The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) will partner to test an advanced membrane technology designed to capture carbon emissions generated by steelmaking processes at U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock, Pennsylvania.
The initiative is part of the Point Source Carbon Capture Program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s NETL. Point source CO2 capture from industrial sites, such as iron and steel-making facilities, is a crucial component in bringing down carbon emissions and meeting U.S. climate targets.
Carbon capture could help decrease carbon emissions from blast furnaces. “That makes point source carbon capture at iron and steel plants a priority,” said NETL’s David Hopkinson, technical portfolio lead for Point Source Carbon Capture. “The testing of this promising NETL-developed membrane at the Edgar Thomson Plant is an important step to move this groundbreaking technology closer to commercial deployment.”
In comparison to alternative separation methods like solvents and sorbents, polymer membranes present a relatively simple CO2 separation process. The technology could also be cost-saving, as membranes require few moving parts and no carbon regeneration step. In addition, the simplicity of such processes brings reduced capital and maintenance costs.
Carbon capture using membrane-based technology relies on permeable materials that enable the selective separation of carbon dioxide from flue gas.
Incorporating this technology, the project aims to produce high-purity CO2 with minimal nitrogen content from flue gas, facilitating its safe and permanent storage in deep geological formations or its utilization as a feedstock for the production of valuable fuels, chemicals, and various other applications, Hopkinson said.
The membrane underwent recent laboratory-scale testing at the Department of Energy’s National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) in Wilsonville, Alabama. This center is dedicated to assessing cost-effective carbon capture technologies for power plants. Based on the favorable outcomes observed during the NCCC testing, the expanded field test will be conducted at the Edgar Thomson Plant. Its objective is to separate carbon dioxide from larger volumes of flue gas.
At present, NETL is in the process of designing the test unit for conducting gas separation measurements using the membrane technology. Additionally, they have installed a polymer membrane casting machine at NETL to facilitate the production of larger membrane sheets as they transition from laboratory-scale testing to pilot-scale implementation.
“This project sets the stage for the development of membrane technology that can be used at steel mills, cement kilns, and other industrial sites that generate significant volumes of greenhouse gas (GHG),” Hopkinson said.
The installation of the unit at the Edgar Thomson Plant, which is part of the U.S. Steel Mon Valley Works, is scheduled for early 2025. The field test is expected to run for approximately six months.
Funding for this project was allocated through the DOE/NETL Point Source Carbon Capture Program, which aims to develop the next generation of advanced carbon dioxide capture technologies.