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ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy to pursue new carbon-capture technology

By Mary Page Bailey |

ExxonMobil Corp. (Irving, Tex.; www.exxonmobil.com) and FuelCell Energy, Inc. announced an agreement to pursue novel technology in power-plant carbon dioxide capture through a new application of carbonate fuel cells, which could substantially reduce costs and lead to a more economical pathway toward large-scale application globally.

“Advancing economic and sustainable technologies to capture carbon dioxide from large emitters such as power plants is an important part of ExxonMobil’s suite of research into lower-emissions solutions to mitigate the risk of climate change,” said Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Company. “Our scientists saw the potential for this exciting technology for use at natural gas power plants to enhance the viability of carbon capture and sequestration while at the same time generating additional electricity. We sought the industry leaders in carbonate fuel-cell technology to test its application in pilot stages to help confirm what our researchers saw in the lab over the last two years.”

Chip Bottone, president and chief executive officer of FuelCell Energy, Inc., said his company is pleased to bring its global leadership in the development of carbonate fuel cells to this project.

Two years of comprehensive laboratory tests have demonstrated that the unique integration of two existing technologies – carbonate fuel cells and natural gas-fired power generation – captures carbon dioxide more efficiently than existing scrubber conventional capture technology. The potential breakthrough comes from an increase in electrical output using the fuel cells, which generate power, compared to a nearly equivalent decrease in electricity using conventional technology.

The resulting net benefit has the potential to substantially reduce costs associated with carbon capture for natural gas-fired power generation, compared to the expected costs associated with conventional separation technology. A key component of the research will be to validate initial projected savings of up to one-third.

The scope of the agreement between ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy will initially focus for about one to two years on how to further increase efficiency in separating and concentrating carbon dioxide from the exhaust of natural gas-fueled power turbines. Depending on reaching several milestones, the second phase will more comprehensively test the technology for another one to two years in a small-scale pilot project prior to integration at a larger-scale pilot facility.

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