When developing new concepts today, it is also important to understand how the technology may evolve and become a commercial winner in the future. The path through to a genuine return on invested time and capital for stakeholders and early investors is often subject to high risk.
A good analogy is the start of the automobile industry 100 years ago where it was not immediately clear that it would be the gasoline engine and Model-T Ford that would dominate the market. Both electric vehicles and the Diesel engine were, for a time, strong early contenders. It is only much later that also the competition managed to gain a foothold in niche market areas.
One possible technologies that we have assessed for CCS is what we term a “Topping Ready” oxyfuel cycle that integrates a magneto hydrodynamic (MHD) generator in combination with an oxy-combustor.
In the 1970´s and 80´s MHD was pursued as technology that could improve the efficiency of coal-fired power plants and be deployed for military purposes.
The oil crisis of 1973 and the Cold War justified major investments by many countries to pursue energy security and advanced weapons technology at a time when nuclear deterrent had led to a stalemate between the superpowers.
Partly for these reasons, and also because the technology looked genuinely promising at the time, research and deployment for MHD received both civil and defence funding in many of the Western and Soviet-bloc countries.
In the United States the U.S. Dept. of Energy spent over $220 million during the following decade, while the USSR built and operated (until the mid-90´s) a 25 MW MHD power plant for utility electricity production near Moscow.
At its peak there were more than a dozen countries with government funded MHD Programs.
However by the late-90´s budgets had been cut: academic research and activity at government laboratories was all that remained — coal-fired MHD was too expensive to commercialise and could not compete with the advances of gas turbines and focus on integrated coal gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) plants.
It was therefore interesting to revisit MHD almost 20 years later and to observe how oxy-combustion removed some of the original barriers to commercialisation. A summary of our initial findings from 2009 were contained in the above report that should be available if you click on it.
Although back then, over a decade ago, it was too early to say if Oxy-MHD could become commercial with CCS, it was a clear example of how known technology can be re-evaluated in the light of new challenges — this time not the Cold War, but instead climate-change.
In 2013 the project completed a Phase-2 of development work and a more detailed evaluation was also undertaken on behalf of EPRI. Now in 2020 we are also reassessing the technology given significant advances in optical seeding, nano-materials, and Machine Learning to control the plasma arcing.
For time being these web pages only present status as of 2013, but we are now actively seeking new funding to restart this project work asap.