Lindsay Whitehurst, The Salt Lake Tribune
Researchers at the University of Utah will soon be using the world’s biggest supercomputers to simulate and test a new type of low-emission coal-fired power plant.
“We’re going to be building the biggest simulations ever done in the world,” said U. chemical engineering professor Philip Smith, who will use the grant to establish the Carbon Capture Multidisciplinary Simulation Center with Martin Berzins and U. President David Pershing, a professor of chemical engineering by training.
The simulation written at the U. will be tested on an exascale computer with millions of processors, expected to be completed within the next three years.
The five-year, $16 million grant from the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will fund software designed to simulate and predict the performance of a 350-megawatt boiler system capable of electrifying a midsize city. Designed by the multinational corporation Alstom, the plant would use a technology called oxy-combustion, in which coal dust is ignited using pure oxygen rather than air.
“Most experts in this area believe [oxy-combustion] to be the cheapest option for being able to capture carbon,” said Smith. The process leaves behind water vapor and pure carbon dioxide, which is easier to capture and store. Several plants are piloting parts of the technology around the world, and a large-scale test project is underway in Illinois, funded by $1 billion in stimulus money, according to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. The U.’s work will bring the first large-scale simulation to the concept of an entire plant built with the technology. The project will involve 20 faculty members, 20 research staff and 40 students. (…)