UK CAER Current News

The Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) is one of the University of Kentucky's multidisciplinary research centers. Its energy research provides a focal point for environmental, renewable and fossil fuels research in Kentucky.

UK CAER Grant Seeks to Reduce Carbon Capture Costs

clock May 22, 2018 14:25 by author Thomas

 

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) received a $3.7 million United States Department of Energy (DOE) grant to develop an intensified process to significantly reduce the capital and operational costs associated with CO2 capture.

This project, funded through DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory, is entitled, "A Process with Decoupling Absorber Kinetics and Solvent Regeneration through Membrane Dewatering and In-Column Heat Transfer." James Landon, a Principal Research Engineer at UK CAER, and Kunlei Liu, Associate Director for Research, are co-principal investigators on this grant.

 

The project will investigate the intensification of amine-based CO2 capture from coal-fired power plants to reduce the capital and operational cost associated with CO2 capture through the use of innovative packing materials to enhance CO2 absorption into the solvent, dewatering of rich solution prior to stripper to reduce solvent regeneration energy, and heat integration to lower the steam requirements of the process. This technology will be demonstrated at the bench-scale at UK CAER through modification to the Center's coal-fired 0.1 MWth post-combustion carbon capture unit.

"The successful development of the proposed technology will allow for the utilization of abundant, low-cost coal to produce reliable electricity, while affordably meeting and managing environmental concerns," said Dr. Liu..

Enabling low-energy and low-cost carbon dioxide capture units is critical in the development of advanced coal-based power generation facilities. The research investigated through this project as well as the collaborations and integration of process components will help improve carbon capture technology available to utility companies. This process could be applied to most advanced solvents (aqueous or non-aqueous) and flue gas derived from either coal or natural gas combustion.

"If successful, this project could significantly change how we capture carbon," said Dr. Landon. "Creating an integrated process that captures CO2 while utilizing less energy in that process is critical to ensuring commercial scale carbon capture technology becomes a reality. This research is the next step in that technological continuum."

Project collaborators include the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Media and Process Technology, Smith Management Group, and Trimeric. 

 



Federal Funding to Expand UK CAER Carbon Capture Research

clock May 2, 2018 11:39 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research was one of nine organizations selected to receive Phase I funding of a three-phase project as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fossil Fuel Large-Scale Pilot program.

UK CAER will receive over $940,000 from DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to advance its world-renowned carbon dioxide capture research and development.

According to principal investigator Kunlei Liu, this Phase I funding will allow UK CAER to advance its four-pronged CO2 capture system to a 10 megawatt scale. UK CAER’s Power Generation Research Group is a global leader in building, developing and demonstrating post-combustion carbon capture systems. In fact, UK CAER’s current 0.7 megawatt small pilot CO2 capture facility operates at Kentucky Utilities’ E.W. Brown Generating Station in Burgin, Kentucky has led to scientific and engineering breakthroughs in the field.



This new federal funding will allow UK CAER to advance that research by nearly ten times, leaving the technology only one step away from commercialization. 

“This project will allow us to leverage the unique carbon dioxide capture expertise we have developed at UK CAER over the past decade to tackle a new and exciting next step in its implementation,” said Heather Nikolic, a Principal Research Engineer at UK CAER.

The Center’s post-combustion system features modular equipment and free-standing columns with built-in advanced controls to continually minimize the CO2 capture energy penalty while responding to a dynamic external demand. The new system will combine several facets to simultaneously address capital cost, energy consumption, load change, and environmental impact.

“I often remind our team that this project would not be possible without the many partners who have assisted us and collaborated with our researchers over the years,” said Dr. Liu, Associate Director for Research at UK CAER and Associate Professor in UK’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “This project is another great example of that. In addition to our colleagues at DOE, we will be partnering with several institutions and industry partners to ensure success.”

Project collaborators include LG&E and Kentucky Utilities, Carbon Clean Solutions, University of Texas-Austin, Membrane Technology Research, Electric Power Research Institute, Huaneng Clean Energy Research Institute, Koch Modular Process Systems, Worley Parsons, and Smith Management Group.

“UK CAER has made many contributions to the scientific and engineering community, including through efforts to advance clean coal and carbon capture technologies, which are very important to Kentucky,' said Senator McConnell. 'The University of Kentucky, under the leadership of President Eli Capilouto, continues to do impressive work on this issue, and I've been told its current carbon capture project is already producing results. I look forward to seeing what UK CAER is able to accomplish with these new federal resources.”



New UK CAER Grant Seeks to Improve Industrial Water Treatment Technology

clock February 19, 2018 12:11 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) received a $740,000 grant from the United States Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE NETL) that seeks to lower the cost for and improve the efficiency of industrial water treatment.

 

The grant – entitled “Intensified Flue Gas Desulfurization Water Treatment for Reuse, Solidification, and Discharge” – will help advance UK CAER’s impressive portfolio of water treatment research, a critically important project for Kentucky companies.

 

“This grant will strengthen our wastewater research program,” said Kunlei Liu, Associate Director for Research at UK CAER. “Our team is developing and demonstrating cost-effective and practical technologies for reducing and managing wastewater, benefitting Kentucky companies and strengthening Kentucky’s industrial sector.”

 

Flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) technology is used to remove sulfur dioxide from exhaust flue gas at fossil fuel power plants. FGD technology is an important environmental mitigation process, as it also captures portion of heavy metals created during power generation, including selenium, arsenic and mercury.

 

UK CAER’s project seeks to intensify the traditional water treatment process, thereby lowering the cost for industry, said Xin Gao, Senior Research Engineer at the Center, and the principle investigator for the funded project.

 

“This next-stage technology currently being developed at UK CAER has a potential to intensify and/or integrate the conventional wastewater treatment process,” said Gao. “If successful, this technology would significantly lower the cost for water treatment.”

 

This UK CAER project seeks to utilize electrocoagulation, flotation and nanofiltration – via membranes – to remove as many heavy metals and soluble salts from the water as possible, and then recycle that water into the system. This process will reduce the amount of fresh water needed and make landfilling those particulates easier.

 

As part of the project, the UK CAER research team will be evaluating the effectiveness of electrocoagulation and long-term operation of membrane filtration as well as the ability to consistently create “landfillable solids” while meeting government regulations.



UK CAER, Hazard Partnership Seeks to Improve Rural Power Generation

clock January 10, 2018 09:32 by author Thomas

The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) received a $1.6 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to develop an innovative partnership in Hazard, Kentucky that could serve as a model for future energy projects in rural Eastern Kentucky communities.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) funded the project, which is titled Gasification Combined Heat and Power from Coal Fines. Funding for twenty percent of the project cost is provided by the University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Arq Coal Technologies LLC, and Beijing Baota Sanju Energy Science and Technology Co, Ltd. The grant will allow UK CAER and its community partners to complete a front end engineering design (FEED) study for a 5-megawatt electric equivalent polygenerating unit utilizing waste coal fines and biomass as feedstocks.

 “This project could be a first step to a mid-west regional partnership for research, development and deployment of energy-related innovation,” said Kunlei Liu, the project’s principal investigator and Associate Director at UK CAER. “This type of project, involving many partners across Kentucky and beyond, shows great promise for testing and demonstrating new energy technology.”

UK CAER will be recycling two eastern Kentucky products – sawdust and coal fines – to help create localized power generation in Perry County.

“I’ve always believed that localized and regional power generation would work well in many Kentucky communities – particularly throughout rural Kentucky,” said Jack Groppo, a principal research engineer at UK CAER and faculty member in UK Mining Engineering, who is working on this project. “We have a tremendous amount of coal fines left over throughout Kentucky coal fields as well as a strong, vibrant lumber industry that has industrial waste as well. This project will allow us to combine those two products to create fuel that will help power rural Kentucky communities for years to come.”

As part of the project, UK CAER will partner with several businesses based in Hazard, including Gay Brothers Lumber, Blackhawk Mining, and the Hazard-Perry County Economic Development Alliance.



UK CAER will use biomass (sawdust) from Gay Brothers Lumber and will utilize waste coal fines from Blackhawk Mining. The model location will be located at the Coal Fields Regional Industrial Park in Hazard.

The Center will also collaborate with Beijing Baota Sanju Energy Science and Technology Co, Ltd. in China to conduct a preliminary design on the 5-megawatt gasifier, as the project seeks to find out how best to optimize how much heat and power can be generated. The grant will fund a cultural impact study in the region to help determine the community and financial benefits of local, gasified power generation.

Smith Management Group of Lexington will contribute to the FEED study, along with Trimeric Corporation from Texas.




UK CAER Student Researcher Places Third in UK Poster Contest

clock August 11, 2017 14:14 by author Thomas

Braxton McFarland, a student researcher in UK CAER’s Power Generation Group, placed third in the UK Department of Chemistry’s annual poster completion. McFarland, a native of Lexington, Kentucky, graduated with a degree in chemistry from UK in spring 2017.

 

 

The title of the poster was “Electroless Copper Plating Method for 3D Printed Circuit Boards.” 





UK CAER Student Employee One of UK's Best

clock June 13, 2017 15:52 by author Thomas

Ryan Hines, a student in UK CAER's Power Generation Group, was named one of the University of Kentucky’s top 10 student employees for 2016-17. Ryan operated the large bench CO2 capture unit for the Center. Ryan is a native of Liberty, Kentucky and is a chemical engineering major at UK.



Ryan played a critical role in conducting a performance test on UK CAER’s carbon capture bench demonstration unit, according to his colleagues.

"We conducted a performance test on our CAER-B3 solvent using our new hybrid process in large bench unit for 500 hours," said Brad Irvin, a Research Scientist Associate at UK CAER. "The hybrid process combined a traditional CO2 capture process with a CO2 pre-concentrating membrane, a new solvent blend (CAER-B3), and solid additives. This test took months to complete and we faced many difficult challenges such as maintenance and repair of the system and keeping our data quality top notch, while also meeting the DOE timelines. Ryan was instrumental in the successful completion of this experiment. His willingness to take ownership and go the extra mile kept the experiment on track and producing meaningful data."