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Pilot plant planned for CO2 capture project using carbonate fuel cells

| By Scott Jenkins

ExxonMobil affiliate Esso Nederland B.V. (Rotterdam, the Netherlands; www.esso.nl) is planning to build a pilot plant at its Rotterdam manufacturing complex to generate performance and operability data for a modular carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technology based on carbonate fuel cells (CFC).

The CFC technology, which can generate electricity as it captures CO2 from exhaust gas, was developed jointly with FuelCell Energy Inc. (Danbury, Conn.; www.fuelcellenergy.com). The company says the project is the first time CFC technology will be piloted for carbon capture in an industrial setting. CO2 captured from the plant will be transported and permanently stored in empty gas fields under the North Sea as part of the Porthos project (www.porthosco2.nl).

In FuelCell Energy’s CFC technology (diagram), CO2-containing exhaust gas is routed into the fuel cells, which capture and concentrate the CO2 via a side reaction as the fuel cells generate power from fuel. The fuel cells’ electrochemical reactions are “supported by an electrolyte layer in which carbonate ions serve as the ion bridge that completes the electrical circuit,” the company states.

CO2 capture

Source: FuelCell Energy

When CFCs are applied to carbon capture, exhaust gas from an industrial process is fed into the fuel cell’s cathode. The CO2 in the exhaust gas is transferred to the anode side of the fuel cell, where it is much more concentrated and easier to separate, FuelCell Energy says. “During power generation, the carbonate ion transfer results in CO2 being produced in the fuel electrodes and consumed in the air electrodes,” FuelCell Energy says. CO2 from the anode can be purified by chilling the stream to extract liquid CO2.