Electrical power generation facilities account for a large share of global CO2 emissions. Because they are stationary single-point emitters, power plants are an obvious target for reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions by CO2 capture. Capture from Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) power generation has been much less investigated than from coal power generation, despite having approximately half of the CO2 emissions per electrical unity of energy produced as compared to coal-fired power plants. Furthermore, the majority of carbon capture R&D has been devoted to the development of amine scrubbers, a process which incurs a significant energy debit because of its steam consumption in the sorbent regeneration step. Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFCs) can be used for CO2 capture from NGCC facilities without a significant energy debit. They are modular, thus flexible in fitting the required capture capacity. When using MCFCs for carbon capture, additional power is created by the fuel cells keeping the total efficiency of the power generation system at or near the efficiency of the NGCC plant without CO2 abatement.
This paper summarizes the current status of MCFC carbon capture technology for low-CO2 emission abatement. We developed modeling tools and performed process simulations to optimize MCFC performance and to develop and assess integrated solutions for power generation with carbon capture. We also obtained proof-of-principle data at the bench scale, using small button cells and lab-scale single cells. Additionally, we carried out process demonstration tests using pilot-scale fuel cell stacks. Our results indicate that the technology is feasible and effective.