U.S. Department of Energy Funds Projects to Recycle, Treat Water at Power Plants

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) selected two projects to receive nearly $2 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development under funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002399, Water Management for Thermal Power Generation.

In the U.S., a power generation energy transition toward lower carbon intensity technologies is underway. This decarbonization may come in many forms, including carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) or optimizing asset utilization through water treatment and heat rate improvements. To enable a low-carbon future that minimizes environmental impacts, additional innovation is needed to reduce the freshwater intensity of power generators. Other innovations can provide additional treated non-traditional water (for example, brackish groundwater) for low-carbon purposes such as hydrogen production and carbon capture and storage.

The selected projects will support the design, construction and operation of engineering-scale prototypes of water treatment technologies for the existing and future fleet of thermoelectric power plants. Power plant owners, operators and technology developers will collaborate and advance near-term water treatment solutions for commercial deployment.

The two projects, which will be managed by NETL, are described below:

  • Clean Water Production in Cooling Towers: Infinite Cooling Inc. (Somerville, Massachusetts) plans to use novel technology to produce clean water from cooling tower recirculating water by leveraging the evaporation/condensation cycle within cooling towers. The technology uses electric fields to ionize the plumes coming out of cooling towers, charge the escaping water and direct it toward mesh collectors, where it collects and flows down. The project team will build a full-scale prototype on the cooling tower at a large Cogentrix natural gas power plant. Testing will quantify system performance for water production rates and water quality and assess system durability. Results will inform potential next steps for technology maturation and will pave the way to commercialization.
    Funding: DOE: $1,100,000; Non-DOE: $489,817; Total: $1,589,817
  • Electrodialysis Reversal (EDR) Pilot Test: ION Clean Energy Inc. (Boulder, Colorado) plans to complete an EDR pilot conceptual study and commercial cost estimate, needed to evaluate the retrofit of an EDR system at the Nebraska Public Power District’s Gerald Gentleman Station (GGS). EDR can be used to remove or concentrate salts in water or other industrial streams without adding or consuming chemicals and generating little or no additional waste. The project will result in the development, testing and evaluation of an application to treat difficult and highly varying “gray” water streams generated from power plant operations. The evaluation will shed light on the many factors that need to be studied to purify this water source, including specific energy requirements, need for pretreatment, membrane suitability and membrane fouling, lifecycle operating costs and potential clean-in-place methods. This work will provide a realistic and achievable design for a commercial EDR system at GGS.
    Finding: DOE: $766,180; Non-DOE: $191,547; Total: $957,727

These 2 projects will be sponsored by FE’s Water Management Program. The mission of the Water Management R&D activity is to advance sustainable and efficient water use in power generation, develop cost-competitive technology solutions and enhance understanding of the life cycle relationship between energy and water resources.

The Office of Fossil Energy funds research and development projects to advance fossil energy technologies and further the sustainable use of the Nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit the Office of Fossil Energy website or sign up for FE news announcements. More information about the National Energy Technology Laboratory is available on the NETL website.