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:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is designing a process to pull CO2 out of the exhaust gas of coal-fired power plants so it can be transported, stored, or utilized elsewhere. Human lungs rely on an enzyme known as carbonic anhydrase to help separate CO2 from our blood and tissue as part of the normal breathing process. LLNL is designing a synthetic catalyst with the same function as this enzyme. The catalyst can be used to quickly capture CO2 from coal exhaust, just as the natural enzyme does in our lungs. LLNL is also developing a method of encapsulating chemical solvents in permeable microspheres that will greatly increase the speed of binding of CO2. The goal of the project is an industry-ready chemical vehicle that can withstand the harsh environments found in exhaust gas and enable new, simple process designs requiring less capital investment.
If successful, LLNL's synthetic catalyst could significantly improve the speed of the reactions that draw CO2 out of coal exhaust gas, improving the cost and efficiency of carbon capture and storage.
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.