National Carbon Capture Center expands testing of carbon cap

|May 20|magazine21 min read

ATLANTA, May 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Strengthening its commitment to energy innovation, Southern Company, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has announced an expanded focus for the National Carbon Capture Center.

The center's future scope of work for DOE, its National Energy Technology Laboratory and carbon capture innovators is now expected to include testing of carbon dioxide (CO2) utilization and direct air capture (DAC) technologies. Additionally, a major new addition at the center will significantly broaden its testing and evaluation of carbon capture technologies for natural gas power generation.

"We are excited to begin making formal arrangements to apply the technical expertise of the National Carbon Capture Center to the challenges of CO2 utilization and direct air capture," said Dr. Mark S. Berry, Southern Company Services vice president of research and development. "And with its new infrastructure, the center is now the first research and development (R&D) facility in the U.S. to offer comprehensive testing of carbon capture technologies for natural gas power plants."

Managed and operated by Southern Company, the National Carbon Capture Center, in Wilsonville, Alabama, has completed more than 110,000 hours of testing for developers from the U.S. and six other countries, successfully advancing a wide range of technologies toward commercial scale, while improving their performance and reducing cost. The research and testing of over 60 technologies has already reduced the projected cost of carbon capture from fossil generation by more than one-third, and further cost reductions are expected as the facility more fully explores carbon capture solutions for natural gas power generation.

"For more than a decade, the National Carbon Capture Center has conducted research in partnership with DOE's Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management on capturing carbon emissions from coal-based flue gas," said center Director John Northington. "Our team is pleased to leverage that knowledge to expand our testing of carbon capture for natural gas-fueled systems. We also look forward to updating our scope of work with DOE to move emerging CO2 utilization and DAC technologies from basic research toward pilot-scale and larger demonstrations."

The center's work on utilization technologies will help advance applications where CO2 emissions are captured and used to manufacture value-added products like building materials, fuels, plastics and chemicals – partially offsetting CO2 capture costs from power generation and providing alternatives to traditional manufacturing processes. The facility plans to host a Carbon XPRIZE finalist for testing later this year, along with other CO2 utilization research projects.

"In the area of DAC, Southern Company is actively pursuing research agreements with national labs, universities and other research institutions," Northington said. "We anticipate providing a host site for DAC technologies at the National Carbon Capture Center."

The work would include evaluating technologies that have the potential for atmospheric carbon capture.

In 2018, Southern Company was the first electric and natural gas combination utility company to set a low- to no-carbon goal for its system. It now expects to achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as early as 2025, well ahead of its 2030 goal. Based on additional research and planning, the company expects some natural gas will likely remain a part of its system energy mix in 2050, and is defining pathways to incorporate negative carbon strategies and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

"Southern Company is actively engaged in R&D that seeks to facilitate the transition to a net-zero future by delivering technologies that reduce and eliminate CO2 emissions while also increasing customer value and providing affordable energy," said Dr. Berry. "While our efforts in carbon capture, use and storage will continue to address decarbonizing fossil-based generation, we are also exploring technology solutions for the use of CO2, as well as natural systems to remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere."

In addition to advancing next-generation carbon capture technologies, Southern Company leads a world-class geologic sequestration R&D program that has demonstrated the ability to safely store large volumes of anthropogenic CO2 in Environmental Protection Agency-permitted wells. Ongoing research in collaboration with DOE and numerous partners is evaluating carbon source and sink synergies in the Southeast.

About Southern Company
Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is a leading energy company serving 9 million customers through its subsidiaries. The company provides clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy through electric operating companies in three states, natural gas distribution companies in four states, a competitive generation company serving wholesale customers across America, a leading distributed energy infrastructure company, a fiber optics network and telecommunications services. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and affordable prices below the national average. For more than a century, we have been building the future of energy and developing the full portfolio of energy resources, including carbon-free nuclear, advanced carbon capture technologies, natural gas, renewables, energy efficiency and storage technology. Through an industry-leading commitment to innovation and a low-carbon future, Southern Company and its subsidiaries develop the customized energy solutions our customers and communities require to drive growth and prosperity. Our uncompromising values ensure we put the needs of those we serve at the center of everything we do and govern our business to the benefit of our world. Our corporate culture and hiring practices have been recognized nationally by the U.S. Department of Defense, G.I. Jobs magazine, DiversityInc, Black Enterprise, Fortune's "World's Most Admired Companies" list, Forbes and the Women's Choice Award. To learn more, visit www.southerncompany.com.

About the National Carbon Capture Center
Created by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009, the National Carbon Capture Center is a world-class neutral research facility working to accelerate the commercialization of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both natural gas and coal power plants, and to promote carbon utilization and direct air caption innovations. Located in Wilsonville, Alabama, the center evaluates carbon capture processes from third-party developers – focusing on development of the most promising, cost-effective solutions for scale-up and commercial deployment – and uniquely bridges the gap between laboratory research and large-scale demonstrations. The center provides worldwide leadership to promote the level of readiness for carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), and is a co-founder of the International Test Center Network, a global coalition of facilities focused on CCUS technologies. 

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements:
Certain information contained in this release is forward-looking information based on current expectations and plans that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking information includes, among other things, statements concerning anticipated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and future energy mix. Southern Company cautions that there are certain factors that can cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking information that has been provided. The reader is cautioned not to put undue reliance on this forward-looking information, which is not a guarantee of future performance and is subject to a number of uncertainties and other factors, many of which are outside the control of Southern Company; accordingly, there can be no assurance that such suggested results will be realized. The following factors, in addition to those discussed in Southern Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019, Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2020 and subsequent securities filings, could cause actual results to differ materially from management expectations as suggested by such forward-looking information: the impact of recent and future federal and state regulatory changes, as well as changes in application of existing laws and regulations; available sources and costs of natural gas and other fuels; the ability to control costs and avoid cost and schedule overruns during the development, construction, and operation of facilities or other projects; the ability to construct facilities in accordance with the requirements of permits and licenses, to satisfy any environmental performance standards and the requirements of tax credits and other incentives, and to integrate facilities into the Southern Company system upon completion of construction; advances in technology; performance of counterparties under ongoing renewable energy partnerships and development agreements; state and federal rate regulations and the impact of pending and future rate cases and negotiations; and the ability to successfully operate the electric utilities' generating, transmission, and distribution facilities and Southern Company Gas' natural gas distribution and storage facilities and the successful performance of necessary corporate functions. Southern Company and its subsidiaries expressly disclaim any obligation to update any forward‐looking information.

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SOURCE Southern Company