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CSIRO proving up CO2 capture technology in Australia

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Dr Paul Feron from CSIRO who has kindly provided an overview of their activities in proving up post-combustion capture at Australian coal-fired power stations.

“At the end of March, CSIRO produced the results from its four-year study into the application of post-combustion capture (PCC) technology at Australian coal-fired power stations.

The program consisted of

  1. establishing PCC pilot plants on site at Delta Electricity and Stanwell Corp’s operating power stations so that actual flue gases could be used; and
  2. extensive laboratory studies investigating a range of liquid absorbent technologies.

Several PCC pilot plants have been set up in other parts of the world including China but this was an opportunity to operate the technology under Australian conditions, to test novel processes and plant designs, and provide the power stations with practical experience of its performance.

The four-year, AU$21 million program was supported by Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET) funding and the participation in the pilot plants of the two Australian power companies.

The PCC pilot plant at Delta’s Munmorah power station used aqueous ammonia as the CO2 liquid absorbent. This is the first time it has been tested in a warm climate, and presents an opportunity for deployment at Australian coal-fired power plants, as they are not fitted with FGD or DeNOx. Aqueous ammonia was found to be a very effective agent for SO2-removal forming a by-product of ammonium-sulphate. Although the technology presented some process challenges, the project CO2 capture target of greater than 85 per cent was achieved. CSIRO is currently pursuing technical solutions to minimise solvent losses and prevent blockages in the stripper condenser, as a result of the precipitation of ammonium-bicarbonate, through further laboratory research and pilot-scale testing.

The PCC pilot plant at Stanwell’s Tarong power station was designed to incorporate considerable flexibility in its functioning.

This enabled the evaluation of a range of process design configurations to achieve improved technical performance of a liquid absorbent. For example, various modes of splitting the flow in the absorber or regenerator were used as well as intercooling in the absorber. The process configurations were initially assessed and ranked by performance through process simulations before being validated at the PCC pilot plant.

One particular process configuration was based on a small amount of the rich liquid absorbent being used to recover steam in the stripper and resulted in an 80 per cent reduction in the condenser duty. This was the first time that this process configuration was demonstrated in an actual pilot plant operating on real flue gases. All of the experimental work was based on a 30 per cent MEA solution as the liquid absorbent.

The laboratory research evaluated a range of liquid absorbents from commercially available amine based liquid absorbents to new designer amines using chemical synthesis, enzyme promoted amine systems to functionalised ionic liquids, each promising an improved performance.

The results confirmed CSIRO’s original analysis that the energy performance of the liquid based PCC process can be improved by 50 per cent.

CSIRO is currently continuing the development work on the new and patented liquid absorbent technologies to demonstrate that improved performance will support its economic feasibility.”

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