A new type of natural-gas electric power plant proposed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) researchers could provide electricity with zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the atmosphere.
Postdoctoral associate Thomas Adams and Paul I. Barton, the Lammot du Pont Professor of Chemical Engineering, have proposed a system that uses solid-oxide fuel cells, which produce power from fuel without burning it.
The system would not require any new technology, but would rather combine existing components, or ones that are already well under development, in a novel configuration.
The system would also have the advantage of running on natural gas, a relatively plentiful fuel source that is considered more environmentally friendly than coal or oil.
Natural gas already accounts for 22 percent of all US electricity production, and that percentage is likely to rise in coming years if carbon prices are put into effect.
For these and other reasons, a system that can produce electricity from natural gas at a competitive price with zero greenhouse gas emissions could prove to be an attractive alternative to conventional power plants that use fossil fuels.
The system proposed by Adams and Barton would not emit into the air any carbon dioxide or other gases believed responsible for global warming, but would instead produce a stream of mostly pure carbon dioxide.
This stream could be harnessed and stored underground relatively easily, a process known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).
One additional advantage of the proposed system is that, unlike a conventional natural gas plant with CCS that would consume significant amounts of water, the fuel-cell based system actually produces clean water that could easily be treated to provide potable water as a side benefit, according to Adams.