The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is well-known for its extensive research.
It is now grappling with what could be the most challenging problem it has ever faced: how to encourage the development of technology for three emerging sectors to harness, move, and store the climate-changing pollution of fossil fuels.
The center, like other DOE laboratories, researches in collaboration with businesses and universities. It predicts that capturing, shipping, and storing carbon dioxide would potentially produce “tens of thousands of jobs” based on its recent experiences.
The work would frequently include skills close to those used by fossil fuel companies, such as coal-fired power plants and other industries that have seen significant employment losses. The Pittsburgh Experiment Station, one of the lab’slab’s forerunners, was founded in 1919 to help with coal mining problems and the newly formed oil and gas industry.
NETL has sought new allies a century back. Mongstad Technology Centre is one of them. Mongstad is a Norwegian manufacturing site with an oil refinery and a power plant that the government has upgraded to test the new CO2 emissions capture systems. Some of them are perched on top of smokestacks.
CO2 removal from flue gas has been challenging, costly, and stressful until recently. Although the unseen gas has the potential to fuel the world, it makes up a limited percentage of power plant pollution, ranging from 4% of flue gas from fossil fuel plants to 15% of coal-fired waste. Separating carbon dioxide from nitrogen and hydrogen is also tricky.
Mongstad provides NETL with what amounts to the world’s world’s most extensive facility to see if this can be accomplished. NETL is actively evaluating four carbon capture technologies developed in the United States. Another that is about to be reviewed was developed by SRI International (formerly the Stanford Research Institute) in California and is a 2006 effort.
According to Indira Jayaweera, an SRI program manager, the technology will be the first to conserve electricity by running at room temperature and not emitting any chemical pollution into smokestacks.
In an interview, she said the system has a “much higher potential” for handling emissions than previous iterations of the “mixed salt process.”
In March, Baker Hughes Co., a Texas-based multinational oil and gas engineering firm, purchased the global rights to market the process. It’s assembling a “portfolio” of carbon capture systems that can suck in gases from a coal plant or a manufacturing factory and remove pure CO2. Chemical salt solutions made from ammonia and potassium are used in the process.
If the technology passes the tests in Mongstad, a full-scale version of the SRI device will be mounted on a coal-fired power plant in Urbana, Illinois.
In a press release, Baker Hughes executive vice president Rod Christie said that the technology would absorb CO2 at a lower rate, “making it suitable for industrial applications.” ” Baker Hughes is getting ready to join this global industry.
Other recent developments will give it a run for its money. NETL also collaborates with producers of membranes that claim to extract CO2 from flue gas.
CEMENT MADE Of CO2
Then there’s a method that completely prevents carbon capture by capturing methane in raw cement blocks. This seems to store them for the near future without weakening the cement power.
In 2018, NETL discovered the idea and started collaborating with UCLA researchers to perfect it. UCLA’s squad used the method to defeat 38 teams from seven countries in an XPRIZE competition in April.
Six cement buckets were produced in a test conducted in March, four from coal flue gas and two from natural gas flue gas. More than 5,000 concrete blocks were made, capturing 75% of CO2.
According to Andrew Jones, the process created a replacement for standard concrete blocks constructed of Portland cement, who oversaw the project for NETL. The result isn’t just a minor victory: He said that more than 20 billion metric tonnes of concrete are manufactured per year.
According to Jones, Portland cement is essential to the modern method of hardening concrete, but it produces 10% of the worlds’ world’s CO2 emissions because it needs heavy, normally coal-fired gas.
Once CO2 is eliminated from US emissions, the most cost-effective way to store it is to pump it into underground rock formations.
According to Mark McKoy, who oversees NETL’sNETL’s carbon storage study, any formation will not suffice. To find porous rock layers like sandstone, the CO2 must be pumped under pressure down to 3,000 feet or lower. The strain there causes the gas to condense into a supercritical state, a near-liquid with just 1% of its original volume.
It can be forced through narrow spaces or pores in the rocks in this state. If there are nonporous layers of caprock over it, it can remain there indefinitely, but locations must be deliberately selected and checked to avoid leaks.
In a recent NETL webinar, McKoy said, “There is a lot of room relative to [CO2] pollution in the United States.” “Right now, we’re looking to start a carbon storage industry. We want this to be beyond our society’ssociety’s financial means, and we want to fund early demonstration projects.”
Choice storage sites will not always be close by, according to NETL, necessitating the creation of a third industry: a nationwide CO2 pipeline system to transport captured gas to the chosen location.
Established CO2 pipeline networks have been developed in oil-rich regions such as Texas. They do, however, use CO2 that is extracted from the field and piped into depleted oil reserves. The gas is pumped again to push out any residual crude oil, allowing it to be used as petrol.
In 2018, the Great Plains Institute, a Minneapolis-based environmental organization, helped persuade Congress to offer a tax credit to businesses who use CO2 recycled from smokestacks or manufacturing operations to pump out more crude.
The deduction is included in section 45Q of the United States tax code. Last June, GPI released a study claiming that a “”super-sized” national pipeline infrastructure for exporting CO2 would be cheaper to install over the next 30 years to curb emissions, thanks in part to the tax credit.
It will also assist more businesses in removing CO2 from the environment and transporting it to usable or leak-proof storage locations.
Many of the requisite skills are similar to those found in traditional sectors, according to the “tens of thousands of jobs” estimated by GPI and NETL researchers for the emerging carbon capture industry, requiring storage and pipeline infrastructure.
In the oil and gas field, the geology and engineering experience of injecting CO2 into the earth is often used.
According to McKoy, the current pipeline construction industry possesses the required expertise to build a national CO2 pipeline infrastructure. He projected that “savvy entrepreneurs would be willing to start companies, and a lot of established firms would want to move over” in terms of the technologies required to build the three new sectors.
With permission from POLITICO, LLC, this article was reprinted from E&E News. Copyright is valid until 2021. E&E News is a vital source of information for energy and environmental practitioners.