Ohio State research aims to cut down on coal emissions
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 23:02
Ohio State researchers are developing new technology that can capture and store 99 percent of coal’s carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that could impact electricity bills across Ohio.
Liang-Shih Fan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of the Clean Coal Research Technology, said this technology being developed as part of a $5 million project would help Ohio in coal utilization.
“This particular technique allows carbon dioxide to be captured in a very efficient way without consuming (a) huge amount of energy,” Fan said.
The new technique burns the coal chemically, compared to the popular technique of physically burning it.
With the current standard practice, coal is essentially put into a fire and burned, producing energy that can be used for electricity.
This research takes coal and chemically interacts it with iron and oxygen at a high temperature, said Elena Chung, a doctorate student in chemical engineering and part of the research team. The carbon in the coal replaces the iron and combines with the oxygen. This reaction of oxygen and carbon is what produces the heat that can be used for energy, Fan said.
Efficiency could reach 99 or 100 percent, but the cost to reach that level has been a problem. The traditional techniques require 30 percent of the energy generated from a power plant to capture the carbon dioxide, whereas the new technology requires almost no energy, Fan said.
Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for coal consumption, and 90 percent of energy is provided by coal-fired power plants, according to Ohio Air Quality Development Authority.
The new technique also fulfills price increase requirements that prohibit new technology from adding more than 35 percent to the cost of electricity produced at the plant, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
For a resident that pays $135 on their electricity bill, a new technology cannot be implemented if it will force the resident to pay above $182.25.
The research at OSU is one of the few techniques under the 35 percent increase, Fan said.
“(The cost) is always increasing if you want to do something beyond what you are doing now,” he said.
Some students agree it is a necessary change to produce nearly emissions-free power plants.
Ashley Green, a fourth-year in agricultural communication, said she is willing to pay more for a cleaner environment.
“Coming from an agriculture and environmental background, I think it is really important we take care of our Earth,” Green said. “It is important we keep the emissions down, but I understand it’s going to cost more.”
The research was conducted for more than eight days in which the system had to be monitored 24/7.
“We actually physically don’t do much – maybe load more coal into our system,” said Chung. “Then the rest of the time it is studying (the system).”
She said since the system burns the coal at 1,292- 2,012 F, it was best to have eyes on it at all times.
Once the carbon dioxide is sequestered, it is stored underground which can then be used for enhanced oil recovery, Chung said.
The DOE and Department of Development of Ohio has helped fund the project, Chung said.
Research is still in the early stages and tests are still being run.