The U.S. Department of Energy announced Monday that it’s giving the University of Kentucky a $14 million grant earmarked for coal technology research. Carbon capture and sequestration is a process by which carbon dioxide is removed from power plant emissions, then injected deep underground. It’s controversial because it’s very costly and many of the available technologies decrease power plants’ efficiency.
But the UK Center for Applied Energy is working on developing a technology that could capture carbon more efficiently, and the Department of Energy’s grant will aid that research. Rodney Andrews, the center’s director, says their research focuses around channeling waste heat towards the carbon capture process.
“And so what we’re looking at is using some of the lower energy waste heat around the plant to do that, instead of having to have so much parasitic load on the plant itself.”
Much of the nation’s carbon capture research has stalled or been scuttled because it’s hard to justify the expense when there’s no government-mandated price on carbon. Andrews says it’s critical that universities and other public institutions fill the gap that the private sector has left.
“Developing these sorts of technologies takes a long time. Particularly if we want to do it where they’ve been proven and they’re efficient and all those sorts of thing. So, if down the road, we’re going to want to control carbon dioxide emissions, we need to be making these sorts of investments now.”
The research will use waste heat from the power plant to power the carbon capture process. It aims to remove 90 percent of the carbon dioxide while only increasing electricity costs by 35 percent.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be $67 million, which includes $15 million in non-federal cost sharing. There’s a four year timeline, and the nearly full-scale system will be deployed at a power plant in Kentucky.