The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) is committed to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere. CO2 is produced when fossil fuels and biomass are burned for energy use. It is also produced from various industrial processes, such as cement manufacturing and ethanol production, in addition to agricultural production.
Energy is a necessary part of our day-to-day lives, and it ensures our Nation’s continued economic growth and national security. However, we must use energy in a sustainable and environmentally acceptable manner. That’s why we work to balance our energy use with the need to protect the environment.
FE has a comprehensive portfolio of technological solutions that help keep CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere. Many of these research and development (R&D) efforts can be applied across both the energy and the industrial sectors. Here is a snapshot of our emissions-decreasing programs:
(1) Capture CO2 Emissions and Put Them to Work
Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies capture CO2 emissions from many sources, including coal, natural gas and a variety of industrial processes, before they enter the atmosphere. The captured CO2 is either stored deep underground or used for commercial purposes.
FE is funding more than 100 R&D projects to advance CCUS technologies and bring them to the commercial market. Many of the projects are focused on finding ways to turn CO2 into valuable commodities such as plastics, chemicals, concrete, and building materials.
And, several cutting-edge CCUS technologies have been deployed at major demonstration sites. Three of these projects—Petra Nova, Archer Daniels Midland, and Air Products & Chemicals—have captured and injected over 10.8 million metric tons of CO2. These projects are successful and show conclusively how well CCUS works.
(2) Separate CO2 From the Air We Breathe
Direct air capture (DAC) is a process that separates CO2 from ambient air, the air that we breathe. The separated CO2 can then be safely and permanently stored underground, used for enhanced oil recovery, or converted into value-added products.
To date, DOE has invested $1 billion in technologies for point-source capture, a method of collecting CO2 directly from power plants and industrial facilities. There are similarities between CCUS and DAC, and FE is leveraging decades of CCUS R&D to accelerate the development of DAC, so that it can ultimately be brought to the commercial CO2 market.
(3) Technological Advances
FE is developing coal-fired power plants of the future with the Coal FIRST (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, and Transformative) initiative. As the Nation moves toward more distributed power generation, 1,500 to 2,000-megawatt power plants will no longer be necessary. The evolving grid requires different generation options, which is why FE is designing cleaner, smaller, and highly-efficient plants that can overcome the siting, operating, and logistical constraints that limit the deployment of large-scale plants. These plants will not only be smaller and more flexible, they will produce zero or near-zero CO2 emissions.
The Department has also invested over $250 million in the National Carbon Capture Center, a facility that hosts researchers who develop carbon capture technologies from the laboratory all the way to the small-pilot level. The facility is adding a natural gas combustor, which will soon expand its capabilities to test transformative carbon capture technologies under both coal and natural gas-fired conditions.
These are some of the ongoing R&D programs that are achieved through a diverse portfolio of cost-shared technology development projects, university research grants, and research conducted in-house at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. Learn more about the Office of Fossil Energy and the deployment of these technologies by visiting fossil.energy.gov.