NETL Collaborates with U. S. Steel to Capture Greenhouse Gas at Edgar Thomson Plant

21 September 2023

NETL (National Energy Technology Laboratory) and United States Steel Corporation (U. S. Steel) are collaborating on a project to test advanced membrane technology for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated during steelmaking operations at U. S. Steel's Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock, Pennsylvania.

This initiative is part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)/NETL Point Source Carbon Capture Program, which aims to capture carbon emissions from industrial facilities, including iron and steel manufacturing plants, to reduce CO2 emissions and contribute to national climate change goals.

Carbon capture technology has the potential to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from blast furnaces, making it a priority for iron and steel plants. Testing NETL's innovative membrane technology at the Edgar Thomson Plant is a crucial step toward its eventual commercial deployment, according to David Hopkinson, technical portfolio lead for Point Source Carbon Capture at NETL.

Scott D. Buckiso, senior vice president and chief manufacturing officer of North American Flat-Rolled Segment at U. S. Steel, expressed the company's commitment to shaping the future of greenhouse gas reduction in the steel industry. He emphasized that achieving their net-zero emissions goal by 2050 would require innovation, with the Edgar Thomson plant playing a significant role in exploring this technology.

Compared to other separation methods like solvents and sorbents, polymer membranes offer a simpler CO2 separation process with fewer moving parts and no need for CO2 regeneration, potentially leading to cost savings. The simplicity of membrane-based processes also reduces capital and maintenance costs.

Membrane-based carbon capture involves using permeable materials to selectively separate CO2 from flue gas. The goal is to generate high-purity CO2 with a low percentage of nitrogen from flue gas, which can then be safely stored in deep geologic formations or used for producing valuable fuels, chemicals, and other applications.

The project has already completed lab-scale tests of the membrane at the DOE's National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) in Wilsonville, Alabama. Positive results from these tests have led to the expansion of field testing at the Edgar Thomson Plant, where CO2 separation from larger volumes of flue gas will be explored.

NETL is currently designing the test unit for measuring gas separation on the membrane, and a polymer membrane casting machine has been installed to produce larger membrane sheets as the technology scales up from the lab to the pilot phase.

David Hopkinson noted that this project lays the foundation for the development of membrane technology that can be used at steel mills, cement kilns, and other industrial sites that generate significant greenhouse gas emissions.

The installation of the test unit at the Edgar Thomson Plant is scheduled for early 2025, and the field test is expected to run for approximately six months.

Funding for this project has been allocated by the DOE/NETL Point Source Carbon Capture Program, with the goal of developing advanced CO2 capture concepts to support the United States in achieving ambitious emissions reduction targets, including a GHG-neutral economy by 2050 and a 50% reduction in economy-wide net GHG pollution by 2030.