Navigation Links
MIT: A quicker, easier way to make coal cleaner

WASHINGTON, DC--Construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States is in danger of coming to a standstill, partly due to the high cost of the requirement whether existing or anticipated to capture all emissions of carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas. But an MIT analysis suggests an intermediate step that could get construction moving again, allowing the nation to fend off growing electricity shortages using our most-abundant, least-expensive fuel while also reducing emissions.

Instead of capturing all of its CO2 emissions, plants could capture a significant fraction of those emissions with less costly changes in plant design and operation, the MIT analysis shows.

"Our approach 'partial capture' can get CO2 emissions from coal-burning plants down to emissions levels of natural gas power plants," said Ashleigh Hildebrand, a graduate student in chemical engineering and the Technology and Policy Program. "Policies such as California's Emissions Performance Standards could be met by coal plants using partial capture rather than having to rely solely on natural gas, which is increasingly imported and subject to high and volatile prices."

Hildebrand will present her findings on Nov. 18 at the 9th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies in Washington, DC. Her co-author is Howard J. Herzog, principal research engineer at the MIT Energy Initiative and chair of the conference organizing committee.

The United States is facing a pressing need for more power plants that run essentially all the time. Renewable sources aren't suited to the task, nuclear plants can't be built quickly enough, and expanded reliance on natural gas raises price and energy-security concerns. Coal, which now supplies more than half of all U.S. electricity, seems the best option.

But as several states have started to regulate CO2 emissions, and others are expected to follow suit, some of the luster has come off coal. Amid the uncertainty, no one wants to be the "first mover" on building a new coal plant incorporating carbon capture and storage (CCS). Depending on the type of plant, carbon capture alone can increase the initial capital cost by 30 to 60 percent and decrease plant efficiency so that the cost per kilowatt-hour rises. That high cost would reduce or possibly eliminate the hours the plant will be called on to run. Plus, CCS hasn't been proved at full scale, so no one knows exactly what to expect.

In Herzog's view, the call for full carbon capture is "a policy of inaction, a policy that won't move forward either new coal plants or the CCS technology." Partial capture could be a viable intermediate step.

The push for full capture (defined as 90 percent of the total) is in part economic: everyone assumed that 90 percent capture would due to economies of scale yield the lowest cost per ton of CO2 removed. Anything less than 90 percent would mean a higher per-ton cost.

To investigate that assumption, Hildebrand and Herzog modeled the technological changes and costs involved in capturing fractions ranging from zero to 90 percent. The model takes into account technological breakpoints. For example, carbon capture is achieved by a series of devices that absorb CO2, release it and compress it. Full capture may require two or more parallel series.

The model confirms that the cost per ton of CO2 removed declines as the number of captured tons increases. Not surprisingly, when the second series is added, cost per ton goes up, but it then quickly levels off. Cost per ton is thus roughly the same at, say, 60 percent capture as it is at 90 percent capture. Since there are no economies of scale to be gained by going to 90 percent, companies can remove less and significantly reduce their initial capital investment as well as the drop in efficiency once the plant is running.

The researchers conclude that as a near-term measure, partial capture looks promising. New coal plants with lower CO2 emissions would generate much-needed electricity while also demonstrating carbon capture and providing a setting for testing CO2 storage steps that will accelerate the large-scale deployment of full capture in the future.


Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Related biology news :

1. New test promises quicker, more accurate evaluation for cystic fibrosis patients
2. National Jewish Health researchers evaluating treatment to help emphysema sufferers breathe easier
3. Surviving the revolution, easier than withstanding human use and abuse
4. Telescope embedded in glasses lens promises to make driving easier for visually impaired
5. Magnet Lab researchers make observing cell functions easier
6. Researchers find way to make tumor cells easier to destroy
7. Clinical trial that may help patients breathe easier begins at Central DuPage Hospital
8. Gene discovery made easier with powerful new networking technique
9. GBIF making the search for biodiversity research resources easier
10. Cystic fibrosis patients may breathe easier, thanks to bioengineered antimicrobials
11. UV lotion lights the way to cleaner facilities
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/16/2016)... FRANCISCO , June 16, 2016 ... size is expected to reach USD 1.83 ... by Grand View Research, Inc. Technological proliferation and ... banking applications are expected to drive the market ... ) , The development of advanced ...
(Date:6/3/2016)... , June 3, 2016 ... von Nepal hat ... Lieferung hochsicherer geprägter Kennzeichen, einschließlich Personalisierung, Registrierung ... in der Produktion und Implementierung von Identitätsmanagementlösungen. ... Ausschreibung im Januar teilgenommen, aber Decatur wurde ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... care by providing unparalleled technology to leaders of the medical imaging industry.  As such, ... to the range of products distributed by Ampronix. Photo - ... ... ... With ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... June 27, 2016   Ginkgo Bioworks , a ... engineering, was today awarded as one of the ... the world,s most innovative companies. Ginkgo Bioworks is ... the real world in the nutrition, health and ... directly with customers including Fortune 500 companies to ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at ... most commonly-identified miRNAs in people with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the ... read it now. , Diagnostic biomarkers are signposts in the blood, lung fluid ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT has ... Ontario biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ... and commercialization of a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 ... targets such as WDR5 represent an exciting class ... in precision medicine for cancer patients. Substantial advances ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SANTA MONICA, Calif. , June 23, 2016  The Prostate Cancer ... to pioneer increasingly precise treatments and faster cures for prostate cancer. Members of ... 77 institutions across 15 countries. Read More About the ... ... ...
Breaking Biology Technology: