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Carbon Capture Project Aims to Reduce Oil Sands’ Carbon Footprint

FuelCell Energy power plantFuelCell Energy has signed a contract with investment firm Alberta Innovates for an engineering study on fuel cell carbon capture at a Husky Energy-owned heavy oil thermal facility near Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, Canada.

The engineering study is part of a multi-phase project to show how commercial-scale fuel cells carbon capture can reduce the carbon footprint for Canadian oil sands extraction. It has the potential to capture about 28 million pounds of CO2 annually while producing 8 million kilowatt hours of clean power with one fuel cell power plant.

As part of the engineering study, FuelCell Energy will also evaluate a second potential site, the Scotford bitumen upgrading facility, near Edmonton, Alberta.

The upgrader is part of the Shell-operated Athabasca Oil Sands Project (ASOP), a joint venture between Shell Canada Energy (60 percent), Chevron Canada (20 percent) and Marathon Oil Canada (20 percent).

Under the contract, FuelCell Energy will develop a carbon capture configured megawatt-class fuel cell power plant. Alberta Innovates will lead the project as part of a consortium effort with Husky Energy and MEG Energy as well as Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance members BP, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Cenovus Energy, Devon Canada, Shell and Suncor.

The study will focus on how a fuel cell power plant can separate and capture CO2 from both the Husky Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage heavy oil thermal facility and the Scotford bitumen upgrading facility, where bitumen extracted from the oil sands is converted into synthetic crude oil.

It will also determine how a megawatt-scale FuelCell Energy power plant operating on natural gas can affordably capture up to 43 tons of CO2 per day as well as destroy about 70 percent of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) in the flue gas routed to the fuel cell from the bitumen upgraders. These upgraders convert heavy oil (bitumen) into synthetic crude oil.

Fuel cell power plants configured for carbon capture will utilize natural gas as the fuel source and process the flue gas from the natural gas-fired boiler at the heavy oil thermal facility into the fuel cell air system, where CO2 is transferred across the fuel cell membrane for concentration in the fuel exhaust stream during power generation. This CO2 concentration is a side reaction of the standard fuel cell power generation process.

In addition to partial NOx destruction, fuel cells generate excess process water, which reduces of the overall water intensity of the host gas-fired plant.

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