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Fuel-cell-based carbon capture system can augment power generation

By Scott Jenkins |

Post-combustion carbon-capture processes that are based on adsorption of CO2 by amine compounds reduce the power output of coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants largely due to the energy required to regenerate the CO2 from the adsorbent material. In another approach, carbonate fuel cells can be used to separate CO2 from power plant exhaust streams while generating electricity and boosting the overall power output of the plant. A new development partnership between ExxonMobil Corp. (Dallas, Tex.; www.exxonmobil.com) and Fuel Cell Energy Inc. (FCE; Danbury, Conn.; www.fuelcellenergy.com) has the goal of utilizing FCE’s carbonate fuel cell technology so it can be used to separate and concentrate CO2 from the exhaust gas of a commercial-scale natural-gas power plant. Carbonate fuel cells produce hydrogen from natural gas and biogas, and then use the H2 to generate electricity and water. In a carbonate fuel cell, carbonate ions are formed (along with electrons) at the anode, and these ions complete the electrical circuit across the electrolyte layer of the fuel cell stack (see figure). Since such fuel cells require CO2 to form carbonate ions, power-plant exhaust gas — containing 5% CO2 in the case of a natural gas plant — can…
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