CAER is working to advance technology to capture carbon dioxide from new and existing coal-burning power plants, funded by a major grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory, part of the DOE Office of Fossil Energy, has selected the UK Center for Applied Energy Research for the three-year, $3 million project.
The announcement comes on the heels of regulations proposed Sept. 20 by the Environmental Protection Agency to sharply reduce carbon emissions from new power plants. This development presents serious challenges to the coal industry, which currently lacks cost-effective technology that would enable it to comply with the proposed lower limits.
"Technologies for carbon capture, utilization and storage will be crucial in sustaining coal as a viable fuel under increasing carbon constraints," said CAER Director Rodney Andrews. "The technology is feasible, but it is not yet ready for full-scale implementation. That's why this project is so important."
The CAER project will advance the DOE's goal of having technology available by 2020 that can achieve a 90-percent carbon dioxide capture rate, at a cost of $40 per metric ton of carbon dioxide captured.
A major cost associated with commercial carbon dioxide capture is the size of the "scrubber" needed to handle the volume of flue gas produced by a power plant. CAER has developed a catalyst to speed up the absorption rate of the solvent used, so the scrubber can be much smaller. Overall, the CAER technology could reduce the cost of carbon dioxide capture by 56 percent, compared to the current DOE reference case.
Research and development by CAER will enable efficient, cost-effective implementation of carbon capture throughout the power generation sector and ensure that the United States and other nations will continue to have access to safe, reliable, and affordable energy from fossil fuels, Andrews said.
"These essential factors of production, in turn, have and will continue to drive industrial growth, raising personal incomes, higher standards of living, and an improved quality of life," he said.
DOE's investment is $2,966,957, in addition to cost share of $242,615 from UK and $499,675 from the Carbon Management Research Group, an industry-based research consortium with membership consisting of AEP, Duke, EPRI, LGE-KU and the state’s Department of Energy Development and Independence. Kunlei Liu, CAER associate director for research, will serve as the university’s principal investigator.
UK President Eli Capilouto commended researchers at CAER for tackling head-on the "questions of efficiency, sustainability and utilization," raised by the global energy debate.
“Our researchers, in partnership with the Department of Energy and the Carbon Management Research Group, are reaching new discoveries that can transform the Kentucky and national energy economy,” he said.