Zero Emissions Natural Gas Plant Using Solid Oxide Fuel Cells?
A new way to use natural gas could cut its carbon dioxide output to zero, making it competitive with solar or wind farms.
MIT Postdoctoral associate Thomas Adams and Chemical Engineering Professor Paul I. Barton have proposed a system which produces power from natural gas without burning it, and produces a stream of clean water, and almost pure carbon dioxide, making it easy to harness for sale to cement manufacturers now developing a use for it, or pre-separating it cheaply for Carbon Capture and Storage.
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It doesn’t take new technology, but just a new way to combine solid-oxide fuel cells, and has been demonstrated to work on a lab-sized 250 KW demonstration plant – about at 1/1000th scale of a typical 250 MW plant. Because fuel cells are inherently modular, once the system has been proved at small size it can easily be scaled up, and the inventors say the system could be ready for commercialization in a few years.
Natural gas currently accounts for 22 percent of all U.S. electricity production, and that is increasing as coal use decreases. Plants that used to burn coal are increasingly being converted to burn natural gas instead, so this innovation would likely be competing more with natural gas plants than with coal plants.