Multi-scale evaluation of advanced technologies for capturing the CO2: chemical looping applied to solid fuels.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering


Chemical looping combustion is one way of using a solid fuel such as coal, which is able to capture the CO2 without the energy penalty usually associated with carbon capture. However, this is a relatively new technology, and its application on a full scale system is relatively risky, due to uncertainties in the potential performance, overall cost and robustness of the system. Here this is addressed in a systematic, multiscale approach, which considers the detailed behaviour of the solid oxygen carriers, through to the systems level integration into a power station and energy grid. Another objective is to share knowledge and build a sustainable collaboration between the Chinese and UK groups, and enhance post-graduate training in this field. Consequently, the proposal is based around project studentships (7 in total, 2 at CU, 1 at SU, 1 at IC, 2 at TU and 1 at SE). Students will be exchanged between the UK and Chinese groups for extended periods, and will work as embedded researchers, benefiting from the experience of the hosting group and PI, and facilitating knowledge transfer between the groups.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit: Globally, carbon capture systems are necessary to allow the continued use of coal. We have focussed our project onto coal, since it produces the most CO2 per kWh. The IEA blue map scenario includes CCS as preventing 20 % of global CO2 emissions, and without CCS, the cost of CO2 mitigation rises by 70 %. The proposed technology is in a different league to currently available technologies, which reduce the efficiency of a power station by up to 1/3. In contrast, this technology has a negligible efficiency penalty. This technology has the potential to enhance the UK's energy security, reduce global resource depletion whilst at the same time addressing climate change. The advantage of negligible energy penalty is critical: one of the most frequently repeated arguments made by those opposed to CCS is that the efficiency penalty leads to massively greater costs and resource depletion. The scale up of the lab results to industrial scale will be of interest to power generating companies (e.g. RWENpower, Eon), as well as equipment manufacturers (Doosan Babcock). Although they maintain an interest in technology, the bottom line for them is feasibility, reliability and cost. For a utility company to invest in an unproven technology, even one which eliminates the energy penalty, is a risky proposition. Here we will de-risk, this advanced technology, by identifying likely problems which will be encountered at full scale. The modelling framework will be of use to policy makers in assessing the ability of this technology to meet future energy needs. Dissemination: Dissemination will have four separate strands: Academic (in the highest quality peer-reviewed journals and through the UKCCSC network); Industrial, utilising existing links with RWENpower, E.on, Doosan Babcock, Scottish Power, Mott McDonald, developed over many years through a large number of successful collaborative projects and current collaborations; Governmental and Global (through DECC, the Environment Agency, the FCO, the IEA, all of whom have either commissioned reports from the collaborators or invited them to represent the UK in CCS-related matters); finally, and potentially most importantly, we will communicate results to the general public through (for example) articles in the popular press. Collaboration: As with previous collaborations we expect there to be a large amount of informal interaction, with for example students sharing results, and moving amongst the research groups to share equipment and knowledge. The collaboration with Chinese partners is particularly exciting; with two world class Chinese research groups being involved. Both groups have experience with larger scale rigs, which will assist the UK effort in setting up the continuous rig, which is essential if this work is to have commercial significance. Information will be shared by exchanging research students between China and the UK, where they will be embedded in the host laboratories. Exploitation and application: Exploitation of IP generated in the course of this research will be exploited through the respective universities technology transfer office. At the end of the grant, each institution will conduct an IP audit in conjunction with their technology transfer office to identify any exploitable IP. Throughout the course of the project, the individual co-PI's will be responsible for identifying IP. Capability: The PI at each institution will be responsible for co-ordinating their impact activities. Dr Scott as overall PI will arrange general meetings. Dr Fennell will have overall responsibility for enhancing impact activities, by arranging additional workshops, etc. A small amount of money (2500) has been requested to help with enhancing impact. The PhD students involved in this project will be encouraged to take part in impact activities.


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Boot-Handford M (2014) Carbon capture and storage update in Energy Environ. Sci.

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Donat F (2014) Characteristics of Copper-based Oxygen Carriers Supported on Calcium Aluminates for Chemical-Looping Combustion with Oxygen Uncoupling (CLOU) in Digital proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Chemical Looping

Description This grant looks at chemical looping with solid fuels. It aims to answer key questions about the use of this technology to capture CO2 from coal in the power sector. We aimed to set up pilot scale facilities for testing the method, models to help us understand what limits the performance, and develop new materials which can be used to provide the oxygen used for the combustion of the coal.

We have developed several new materials based on the iron calcium system appeared to be very good for the production of hydrogen by chemical looping.

The program produced several papers which explored detailed flow sheets for chemical looping and examined different options.

A PhD on the dynamic behaviour of a chemical looping power plant has been completed.

We have gained new insights into the interaction between oxygen carriers and fuel particles in the fluidised bed systems used in this work.
Exploitation Route Traditionally this work is seen as part of carbon capture and storage. However we have begun to see interested in wider applications where oxygen transfer materials could be used in other processes. Already we work with a small company applying these techniques to other areas. We have secured a follow on industrial project to take the process evaluation and modelling forward which will build directly on the work in this project.
Sectors Chemicals,Energy

Description Industrially supported DTA studentship
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2017
Title Research data supporting "The interaction between CuO and Al2O3 and the reactivity of copper aluminates below 1000°C and their implication on the use of the Cu-Al-O system for oxygen storage and production" 
Description The data set contain the original research data presented in the paper corresponding to the relevant figures and table shown in the article and the accompanying supplementary information. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Description Keynote at ACS National Meeting & Expo 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Review of chemical looping technologies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Novel Methods for Hydrogen Production 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talks given at IMechE event on the production of Hydrogen, 7th March 2019, London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019