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DOE awards Southern Co. new 5-year deal to run carbon capture center

Southern Co. will manage and operate the National Carbon Capture Center for at least another five years, the NCCC announced.

The utility company was awarded funding for the contract by the U.S. Department of Energy and DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. The $140 million agreement keeps Southern Co. in charge of the Wilsonville, Alabama testing and research center for carbon capture technologies.

The 11-year-old facility has focused on development and commercialization of those technologies.  The NCCC is expanding into new areas of research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from fossil fuel-based power plants (including gas-fired) and to advance carbon utilization and direct air capture (DAC) solutions. 

“Southern Company has partnered successfully with DOE and NETL to make the National Carbon Capture Center the nation’s premier R&D facility for carbon capture technologies,” said Mark Berry, Southern Company vice president of R&D. “We’re honored to renew this commitment for another five years, and to formally expand the center’s work on carbon capture for natural gas power plants – as well as carbon utilization and negative-emission technologies such as direct air capture. We believe broadening our research scope to include negative carbon solutions will prove critical in providing customers with clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy in a net zero future.”

In the past decade, more than 110,000 hours of technology testing has been completed at the NCCC for NETL, industry partners and developers from the U.S. and six other countries, successfully advancing a wide range of technologies toward commercial scale. The evaluation of over 60 technologies has already reduced the projected cost of carbon capture from fossil-fuel power generation by more than one-third, according to the partners.

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Further cost reductions are expected as the facility’s new infrastructure tests more carbon capture technologies for natural gas power plants.

“We are excited to continue our partnership with Southern Company and build on our successes by developing new technologies that further reduce the cost of capturing and reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” NETL Director Brian Anderson said. “The NCCC plays an important role in scaling up capture technologies and testing them under real-world conditions. Driving down the cost of and scaling up capture technologies will enable our nation to reduce its carbon footprint and produce reliable and affordable energy, ensuring growth and economic prosperity,”

Based on research and planning, the company expects some fossil fuels will likely remain a part of its system energy mix in 2050 and is defining pathways to incorporate negative carbon strategies – like those being researched at the NCCC – and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.