CO<sub>2</sub> Capture With MEA: Integrating the Absorption Process and Steam Cycle of an Existing Coal-Fired Power Plant
In Canada, coal-fired power plants are the largest anthropogenic point sources of atmospheric CO<sub>2</sub>. The most promising near-term strategy for mitigating CO<sub>2</sub> emissions from these facilities is the post-combustion capture of CO<sub>2</sub> using MEA (monoethanolamine) with subsequent geologic sequestration. While MEA absorption of CO<sub>2</sub> from coal-derived flue gases on the scale proposed above is technologically feasible, MEA absorption is an energy intensive process and especially requires large quantities of low-pressure steam. It is the magnitude of the cost of providing this supplemental energy that is currently inhibiting the deployment of CO<sub>2</sub> capture with MEA absorption as means of combatting global warming. The steam cycle of a power plant ejects large quantities of low-quality heat to the surroundings. Traditionally, this waste has had no economic value. However, at different times and in different places, it has been recognized that the diversion of lower quality streams could be beneficial, for example, as an energy carrier for district heating systems. In a similar vein, using the waste heat from the power plant steam cycle to satisfy the heat requirements of a proposed CO<sub>2</sub> capture plant would reduce the required outlay for supplemental utilities; the economic barrier to MEA absorption could be removed. In this thesis, state-of-the-art process simulation tools are used to model coal combustion, steam cycle, and MEA absorption processes. These disparate models are then combined to create a model of a coal-fired power plant with integrated CO<sub>2</sub> capture. A sensitivity analysis on the integrated model is performed to ascertain the process variables which most strongly influence the CO<sub>2</sub> energy penalty. From the simulation results with this integrated model, it is clear that there is a substantial thermodynamic advantage to diverting low-pressure steam from the steam cycle for use in the CO<sub>2</sub> capture plant. During the course of the investigation, methodologies for using Aspen Plus® to predict column pressure profiles and for converging the MEA absorption process flowsheet were developed and are herein presented.