CCS Breakthrough – Coal Gasification + Fuel Cells is the Future?
Of late, I have been hearing a lot on the virtues of coal gasification combined with fuel cells as a method for carbon capture. It is called “clean coal” by some.
The idea is fairly simple. Gasifying coal results in syngas – a mixture of CO and H2. When you mix this syngas with steam, the CO gets oxidized to CO2. Thus, you have a gaseous mixture of CO2 and H2. The idea is to separate the CO2 at this stage and send in only the energy carrier hydrogen in fuel cells to produce power. The result of such a process is pure distilled water. (A 1,000 MW power station they would produce over 2.5 billion liters of clean water a year, according to some estimates).
Thus, you have separated CO2 at (reportedly) low costs, and have an environmentally sound combustion that produces only pure water, which is valuable in itself!
As per this article, Australian clean coal tech firm Linc Energy and British fuel cell specialist AFC Energy are the latest to predict that coal gasification and fuel cell combination could revolutionize power production.
These two have signed a major new partnerhip which, it is hoped, will culminate in a demonstration project sometime in future. Under the alliance, Linc has been granted exclusive rights to test AFC’s fuel cell technology in conjunction with underground coal gasification techniques.
It is too early to sing the praises of this combo process because the cost components are still not known. But, with over 80% of the cost of CCS is incurred in the CO2 capture stage, the new process could potentially offer a cheaper alternative whereby the CO2 is already captured and contained, ready for injection into its storage area.