The US has roughly 1 trillion barrels of oil equivalent in coal resources, or more. It has twice that amount in kerogen resources, but we are looking at coal specifically. The challenge has been to find ways to burn this massive coal resource cleanly, so as to provide abundant and inexpensive electrical power and heat to what should have been a healthy economy — if not for a government policy of planned energy starvation.
Georgia Tech. researchers have devised self-cleaning anodes for a solid oxide fuel cell, which may provide yet another clean way of making use of the massive global coal resource.
Conventional coal-fired electric generating facilities capture just a third of the energy available in the fuel they burn. Fuel cells can convert significantly more of the energy, approximately 50 per cent. If gas turbines and fuel cells could be combined into hybrid systems, researchers believe they could capture as much as 80 per cent of the energy, reducing the amount of coal needed to produce a given amount of energy, potentially cutting carbon emissions.
…But that would only be possible if the fuel cells could run for long periods of time on coal gas, which now deactivates the anodes after as little as 30 minutes of operation.
The carbon removal system developed by the Georgia Tech-led team uses a vapor deposition process to apply barium oxide nanoparticles to the nickel-YSZ electrode. The particles, which range in size from 10 to 100 nanometers, form “islands” on the nickel that do not block the flow of electrons across the electrode surface.
When water vapor introduced into the coal gas stream contacts the barium oxide, it is adsorbed and dissociates into protons and hydroxide (OH) ions. The hydroxide ions move to the nickel surface, where they combine with the carbon atoms being deposited there, forming the intermediate COH. The COH then dissociates into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which are oxidized to power the fuel cell, ultimately producing carbon dioxide and water. About half of the carbon dioxide is then recirculated back to gasify the coal to coal gas to continue the process.
“We can continuously operate the fuel cell without the problem of carbon deposition,” said Liu, who is also co-director of Georgia Tech’s centre for Innovative Fuel Cell and Battery Technologies.
The researchers also evaluated the use of propane to power solid oxide fuel cells using the new anode system. Because oxidation of the hydrogen in the propane produces water, no additional water vapor had to be added, and the system operated successfully for a period of time similar to the coal gas system.
Solid oxide fuel cells operate most efficiently at temperatures above 850 degrees Celsius, and much less carbon is deposited at higher temperatures. However, those operating temperatures require fabrication from special materials that are expensive – and prevent solid oxide fuel cells from being cost-effective for many applications.
Reducing the operating temperatures is a research goal, because dropping temperatures to 700 or 750 degrees Celsius would allow the use of much less expensive components for interconnects and other important components. However, until development of the self-cleaning process, reducing the operating temperature meant worsening the coking problem.
“Reducing the operating temperature significantly by eliminating the problem of carbon deposition could make these solid oxide fuel cells economically competitive,” Liu said.
Fuel cells powered by coal gas still produce carbon dioxide, but in a much purer form than the stack gases leaving traditional coal-fired power plants. That would make capturing the carbon dioxide for sequestration less expensive by eliminating large-scale separation and purification steps, Liu noted.
The researchers have so far tested their process for a hundred hours, and saw no evidence of carbon build-up. _PO
The problem with making the removal of CO2 a priority, is that it destroys whatever profitability exists within the coal energy sector. But destroying coal energy production has always been one of President Obama’s long-term goals, as he confessed to supporters in San Francisco before being elected in 2008. When so much of the government of the world’s only superpower is dedicated to the destruction of reliable forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, oil sands, unconventional gas, offshore oil, etc etc, it becomes difficult for industry and commerce to survive. Since the prosperity and power of the world’s only superpower is based upon its industrial and commercial might, it appears that the Obama administration is committing democide and a grand scale, via its broad policies of energy starvation.
Fortunately for this government, the lickspittle media — including comic lickspittles such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert — are firmly on board the bandwagon of destruction and decline. It is up to more productive groups and persons to find within themselves the fortitude to outlast their dysfunctional overseers in government.
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