Research Papers

Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells for Retrofitting Postcombustion CO2 Capture in Coal and Natural Gas Power Plants

[+] Author and Article Information
Maurizio Spinelli

Politecnico di Milano,
Via Lambruschini 4,
Milano 20156, Italy
e-mail: maurizio.spinelli@polimi.it

Stefano Campanari

Politecnico di Milano,
Via Lambruschini 4,
Milano 20156, Italy
e-mail: stefano.campanari@polimi.it

Stefano Consonni

Politecnico di Milano,
Via Lambruschini 4,
Milano 20156, Italy
e-mail: stefano.consonni@polimi.it

Matteo C. Romano

Politecnico di Milano,
Via Lambruschini 4,
Milano 20156, Italy
e-mail: matteo.romano@polimi.it

Thomas Kreutz

Princeton Environmental Institute,
Princeton University,
Princeton, NJ 08544
e-mal: kreutz@princeton.edu

Hossein Ghezel-Ayagh

Fuel Cell Energy, Inc.,
3 Great Pasture Road,
Danbury, CT 06813
e-mail: hghezel@fce.com

Stephen Jolly

Fuel Cell Energy, Inc.,
3 Great Pasture Road,
Danbury, CT 06813
e-mail: SJolly@fce.com

1Corresponding author.

Manuscript received December 13, 2016; final manuscript received August 28, 2017; published online February 28, 2018. Assoc. Editor: Vittorio Verda.

J. Electrochem. En. Conv. Stor. 15(3), 031001 (Feb 28, 2018) (15 pages) Paper No: JEECS-16-1161; doi: 10.1115/1.4038601 History: Received December 13, 2016; Revised August 28, 2017

The state-of-the-art conventional technology for postcombustion capture of CO2 from fossil-fueled power plants is based on chemical solvents, which requires substantial energy consumption for regeneration. A promising alternative, available in the near future, is the application of molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFC) for CO2 separation from postcombustion flue gases. Previous studies related to this technology showed both high efficiency and high carbon capture rates, especially when the fuel cell is thermally integrated in the flue gas path of a natural gas-fired combined cycle or an integrated gasification combined cycle plant. This work compares the application of MCFC-based CO2 separation process to pulverized coal fired steam cycles (PCC) and natural gas combined cycles (NGCC) as a “retrofit” to the original power plant. Mass and energy balances are calculated through detailed models for both power plants, with fuel cell behavior simulated using a 0D model calibrated against manufacturers' specifications and based on experimental measurements, specifically carried out to support this study. The resulting analysis includes a comparison of the energy efficiency and CO2 separation efficiency as well as an economic comparison of the cost of CO2 avoided (CCA) under several economic scenarios. The proposed configurations reveal promising performance, exhibiting very competitive efficiency and economic metrics in comparison with conventional CO2 capture technologies. Application as a MCFC retrofit yields a very limited (<3%) decrease in efficiency for both power plants (PCC and NGCC), a strong reduction (>80%) in CO2 emission and a competitive cost for CO2 avoided (25–40 €/ton).

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Fig. 1

Conceptual overview of a MCFC plant separating CO2 downstream a conventional power plant

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Fig. 2

Conceptual design for the MCFC retrofit application to capture CO2 in PCC and NGCC power plants. The heat fluxes coming from the MCFC (Q anode/cathode exhausts) and from the GPU (QCO2 compression) are exploited only in the PCC case. In the NGCC case, the only integration between the MCFC and the NGCC sections is associated with the exhaust syngas coming from the GPU and partially sent to the GT.

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Fig. 3

Layout of MCFC integration downstream the PCC power plant

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Fig. 4

Layout of MCFC integration downstream the NGCC power plant

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Fig. 5

Logical scheme and general expression for CO2 capture efficiency calculation from the MCFC + PCC plant. In the first passage illustrated below (stage 1), the CO2-rich stream coming from the coal power plant is splitted by the MCFC into a first stream (1−UCO2) emitted at the plant stack and in a second fraction sent to the GPU (UCO2). Once introduced into the GPU, most of the CO2 is sent to storage, depending on the capture efficiency of the purification section (EGPU). The residual fraction (1 − EGPU) is partially recycled to the cathode via the preheating combustor (Fcomb) and partially to the anode (1 − Fcomb). Both these two streams are then splitted again into several fluxes following the same path described above for a sequence of multiple stages (2 − n). Hence, the CO2 capture rate can be calculated by a series of expressions that describe CO2 sent to storage through a proper combination of the coefficients UCO2, EGPU, and Fcomb for all the cyclic passages through the MCFC.

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Fig. 6

Retrofit investment cost for the assessed PCC and NGCC plants

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Fig. 7

COEadd,weighted and cost share for the retrofit power plants (scenarios A and B), related to the MCFC + Reference plant net electric power

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Fig. 8

COEadd,weighted, COEref,weighted, COEtot, and ΔCOE for the retrofit power plants (scenarios A and B), related to the MCFC + Reference plant net electric power

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Fig. 9

Logical scheme for COE calculation



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