One of the advantages of natural gas is it emits less carbon than any other fossil fuel. Because of this fact, many have touted the benefits of using natural gas in power generation. Well, MIT Postdoctoral associate Thomas Adams and Chemical Engineering Professor Paul I. Barton have taken it a step further. They’ve developed a system which produces power from natural gas without actually burning it, thus producing no carbon emissions.
If you’re into the scientific terminology, here’s the abstract from their paper:
A unique electricity generation process uses natural gas and solid oxide fuel cells at high electrical efficiency (74%HHV) and zero atmospheric emissions. The process contains a steam reformer heat-integrated with the fuel cells to provide the heat necessary for reforming. The fuel cells are powered with H2 and avoid carbon deposition issues. 100% CO2 capture is achieved downstream of the fuel cells with very little energy penalty using a multi-stage flash cascade process, where high-purity water is produced as a side product. Alternative reforming techniques such as CO2 reforming, autothermal reforming, and partial oxidation are considered. The capital and energy costs of the proposed process are considered to determine the levelized cost of electricity, which is low when compared to other similar carbon capture-enabled processes.
The system also produces a stream of clean water, and almost pure carbon dioxide, making it easy to harness for sale to cement manufacturers now developing a use for it.Apparently the system doesn’t take new technology, but is just a new way to combine solid-oxide fuel cells. They’ve already developed a working model on a lab-sized 250 KW demonstration plant – about at 1/1000th scale of a typical 250 MW plant. Once the system has been proved at this small size it can easily be scaled up, and could be ready for commercialization in a few years.
You can get the complete details Science Direct or read a great scan at CleanTechnica. There’s a lot of great research and development going on in natural gas right now. If you know of any new projects happening, make sure to leave us a comment so I can check it out.