A Dutch refinery facility will test next-gen and integrated carbon capture and power generation technology under a new collaboration between an oil production giant and a hydrogen-focused fuel cell company.
ExxonMobil affiliate Esso Nederland BV will build a pilot plant at its Rotterdam Manufacturing Complex to test carbonate fuel cell technology developed by FuelCell Energy. The goal is to create electricity and heat meeting on-site demand and capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) at the same time.
Carbonate fuel cell technology such as FuelCell Energy’s power plant model are aimed at reducing emissions and raising the efficiency of fossil-based heavy industrial facilities where the energy density need is too high for intermittent resources. FuelCell’s H2-based technology is designed to create power for on-site applications such as combined heat and power (CHP) plants and microgrids, among others.
The Rotterdam pilot project will study the costs and performance of a carbonate fuel cell plant utilized for carbon capture. The CO2 captured would be transported and stored permanently under the North Sea in collaboration with another project.
Carbonate fuel cells are designed to capture CO2 emissions from industrial processes before they are released in the atmosphere. The carbon capture methods are still highly expensive and not scaled industry-wide or globally, but proponents such as ExxonMobil, Esso Nederland BV and FuelCell Energy hope the pilots such as this can offer productive paths forward.
“FuelCell Energy and ExxonMobil believe that capturing carbon at the source is an efficient way to decarbonize heavy industry,” FuelCell Energy CEO Jason Few said in a statement. “This technology can capture carbon and produce electricity simultaneously, making it a game-changer for the industry.”
The Esso Nederland Rotterdam pilot project is being co-funded by the European Union under the Emissions Trading System Innovation Fund and by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency via a Demonstration Energy and Climate Innovation grant.
Houston-based ExxonMobil is the largest U.S. oil and gas producer at more than 2.4 million barrels of oil and gas liquids and 8.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. In 2021, the oil giant announced it was investing more than $3 billion in carbon capture through projects in Texas, Singapore, Qatar and the Netherlands.
Hydrogen, which traditionally is generated either by steam reforming of methane gas or by electrolyzers splitting the H2 from water, does not contain carbon in its chain and thus does not emit CO2 when combusted. The U.S. Department of Energy and private entities such as FuelCell Energy are exploring its scalability into a utility-scale resource.
“The unique advantage of this (FuelCell Energy) technology is that it not only captures CO2 but also produces low carbon power, heat and hydrogen as co-products,” Geoff Richardson, senior vice president of commercial and business development for ExxonMobil’s Low Carbon Solutions, said in a statement. “We are excited for the opportunity to pilot this innovation at our own Rotterdam facility.”
The Rotterdam Manufacturing Complex produces petroleum-based products for the transportation, lubrication and chemical industries. The site is also integrated with a co-located hydrogen plant operated by Air Products.
In September, FuelCell Energy announced completion of its Tri-Gen System project to produce renewable electricity, hydrogen and water, from directed biogas within the Toyota operations at the Port of Long Beach.