Recommendation. The committee recommends a modest effort in exploratory catalysis research aimed at the selective conversion of syngas to high-value fuels and chemicals.
Recommendation. Detailed engineering design/economic feasibility studies of coal coproduction complexes and large-scale, pilot-plant demonstration runs of conventional processes to make low-value fuels such as diesel, methanol, and DME should not be funded by the Vision 21 Program.
The Advanced Combustion Technologies Program is a very important component of the Office of Fossil Energy R&D program. It offers a near-term technological solution to improving efficiency and environmental performance in existing fossil-fuel power plant units, especially coal-fired power plants, and new units that may need to be constructed before Vision 21 systems are available or if Vision 21 systems prove unable to achieve the desired levels of performance and costs. The advanced combustion program encompasses the development of high-performance combustion systems, both suspension fired and fluidized bed, including ultra-low-NOx combustion and combustion systems that burn fuels in O2/CO2 mixtures and produce exhaust streams containing only CO2 and water. These advanced combustion systems, except perhaps the O2-based combustion, will not achieve the goals of a Vision 21 system; rather, they are a technology bridge between today’s combustion systems and the point in time when Vision 21 systems are commercially ready.18 The Advanced Combustion Technologies Program will offer the opportunity to repower, modernize, and upgrade existing electric generating units or to install new units to replace the existing fleet before Vision 21 plants are commercially available. These early commercial applications of advanced combustion systems can serve as a platform on which Vision 21 equipment will gain operating experience and construction know-how, while increasing reliability and decreasing costs. Opportunities for proving Vision 21 components will allow achieving the overall goal—commercial designs by 2015— because the marketplace will be able to rely on the experience gained during these advanced combustion system applications. The Advanced Combustion Technologies Program provides an enabling opportunity as well as a fallback position for Vision 21 technologies and the nation’s electric generating technology.