Carbon capture research and development has traditionally focused on large fossil-fired power generation. This is because the cost of capturing CO2 is less expensive from more concentrated source streams. Point source emitters produce flue streams with CO2 concentrations as high as 5–15%, compared with atmospheric concentrations of 0.04%.
PNNL is working on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy to expand expertise and investments in point source capture technologies and is addressing industrial emissions from sources like steel, cement, refining, biofuels, and hydrogen production processes. While atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remain orders of magnitude lower than these source streams, federal research and development investments are improving efficiency, costs, and the feasibility of direct air capture.
PNNL’s work in carbon capture
In support of the DOE Office of Science and Office of Fossil Energy missions, PNNL researchers have been working for more than 15 years to unlock fundamental discoveries and transform them into technological solutions for carbon capture.
PNNL focuses its research for DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences separations program on understanding the fundamental processes that govern CO2 behaviors at a molecular level. This work enables us to partner with industry under DOE’s Fossil Energy Carbon Capture program to improve existing capture technologies.
PNNL researchers recently developed a capture solvent that has the lowest total costs of capture to date at $39/tonne CO2. This critical target brings the $50/tonne CO2 45Q tax credit within reach for fossil power plants pursuing near-zero emissions targets. Our pre- and post-combustion solvents also offer opportunities to capture CO2 from bioenergy facilities, which, coupled with geologic storage, could provide net negative emissions under existing and future market and policy incentives.
Research is currently underway to integrate PNNL’s sorbent technology—developed to efficiently scrub CO2 from breathing air on submarines—into cost-effective solutions for direct air capture.