Washington University receives €2.5 million for oxy-combustion research

Richard Axelbaum

The recipient of this three-year grant is Richard Axelbaum, PhD, the Stifel & Quinette Jens Professor of Environmental Engineering Science in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, who will use it to further develop his innovative staged, pressurized oxy-combustion (SPOC) technology. Axelbaum notes that ‘by staging the combustion, the temperature and heat transfer can be controlled in a way that has, so far, not been attainable’.

Oxy-combustion systems use oxygen, instead of air, to combust coal and produce a highly concentrated CO2 stream that can be easily captured, and subsequently used or stored underground. The potential benefits associated with a fuel-staged combustion approach are: higher efficiency, reduced process gas volume, increased radiative heat transfer, reduced oxygen demands, reduced capital equipment costs, increased CO2 purity entering the carbon compression and purification unit, and reduced auxiliary power demands. It is believed that these benefits will yield a lower cost of electricity than alternative approaches to pressurized oxy-combustion.

While first–generation oxy-combustion systems have shown some positive results, more research is necessary to develop systems to meet the US Department of Energy’s target of no more than a 35% increase in the cost of electricity produced from these plants. The €2.5 million grant offers the opportunity to advance in this direction.

Axelbaum will collaborate with the Electric Power Research Institute, Praxair Inc. and Ameren Corp. to design and construct a laboratory-scale pressurized oxy-combustor, and conduct experiments to characterize the process and further optimize the boiler and systems designs.