DALLAS – Exxon Mobil and FuelCell Energy say that they will jointly work on technology to reduce the cost of capturing carbon emissions from power plants.
The companies will try to develop technology that uses carbonate fuel cells to generate power while capturing carbon dioxide, which scientists say is the most prevalent greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.
It is a sensitive subject for Exxon Mobil Corp., based in Irving, Texas. Officials in several states are investigating the company, which they accuse of misleading investors and the public by understating the risk of climate change.
If the fuel-cell approach proves feasible, it could be used in coal- or natural gas-fired plants, the companies said.
Shares of FuelCell Energy Inc. jumped 20 per cent initially but gave up most of the increase by afternoon trading.
Capturing significant amounts of carbon from power plants has been an elusive goal for the fossil-fuel industry. There have been several demonstration projects in the U.S. and elsewhere but they haven’t produced the desired results, partly because of high costs. Environmentalists say the money should instead be spent on renewable energy that is cleaner from the start.
Exxon and FuelCell declined to say how much they would invest in their new project. Exxon’s vice-president for research and development, Vijay Swarup, said 10 to 15 Exxon scientists would spend some of their time on it; FuelCell CEO Chip Bottone said 15 to 20 of his scientists would work on it, which he called “a pretty sizable commitment.”
Even if the technology produces power and lowers costs, the companies would have to process and bury the carbon to keep emissions out of the atmosphere, a process called sequestration.
Exxon said it captured nearly 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year. That, however, is far less than one one-thousandth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to figures from the International Energy Agency.
In afternoon trading, FuelCell shares were up 28 cents, or 5 per cent, to $5.86, after rising as high as $6.73 earlier in the day. Exxon shares rose 8 cents to $88.02.