FuelCell Energy, Inc. (FCE) has announced the selection for negotiation of a $23.7m cost share carbon capture project with the support of the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy.

Sponsored by the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the project is to install and operate a two-megawatt Direct FuelCell® (DFC®) system configured for carbon capture in addition to power generation.

The carbon capture fuel cell system will be a modification of the company’s commercial DFC3000® fuel cell power plant and will be installed next to an existing coal-fired power plant to capture carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the exhaust of the coal plant.

FCE expects to finalise the award with the DOE by the end of September 2015. The company is evaluating multiple sites with interested utility and independent power producers that operate coal-fired power plants, and expects to announce the site selection in the fall of 2015.

The Danbury, Connecticut-based company is one of a number in the US at the forefront of a hydrogen revolution that is gradually gaining momentum in the energy sector, as explored in a hot topic from gasworld magazine earlier this year.

FCE estimates a potential market size of $1.6bn for its tri-generation DFC-H2 fuel cell power plants serving the industrial and mobility markets in the US alone. A DFC-H2 installation at FCE’s manufacturing facility in Torrington, Connecticut will generate hydrogen, electricity and heat – replacing hydrogen that is currently purchased and delivered to the facility via truck, and replacing electricity purchased from the electric grid. The installation can generate around 135kg of hydrogen per day, which generally meets the daily requirements of many industrial hydrogen users.

The company has more than 50 sites operating globally, with customers in nine countries; these fuel cell power plants utilise a fuel source such as natural gas or renewable biogas, combined with ambient air, to cleanly and efficiently generate power via an electrochemical reaction that virtually avoids the emission of pollutants.

Now, however, FCE is also making headway with its carbon capture-related fuel cell power plant project and notes that it is gaining increasing interest as various areas of compliance continue to be implemented.

Chip Bottone, President and CEO of FuelCell Energy, Inc., explained, “Our affordable carbon capture solution solves coal-fired power plant emission challenges, enabling an incremental transition to cleaner power generation from coal.”

“Our value proposition is attracting a lot of interest in the power industry and from legislators in states with a reliance on coal as we address a compliance obligation with a solution that provides a project return compared to conventional carbon capture approaches that incur only costs.”

Two-phase

An FCE statement notes that the initial installation under this project represents the first of an expected two-phase project at the selected site.

The second phase, to follow this DOE project, would be to install 11 additional fuel cell power plants to capture approximately 700 tons per day of CO2 in total, while simultaneously generating around 648,000 kilowatt hours per day of ultra-clean power.

In terms of how the technology works, the company explains that the project routes the flue gas from a coal-fired power plant into the fuel cells air intake system. The CO₂ is then concentrated and captured within the fuel cells and around 70% of nitrogen oxide (NOX) is destroyed, therefore meeting the needs of clean air initiatives such as the US Clean Power Plan.

Following capture, the CO₂ is cooled and compressed utilising standard chilling equipment and is available for industrial or agricultural applications, enhanced oil recovery or sequestration.

Though likely small in volume, this would help to meet increasing demand for CO2 in these industries; gasworld understands that many developers in the North American CO2 industry have been cautious in the development of new projects and source types in recent years as global economic headwinds have persisted.

Some estimates indicate a CO2 demand of about 9.2 million short tons for the US merchant market, where the largest sector of demand is food processing, estimated to be in the mid-40% range in many areas of the country.