The National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) today announced it has surpassed 150,000 hours of technology testing. This testing helps advance cost-effective and commercially viable carbon management technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from fossil-based power plants and industrial sources and propel them toward deployment. The center’s scope of research also furthers new progress in technologies for carbon conversion and direct air capture.

This significant milestone was made possible by the exceptional workforce at the internationally known U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) test facility.

Extraordinary teamwork

“I applaud the center’s highly skilled employees for their unwavering commitment to building the future of energy through innovation,” says John Northington, NCCC director. “This momentous milestone is a testament to the highest level of collaboration with the Department of Energy, our sponsors and numerous technology developers. It’s an honor to be a part of such a long-standing and successful team effort to advance and demonstrate next-generation carbon management technologies.”

Fifteen years after embarking on its mission, the NCCC (managed and operated by Southern Company) continues to collaborate with third-party technology developers – including to date more than 50 government, industry, university and research organizations from seven countries – to offer innovative solutions to advance emerging technologies out of the laboratory and demonstrate them in real-world operating conditions. The NCCC, located in Wilsonville, Alabama, adjacent to Southern Company subsidiary Alabama Power’s Plant Gaston, was created by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management and National Energy Technology Laboratory as a neutral research and development facility. Since its inception in 2009, the center has accelerated the commercialization of advanced technologies to reduce GHG emissions.

Success breeds success

The overall scope of technology development at the NCCC has evolved from focusing primarily on post-combustion carbon capture for coal-fired power generation to testing carbon capture technologies for natural gas-fired power plants, as well as carbon conversion processes (turning captured carbon dioxide [CO2] into valuable products such as chemicals, fuels, building materials and plastics) and direct air capture. Research at the NCCC can concurrently evaluate numerous technologies at various levels of development, accelerating the pace of progress. 150,000 hours of technology testing has culminated with some exciting emerging technologies currently under development at the NCCC:

  • Southern States Energy Board and Aircapture are working together to scale up and demonstrate a direct air capture system. Their technology highlights solid-amine adsorbents contained in a monolith contactor to produce a CO2 stream of at least 95% purity using low-grade waste heat (often available in a fossil fuel plant setting). The NCCC is assisting with the field testing by Aircapture.
  • UCLA’s CarbonBuilt tested their revolutionary CO2 conversion technology reducing concrete’s carbon footprint by 70% to more than 100%. Their technology enables concrete manufacturers to capture CO2 emissions from industrial sites and embed it into the concrete. The NCCC will soon assist with further testing to measure process improvements and produce other concrete products.
  • Carbon America’s process of cryogenic separation of CO₂ from industrial gases requires no external refrigerant and uses compression/expansion and heat integration to make the flue gas self-refrigerating. Then, CO₂ is collected as a liquid. The NCCC is providing infrastructure and flue gas for testing the integrated pilot-scale cryogenic process.
  • EPRI and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are testing a water-lean, low-viscosity liquid solvent, which is expected to significantly lower the energy requirements of solvent-based CO₂ capture. The NCCC is providing EPRI and PNNL with a pilot-scale platform customized to test the specialized solvent and evaluate its performance under different conditions.

Making a positive impact

The NCCC provides real-life industrial operating conditions combined with the infrastructure to evaluate cutting-edge technologies for scale-up and future commercial adoption. Through the testing and development of more than 75 new technologies, the center has already reduced the projected cost of CO2 capture from fossil-based power generation by more than 40%. Nine technologies evaluated at the NCCC have been scaled up or are ready to be demonstrated at 10-plus megawatts.

The National Carbon Capture Center engages with teams of third-party developers to evaluate technologies related to point-source capture, CO2 conversion and direct air capture to accelerate their development toward commercialization.