Laboratory for Multiscale Systems receives grant for carbon capture research
20 August 2012
The Laboratory for Multiscale Systems, led by Dr Ali Abbas, has received a grant from Australian National Low Emissions Coal Research & Development to undertake research on post-combustion carbon capture processes. The funding will bring together a multi-disciplinary team from The University of Sydney, Masdar Institute and Delta Electricity who are experts in modelling, optimal design and operation of post-combustion carbon capture technologies looking to synthesise and evaluate highly-integrated processes for clean coal power generation with low emissions of CO2.
According to Dr Abbas the collaboration with Masdar Institute and Delta Electricity is particularly important to "ensure that the modelling efforts are validated and industrially relevant". His team has been working over the last four years on developing simulation models of power generation and carbon capture plants. These models have been developed and validated in close cooperation with industry partners and have given the team a platform for making decisions on new integrated process designs that use less energy.
Australia has significant coal deposits which will continue to be the dominant fuel source of power generation for decades to come. Australians rely on coal for more than 75% of their electricity generation. Being the main emitter of CO2, Australia's power generation industry is faced with the vast challenge of meeting regulatory requirements stipulating limits on carbon emissions. Capturing carbon dioxide from power plant flue gas streams is flagged as the only available technology that can significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Putting low emission coal technologies (LECT's) such as PCC in place will be necessary for power generation to remain competitive in a low-emissions future. Overnight costs of power plants with CO2 capture are estimated to amount to about 74% higher than the reference costs without capture (IEA, Cost and performance of carbon dioxide capture from power generation, 2011). Therefore PCC represents a significant target for development of new innovative LECT technologies.
"Capital and operating expenditures of LECT will need to be significantly reduced to avoid large increases in cost of electricity", says Dr Abbas.
"We are looking at making significant contributions towards clean coal technology development for Australia's power industry, and we are doing this via advanced computer simulation and optimisation. We will have the potential to not only reduce capital and operating cost, but also time to streamline the development of novel carbon capture process technologies."
Dr Abbas's team has been working over the last four years on developing simulation models of power generation and carbon capture plants. These models have been developed and validated in close cooperation with industry partners and have given the team a platform for making decisions on new integrated process designs that use less energy.
The key problem with PCC is the parasitic energy consumed by the capture plant. A power plant retrofitted with a PCC plant will need to divert steam from electricity generation towards the capture plant solvent recovery unit. This is an enormous efficiency loss and represents a significant new cost for the power plant.
"We currently do not have all the technical answers required to help the debate on PCC technology. Our aim is to build reliable tools to answer questions around technical and economic feasibility of novel PCC processes. We want to achieve a good level of discussion on this and the tools we are developing will help in informing this debate." noted Dr Abbas.
"These tools will help power plant operators to design better processes but more significantly will pinpoint the conditions the power plant should run at to achieve maximum profits. This is because the models will be interfaced to carbon and electricity markets."
Associate Professor Matteo Chiesa who is the front figure of the Laboratory for Energy and Nanoscience at Masdar Institute, will partner on this project particularly on the integration of solarthermal energy with PCC technology. Professor Chiesa maintains several solarthermal research projects as well as some world-leading solar energy pilot facilities. Together with Dr Abbas, they will look into the feasibility of integrating renewable technology with PCC.
Anthony Callen, Sustainability Technologist from Delta Electricity said today that "Delta was very excited about the opportunities that the grant provides for collaboration and that Delta will continue to act as a host for low carbon innovation projects at its Vales Point Power Station on the Central Coast."