U.S. Department of Energy National Carbon Capture Center, Supporting Technology Scale-up and International Collaboration
12 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 1, 2021
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and operated and managed by Southern Company, the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) is a cornerstone of U.S. innovation in advancing the development of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Bridging the gap between laboratory research and large-scale demonstrations, the center works to accelerate the development of carbon capture technologies from natural gas- and coal-based power plants. The facility evaluates next-generation carbon dioxide (CO₂) reduction processes from third-party developers, focusing on the early-stage development of the most promising, cost-effective technologies for future commercial deployment.
Since its creation in 2009, the NCCC has performed more than 115,000 hours of technology testing. Through pilot testing of more than 60 technologies, the center has directly participated in the reduction of the projected cost of carbon capture from fossil power generation by approximately one-third. As the demand for post-combustion CO₂ capture options grows, work in this area continues to reduce the cost of carbon capture and bring new technologies closer to the marketplace. Evaluation of developing second-generation and transformational carbon capture technologies using actual flue gas under industrial conditions provides critical information on material and process suitability for scale-up to commercial applications.
The center has broadened its research scope to expand testing of carbon capture technologies for natural gas power generation in addition to its existing coal-fueled testing capability. Integration of the new natural gas flue gas equipment with the existing infrastructure will allow each carbon capture project to receive either natural gas or coal flue gas independently of other projects.
In addition, current and future testing at the NCCC will support research and development (R&D) of CO2 utilization technologies that will efficiently, economically, and cleanly transform CO₂ into value-added products. As its focus broadens to negative carbon concepts, the center is also extending its research to help advance direct air capture (DAC) technologies.
Because reduction of CO₂ emissions is an international issue, the NCCC provides worldwide technology development leadership – it co-founded the International Test Center Network, a global coalition focused on research, development, and deployment of carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS). Formed in 2012 in collaboration with DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy, the ITCN facilitates knowledge-sharing among carbon capture test facilities around the world to accelerate the commercial deployment of carbon capture technologies. The ITCN now has 14 test facilities that are members.
The NCCC has also been active in establishing test collaborations with international groups. The facility has successfully tested technologies from seven different countries. In addition to the important work of developing cost-effective technologies, many other aspects of successful commercial deployment must be mastered. Establishing relationships to secure funding, gaining management support, meeting test goals, and satisfying legal requirements of both the international organization and the NCCC are significant achievements and forms a strong basis for future partnerships for larger-scale development. Oil and gas companies have joined the NCCC and have a strong international presence which will support international collaboration worldwide.
Unanticipated benefits to the NCCC’s international collaboration have emerged in addition to establishing relationships that could form the basis for partnerships for scale-up of technology. These benefits include (1) adding value to CCUS technologies by meeting requirements of international markets, (2) increasing the value of input into studies, roadmaps and policy development by including international perspective, (3) attenuation of inconsistent support of CCUS R&D among individual countries, and (4) encouragement of passionate participants in CCUS R&D to stay in the field by expanding interest from new, international funders. The NCCC hopes to build on the international relationships that have been established to contribute to the important step of moving from early-stage R&D projects to a commercial product.
In conclusion, the NCCC has demonstrated its ability to bring on board and manage a multitude of projects to develop the most promising technologies for clean, efficient fossil-fuel energy production with ultra-low CO₂ emissions. Operations at the center have resulted in significant scale-ups, process enhancements, and technological breakthroughs. The NCCC is also providing international leadership to promote the level of readiness for carbon capture technologies. This paper will detail the center’s capabilities, role in supporting international collaboration, and future plans.
Keywords: Carbon capture; CCUS; test facility; US; DOE; ITCN; technology scale-up; international collaboration
JEL Classification: General
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation