FLExible Carbon Capture and Storage (FLECCS)
The objective of the FLExible Carbon Capture and Storage (FLECCS) program is to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that enable power generators to be responsive to grid conditions in a high variable renewable energy (VRE) penetration environment. This includes retrofits to existing power generators as well as greenfield systems with a carbon-containing fuel input and electricity as an output (i.e., a “black box” in which the nature of the fuel-to-electricity conversion process is not prescribed). The value of such CCS technologies will be evaluated by their impact on system-wide levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) in modeled net-zero carbon electricity grids, as determined by a range of possible future scenarios in capacity expansion models. However, ARPA-E does not expect every CCS technology in FLECCS to be a net-zero carbon process. FLECCS technologies will provide flexible and economical assets for future low- and zero-carbon electricity systems. The cost and performance of each project will be evaluated in the context of a net-zero carbon system that may include negative emission assets. Recent work suggests that a system LCOE of $75/MWh for a net-zero carbon electricity system is possible.
FLECCS is a 2-phase program. Phase 1 focuses on designing and optimizing innovative CCS processes that enable flexibility on a high-VRE grid. Phase 1 will last for approximately 15 months and include approximately $7 million in Federal funding. Based on the output of the individual projects, engineering design review, and capacity expansion analysis, ARPA-E will select projects to continue to the next phase. Phase 2 will focus on building components, unit operations, and small prototype systems to reduce the technical risk and cost associated with these CCS systems. This phase will last for approximately 3 years and have a total budget of approximately $36 million in Federal funding.
FLECCS addresses a tension that will become more severe as electricity systems decarbonize: low-carbon resources such as CCS‑equipped plants can reduce the cost of a net-zero carbon system, yet increasing penetration of VRE sources such as wind and solar power complicate CCS design, operations, and commercialization potential. Changing market signals are resulting in operational challenges such as increased ramping of electricity generators. Such frequent ramping has several disadvantages, including reduced capacity factor, increased operations and maintenance costs, reduced power generator efficiency, and the potential for increased CO2 emissions during ramping even if integrated with a CCS plant. Given these trends, CCS processes and redesign should be reconsidered to ensure they can contribute to a low-cost, net-zero carbon electricity system, even if a given CCS process itself is not net-zero.
Studies have shown that low-carbon resources could reduce the cost of a net-zero carbon. Benefits include:
Flexible CCS systems can enable the continued use of low-cost domestic fuel for electricity generation and increase the reliability of a deeply decarbonized electricity system. In addition, flexible CCS processes at direct air capture installations could change modes to support the grid with electricity in times of high demand.
Flexible CCS systems can achieve high CO2 capture rates from flue gas. Additional processes could be included to enable a power generator to shift the times during which it exports electricity to the grid, thereby allowing the power generator and CCS plant to operate under steady-state conditions and with reduced emissions.
Flexible CCS systems can reduce the cost of a net-zero carbon electricity system by providing firm power to a high-VRE grid.