Coal-fired power plants provide nearly 50% of all electricity in the U.S. While coal is a cheap and abundant natural resource, its continued use contributes to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. Capturing and storing this CO2 would reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels while allowing power plants to continue using inexpensive coal. Carbon capture and storage represents a significant cost to power plants that must retrofit their existing facilities to accommodate new technologies. Reducing these costs is the primary objective of the IMPACCT program.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Columbia University is developing a process to pull CO2 out of the exhaust gas of coal-fired power plants and turn it into a solid that can be easily and safely transported, stored above ground, or integrated into value-added products (e.g. paper filler, plastic filler, construction materials, etc.). In nature, the reaction of CO2 with various minerals over long periods of time will yield a solid carbonate—this process is known as carbon mineralization. The use of carbon mineralization as a CO2 capture and storage method is limited by the speeds at which these minerals can be dissolved and CO2 can be hydrated. To facilitate this, Columbia University is using a unique process and a combination of chemical catalysts which increase the mineral dissolution rate, and the enzymatic catalyst carbonic anhydrase which speeds up the hydration of CO2.
If successful, Columbia University's accelerated carbon mineralization process would offer a simple way for coal plants to limit their CO2 emissions. The easily visible evidence of stored carbon eliminates the need for long-term monitoring of stored CO2.
Enabling continued use of domestic coal for electricity generation will preserve the stability of the electric grid.
Carbon capture technology could prevent more than 800 million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.
Enabling cost-effective carbon capture systems could accelerate their adoption at existing power plants.