Plugging in, switching on, powering up – around the world, demand for electricity is surging. More people are recharging phones, refrigerating groceries and more. Living standards across the world are improving, and with that comes the expectation for safe and reliable power. So much so that by 2040, power generation is expected to account for half of the world’s energy demand growth.
And therein lies the challenge: How do you meet the world’s growing demand for electricity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
ExxonMobil researchers, working with FuelCell Energy, are embracing this challenge by working in the lab to develop modular fuel cells to capture those emissions. The technology they’re working on would use fuel cells to extract CO2 molecules from the exhaust at natural gas power plants while simultaneously generating electricity, rather than consuming it, as current technologies do.
“The unique feature of these fuel cells is that they act as a CO2 pump while using natural gas to generate power,” said Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development for ExxonMobil’s Research and Engineering Company. “As you’re taking the CO2 through the fuel cell membrane, you’re concentrating it so it can then go into storage, while generating additional electricity. That holy grail, that paradigm we thought couldn’t happen? We’re doing it in the lab.”
Though fuel cell carbon capture technology still has a long way to go, here’s why we think it’s a breakthrough innovation that could, one day, help meet global energy demands with fewer greenhouse gases.
Energy Outlook 2040: Energy Demand
2018 ExxonMobil Analyst Meeting: Energy and Carbon Session