Located in Wilsonville, Alabama, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Carbon Capture Center offers world-class infrastructure, real-world operating conditions, flexible testing and a highly skilled technical team to evaluate the application of carbon capture in both natural gas- and coal-based power plants. We support the development of innovative technologies to ensure a broad variety of cost-competitive options for carbon capture, storage and utilization. Novel advanced solvents, sorbents, membranes and other processes for carbon capture are tested over a range of commercially relevant operating conditions, while generating data that evaluates efficiency, environmental performance and economic viability. The processes tested at the center’s carbon capture and utilization test facility will have a wide range of uses in industrial applications.
Post-Combustion Carbon Capture
The National Carbon Capture Center’s post-combustion test facilities include fully integrated units for assessing advanced carbon capture processes, as well as test bays for developers to install pilot-, bench- and lab-scale test skids. These test bays include:
- Lab-scale – small, indoor table-top sized units
- Bench-scale – outdoor units offering a footprint of up to approximately 15 feet by 25 feet
- Pilot-scale – outdoor units with a footprint of up to 50 feet by 75 feet
The original facility, installed in 2011, uses flue gas from an 880-megawatt supercritical pulverized coal unit at Alabama Power’s Plant Gaston, and has undergone significant modifications to enhance its testing capabilities. To date, post-combustion operation has successfully supported testing of new enzymes, membranes, sorbents, solvents, hybrids and associated systems. Approximately 37 technologies from 25 developers have been evaluated, with eight technologies scaled-up or ready to be demonstrated at 10 megawatts or greater.
The National Carbon Capture Center has also expanded its research to include testing of carbon capture technologies for natural gas power plants. Newly constructed infrastructure provides an equivalent capacity of natural gas-derived flue gas for carbon capture testing, while accurately representing state-of-the-art natural gas power generation. Natural gas-based flue gas is generated over a range of actual operating conditions, and this unique new facility can accommodate advanced designs such as high-temperature capture processes. While leveraging existing technology, the addition – which includes a natural gas-fired boiler, flue gas cooler, condenser and blower – provides a flexible test platform with a number of benefits for carbon capture technology developers.
The National Carbon Capture Center is advancing technologies for utilization of carbon dioxide (CO2). Our facility provides a unique environment for third-party developers to evaluate CO2 utilization technologies using fossil fuel-derived flue gas and/or captured CO2 from the post-combustion carbon capture system. Testing can evaluate advanced catalysts, reactor systems and processes to develop technologies that will efficiently, economically and cleanly convert CO2 into value-added products – partially offsetting carbon capture costs from power generation and providing an alternative to conventional manufacturing processes. Near-term test plans include operation of technologies that utilize CO2 in the production of chemicals, concrete and algae.
Direct Air Capture
As our focus broadens to negative carbon concepts, the National Carbon Capture Center is extending its research to help advance direct air capture (DAC) technologies. Emerging DAC technologies separate CO2 directly from ambient air; captured CO2 can then be safely and permanently stored underground or used in the production of fuels, chemicals and commercial products such as building materials. With our successful history of carbon capture testing, the center offers significant advantages to DAC developers as a host site – including a proficient staff, the capability to test both DAC and capture from concentrated sources (or hybrid concepts), and assistance in finding partners for scale-up, both domestically and internationally.