DOE Funds New Technology that Could Give Power Pla

January 9, 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced it will award $500,000 toward the development of a new technology that could make energy production cleaner and more efficient by replacing air with pure oxygen during combustion. 

The technology, which is being developed by a team led by Western Research Institute (WRI) of Laramie, Wyoming, was selected for the award in a competitive process of the Department of Energy Crosscutting Research program. 

The new WRI sorbent-based oxygen production system can be integrated into advanced gasification systems, which gasify fuels before burning them, or into traditional coal-fired power systems.

Using oxygen instead of air in energy production provides environmental and efficiency advantages—but the cost of oxygen presents a hurdle. 

The new approach takes advantage of the oxygen-storage properties of a class of minerals known as perovskites. The WRI process incorporates perovskites into a solid ceramic sorbent that adsorbs oxygen from air. 

The sorbent then releases the adsorbed oxygen into a sweep gas such as carbon dioxide or steam for gasification systems or recycled flue gas for oxy-combustion systems. 

The cost of producing oxygen using the new perovskite sorbents may be as much as 60 percent lower than using standard cryogenic air separation methods. Substantial savings in capital investment costs are also expected. 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fossil Energy Crosscutting Research Program announcement, the program promotes the development of technologies that will make significant, cost-effective progress toward achieving benefits for electric generating units and industrial plants that use fossil fuel. 

“The benefits of sorbent-based oxygen production are far-reaching,” says Dr. Vijay Sethi, vice president for energy production and generation at Western Research Institute and principal investigator for the project. 

“Besides electric utilities, industries such as aluminum, glass, and steel will also benefit from cheaper oxygen,” he says. “The process will also lower the cost of carbon capture.” 

A team from Arizona State University under the direction of Dr. Jerry Lin will be joining WRI in the development of the new perovskite sorbent materials and the continuous oxygen production process. A team from New Mexico State University under the direction of Dr. Shuguang Deng will work to maximize the process through bench-scale testing. 

LP Amina of Charlotte, N.C., is an industrial partner in the project. LP Amina staff will work with WRI scientists and engineers to evaluate the commercial and economic viability of the new process.

The total cost of the 24-month sorbent-based oxygen production project is estimated to be $1.1 million.