Carbon Mitigation Initiative

Eleventh Year Annual Report: Low-Carbon Energy

The goal of the Low-Carbon Energy Group is to develop cost-effective strategies to advance a low-carbon energy economy.

Recent work of Robert Williams and colleagues Tom Kreutz and Eric Larson explores novel ways of combining fossil fuels with biomass and CO2 capture and storage (CCS) to produce low-carbon synfuels and electricity. Work on energy storage technologies has been initiated by Craig Arnold and colleagues to promote integration of renewable energy into the energy system.


Combining Carbon Capture & Storage with Enhanced Oil Recovery

  • The low cost of capturing CO2 at coproduction facilities that make synfuels or synfuels plus electricity presents a strategic opportunity to get started with CO2 capture and storage via enhanced oil recovery (EOR) even in the absence of a carbon mitigation policy, while simultaneously reducing oil imports.
  • Coproduction systems fueled with coal or natural gas and a modest amount of biomass would enable a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 50% or more for the synfuels and electricity provided, but elevating such CO2 EOR opportunities to more than a niche status will require an expanded CO2 pipeline infrastructure.
  • Before the CO2 EOR strategy can become a commercial reality, first-of-a kind commercial-scale coproduction projects are needed to demonstrate that these technologies can offer low-cost CO2.

New Pathways to Synthetic Fuels

  • Low-carbon synthetic gasoline made from methanol at a facility via separate gasification of coal and biomass with CCS, followed by methanol synthesis, has economics comparable to production of low-carbon Fischer-Tropsch transportation fuels in plants also using separate gasifiers for coal and biomass.
  • New analysis of synthetic low-carbon gasoline production from coal and biomass via cogasification in an entrained flow coal gasifier shows economics that are surprisingly competitive with economics of plant designs using separate coal and biomass gasifiers. The feasibility of co-gasification improves the prospects for near-term implementation of commercial coal/biomass to synfuels projects.

International Collaborations

  • Collaborations with Chinese colleagues are growing and are being carried out in the context of strong Chinese interest in polygeneration technologies in the Chinese chemical process industry.
  • Collaboration with the Energy Conversion Systems Group at Politecnico di Milano is leading to deepened insights relating to the thermodynamic performances of systems coproducing liquid fuels and electricity. The collaboration with Dr. Andrea Lanzini at the Politecnico di Torino is bringing forward new research opportunities relating to solid oxide fuel cells.

Energy Storage

  • New simulations of battery storage efficiency have substantially improved prediction of the amount of energy stored in batteries for variations in charging power, laying the groundwork for better design of energy storage systems for wind and solar power.

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Last update: March 21 2012
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