 2m tpd of oxygen by 2040.

Air Products and EPRI will examine the scale-up of the process and equipment, and the integration of ITM technology with other operations in advanced coal power systems.