Skip to main content

Assessment of postcombustion carbon capture technologies for power generation


A significant proportion of power generation stems from coal-combustion processes and accordingly represents one of the largest point sources of CO2 emissions worldwide. Coal power plants are major assets with large infrastructure and engineering units and an operating life span of up to 50 years. Hence, any process design modification to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may require significant investment. One of the best options to utilize existing infrastructure is to retrofit the power station fleet by adding a separation process to the flue gas, a practice known as postcombustion capture (PCC). This review examines the recent PCC development and provides a summary and assessment of the state of play in this area and its potential applicability to the power generation industry. The major players including the various institutes, government, and industry consortia are identified along with flue gas PCC demonstration scale plants. Of the PCC technologies reviewed, amine-based absorption is preeminent, being both the most mature and able to be adapted immediately, to the appropriate scale, for power station flue gas with minimal technical risk. Indeed, current commercial applications serve niches in the merchant CO2 market, while a substantial number of smaller scale test facilities are reported in the literature with actual CO2 capture motivated demonstrations now commencing. Hybrid membrane/absorption systems, also known as membrane contactors, offer the potential for the lowest energy requirements, possibly 10% of current direct scrubbers but are at an early stage of development. Other methods being actively pursued as R&D projects include solid absorbents, solid adsorbents, gas membrane separators, and cryogenic separation. The variety and different maturities of these competing technologies make technical comparison largely subjective, but useful insights could be gained through the development and application of econometric techniques such as ‘real options’ within this context. Despite these limitations, it is clear from this review that amine scrubbing is likely to be adapted first into the existing power station fleet, while less mature technologies will grow and become integrated with the development of future power stations.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Pine R. CO2: Parliament launches action plan to reduce its carbon footprint. In: European Parliament Press release, 20090220IPR50134, 2009, 1

  2. 2.

    EC. European CO2 capture and storage projects. In: European Commission EUR 21240, Brussels, Belgium, 2004, 3

  3. 3.

    Yokoyama T. Japanese R&D on large scale CO2 capture. In: Separations Technology VI: New perspectives on very large-scale operations, ECI Symposium Series, 2004, RP3: 1–12

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Simmonds M, Hurst P, Wilkinson M B, Watt C, Roberts C A. A study of very large scale post combustion CO2 capture at a refining & petrochemical complex. In: Greenhouse gas control technologies. Kidlington UK: Elsevier Science, 2003, 2: 39–44

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    CO2CRC. Project 2.5 hydrate formation & cryogenic distillation systems. In: Capturing CO2-research program overview, cooperative research centre for greenhouse gas technologies. Canberra, Australia, 2005, 5

  6. 6.

    White V. Purification of CO2 from oxy-fuel combustion. In: Proceedings of the 2nd workshop of the oxy-fuel combustion network, international energy agency greenhouse R&D program and Alstom Power, 2007, 1–13

  7. 7.

    IEA. Solutions for the 21st century-zero emissions technologies for fossil fuels: technology status report. In: International energy agency, committee on energy research and technology, working party on fossil fuels, 2002, 12

  8. 8.

    Bailey D W, Feron P H M. Post-combustion decarbonisation processes. Oil and Gas Science and Technology, 2005, 60: 461–474

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    DTI. Review of the feasibility of carbon dioxide capture and storage in the UK. In: UK-Department of Trade and Industry, Report DTI/Pub URN 03/1261, 2003, 1–33

  10. 10.

    Goff G S, Rochelle T. Monoethanolamine degradation: O2 mass transfer effects under CO2 capture conditions. Ind Eng Chem Res, 2004, 43: 6400–6408

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    IEA. ERM-Carbon dioxide capture and storage in the clean development mechanism. In: International energy agency greenhouse gas R&D programme 2007/TR2, Cheltenham UK, 2007, A10

  12. 12.

    Chapel D, Ernst J, Mariz C. Recovery of CO2 from flue gases: commercial trends. In: Canadian Society of Chemical Engineers annual meeting, 1999, 1–16

  13. 13.

    Iijima M. Flue gas CO2 capture (CO2 capture technology of KS-1). In: Global Climate & Energy Project, Stanford USA, 2004, 1–28

  14. 14.

    Fauth D J, Frommell E A, Hoffman J S, Reasbeck R P, Pennline H W. Eutectic salt promoted lithium zirconate: Novel high temperature sorbent for CO2 capture. Fuel Proc Tech, 2005, 86: 1503–1521

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Abanades J C, Rubin E S, Anthony E J. Sorbent cost and performance in CO2 capture systems. Ind Eng Chem Res, 2004, 43: 3462–3466

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Ding Y, Alpay E. Equilibria and kinetics of CO2 adsorption on hydrotalcite adsorbent. Chem Eng Sci, 2000, 55: 3461–3474

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Chou C T, Chen C Y. Carbon dioxide recovery by vacuum swing adsorption. Separ Pur Tech, 2004, 39: 51–65

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Cho S H, Park J H, Beum H T, Han S S, Kim J N. A 2-stage PSA process for the recovery of CO2 from flue gas and its power consumption. Studies in Surface Science and Catalysis, 2004, 153: 405–410

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Ho M T, Leamon G, Allinson G W, Wiley D E. Economics of CO2 and mixed gas geosequestration of flue gas using gas separation membranes. Ind Eng Chem Res, 2005, 45: 2546–2552

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Wang R, Li D F, Liang D T. Modeling of CO2 capture by three typical amine solutions in hollow fiber membrane contactors. Chem Eng Proc, 2004, 43: 849–856

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Matsumiya N, Teramoto M, Kitada S, Matsuyama H. Evaluation of energy consumption for separation of CO2 in flue gas by hollow fiber facilitated transport membrane module with permeation of amine solution. Separ Pur Tech, 2005, 46: 26–32

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Matsumiya N, Teramoto M, Kitada S, Haraya K, Matsuyama H. Cost evaluation of CO2 separation from flue gas by membrane-gas absorption hybrid system using a hollow fiber membrane module. Kagaku Kogaku Ronbunshu, 2005, 31: 325–330

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    IEA. CO2 Capture and storage-R&D projects database. In: International energy agency greenhouse gas R&D programme, Cheltenham UK, 2005

  24. 24.

    Grad P. Trials of carbon capture. Engineers Australia, 2009, 81: 45–47

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Bolland O. CO2 capture technologies-an overview. In: Proceedings of the second trondheim conference on CO2 capture, transport and storage, 2004, 1–29

  26. 26.

    Herzog H. An introduction to CO2 separation and capture technologies. In: MIT Energy Laboratory, 1999, 1–8

  27. 27.

    EPRI. 2006 Program 165 CO2 capture and storage. Electric Power Research Institute, 1013048, 2005, 1–2.

  28. 28.

    EPRI. CO2 Capture and Storage Test Centers: First transportable CO2 capture pilot. Electric Power Research Institute, 2007, 1–9

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to João C. Diniz da Costa.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Duke, M.C., Ladewig, B., Smart, S. et al. Assessment of postcombustion carbon capture technologies for power generation. Front. Chem. Eng. China 4, 184–195 (2010).

Download citation


  • post-carbon capture
  • amine absorption
  • adsorption
  • membranes
  • technology assessment