Exxon Mobil Backs Radical Fuel Cell Carbon Capture Technology To Combat Air Pollution At The Power Plant

Exxon Mobil has confirmed it plans to use a radical carbon capture technology, offered by FuelCell Energy, to make traditional power generation plants much less polluting.

To minimize the impact of burning fossil fuels on the planet, Exxon Mobil said it was backing a novel technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. These plants burn coal or natural gas to make electricity and, needless to say, are one of the largest polluters. In a press release, Exxon Mobil stated it is “tightening an existing relationship with FuelCell Energy, a Connecticut clean energy firm.”

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By partnering with FuelCell Energy, Exxon Mobil intends to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted through fossil fuels. Essentially, FuelCell’s technologies will help improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and affordability of Exxon’s Carbon Capture Sequestration (CCS) technology, reported Bidness Etc. The collaboration should see the technology move from lab to the market a lot sooner.

The CCS technology could be a giant step in reducing the carbon footprint of the power-generating companies that rely heavily on fossil fuels like natural gas and coal. While natural gas doesn’t emit a lot of CO2, coal is a notoriously high polluter. Burning coal produces a lot of CO2 that goes straight into the atmosphere, where it stays for a long time. Increasing amount of CO2 results in more sunlight being trapped, which raises the surface temperature of the planet.

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With the use of FuelCell technology, Exxon Mobil could prevent a lot of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. The CCS technology essentially consists of a high-temperature molten carbonate salt mixture. The equipment can be installed near the exhaust steam. When the exhaust gases pass through the system, CO2 is pulled out in a concentrated form that’s ready to be processed.

Thereafter, the CO2 can be processed in multiple ways that are much less harmful to the environment. The companies suggest the CO2 captured through the CCS technology could be buried deep inside the Earth or be used to make fertilizers, extract hard-to-reach oil reserves, or even produce new electricity.

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Just how effective is the technology? The company estimates that using these fuel cells with natural gas power plants could lead to a reduction of more than 90 percent in the plants’ carbon dioxide emissions, reported New York Times. FuelCell Energy’s products can strip 70 percent of the CO2 as well as nitrous oxide from the exhaust of coal-burning power plants.

What’s even more encouraging is that the technology can also help in producing large amounts of hydrogen, which has a lot of uses, one of which is producing clean energy. Exxon claims to be an expert on CCS technology, with an experience spanning over three decades. Just last year, the company captured 6.9 million metric tons of CO2.

CO2 Emissions | FindTheData

Till date, such carbon capture technologies have been avoided, citing their inefficiency, which drove up the cost of producing electricity. However, given the claimed benefits of FuelCell Energy’s products, Exxon Mobil estimates that a 500-megawatt power plant could generate 120 megawatts of additional power, instead of losing any.

Why is Exxon Mobil interested in investing in FuelCell Energy? While it is critical to back companies that protect the planet, many suspect it is just a clever ploy by the U.S. oil and gas giant to improve its image. The company has been under intense public scrutiny for allegedly being the largest contributor to the rising greenhouse emissions. Moreover, Exxon Mobil has been called out for funding organizations that denied climate change.

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FuelCell Energy’s carbon capture technology holds the promise of vastly improving power generation through fossil fuels and reducing their pollution. Could the world benefit more by permanently switching to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and tidal?

[Photo by Brian Harkin/Getty Images]