Carbonate fuel cells may be one answer to capturing CO2 from the atmosphere. The manufacturer is FuelCell Energy, a company located in Danbury, Connecticut. Carbonate fuel cells normally using CO2 created ions for conduction in a continuous loop. But they can be altered so that the loop is interrupted and the CO2 can be emitted for the purpose of capture.
Where would you use a carbonate fuel cell as a carbon capture device? Placed to siphon off gases in the exhaust of coal-fired power plants, a carbonate fuel cell could take CO2 from the air stream and concentrate it to about 70% by volume. It would then pressurize the gas and store it. The company believes that such a process could capture CO2 at a cost of between $20 and $30 per ton.
The captured CO2 has commercial application. It can be used in greenhouse operations, or for enhancing oil recovery from depleted wells. In the case of the latter the fuel cells would serve a double purpose. Gaseous byproducts from oil extraction would feed the carbonate fuel cell allowing it to capture the CO2 which then would be pumped into the depleted reservoir to further enhance oil recovery while permanently sequestering the gas underground.
Compared to other technologies used for carbon capture and storage, carbonate fuel cells look like a pretty good option but the current company products need to get much bigger. Right now a typical carbonate fuel cell generates a few megawatts of power. You can see one of FuelCell Energy's biggest products in the picture below. This one is being delivered to the Energy Cell Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut where it will be used to generate power for the state utility. The cell ways 50,000 kilograms (110,000 pounds). But this baby isn't big enough for the kind of fuel cell needed by power utilities and oil fields to capture CO2.
FuelCell Energy, however, is working to scale the technology beyond the 14.9 Megawatt stack you see in the picture and they are doing this with cooperation and $2.4 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. That's because the power industry will require a carbonate fuel cell capable of generating hundreds of Megawatts to make it commercially viable and to keep the cost of carbon capture within the $20 to $30 per ton range.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
Free Email Newsletter
To sign up for Futurist Update, our free monthly email newsletter, enter your email in the box below and click Save.
Canadian Provincial Premiers Decide on a National Energy Strategy that Includes Climate Change Action
August 30, 2014 - In a rare display of unanimity Canada's provincial leaders at their annual conference have outlined a national energy strategy.
Do you control your screens or do they control you? Advertisers dive into your brain for free (to you) from the minute you begin to gurgle. In tomorrow’s digital world you’ll decide and filter what’s on your screens. One control will be a personal paywall so you can be paid for your attention. When this makes your mind into your property, you will be able to sell it as often as you like.
August 29, 2014 - It is an inspiration to see the technological marvels that have gotten us to where we are today. And a great place to see this is Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.
While away on vacation, I read about LiftPort Group, a Kickstarter-funded space elevator project that received over $110,000 U.S. from more than 3,400 backers. The company, located in Tacoma, Washington, originally sought $8,000, so one would think this was largely fantasy, but with the amount of money that has come in it would seem it owes its investors something more than one it has delivered to-date.
Today, many voice long-familiar concerns about technological unemployment, where computers, robots, and machines are automating our jobs out of existence. In fact, some have gone so far as to call this the “robot jobs Armageddon.” So is this time truly different? Here are six overarching shifts in the world that are causing many to say, “Yes, this time may really be different!”
Self driving cars, 3D printing, robotics, these are just a few of the major technologies that are likely to bring massive disruptions in about every aspect of life. What do we eat? What would our work be like in the future? How do we travel? Where does our energy come from? The Council for the Environment and Infrastructure, the primary strategic advisory board for the Dutch government and parliament in matters relating to the physical environment and infrastructure, has initiated a foresight study to stimulate the public debate about the impact of disruptive technologies. It is not a traditional research project, but includes future imagery, crowd sourcing and technology assessment.