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Dr. Sivaram Harendra

Researcher looks to help power plants clean up

Dr. Sivaram Harendra reseraches improvements to IPR systems at NETL.

As part of his postdoctoral research appointment, Dr. Sivaram Harendra is part of a National Energy Technology Laboratory team focused on removing carbon dioxide from fossil-fueled power plant emissions in a process called Integrated Pollutant Removal.

Rising carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere are a well-known fact. The levels have been on an upward trend for at least 50 years and are largely linked to the burning of fossil fuels in power plants.

Dr. Sivaram Harendra is a research associate at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), through the Postdoctoral Associate’s Program which is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

Harendra, who recently earned his Ph.D. in chemical and environmental engineering at the University of Houston, says that while he was involved with lab studies at his university, this program gives him the experience of solving actual industrial problems.

While carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning plants is an environmental problem, it is also true that coal accounts for half of our nation’s energy and that the United States has an abundance of coal resources.

At NETL, Harendra is part of a team focused on removing carbon dioxide from fossil-fueled power plant emissions in a process called Integrated Pollutant Removal (IPR), which uses oxy-fuel combustion—a relatively new technology that could be used to safely capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fueled power plants.

IPR systems are complex and under constant evaluation to improve efficiency. This is where Harendra’s expertise in chemical and environmental engineering assists the project.

“I am studying the behavior of the IPR system by building computational models,” Harendra said. Since waste water is derived from the IPR system, he also researches methods to treat waste water from the IPR system and to build these water-treatment models.

Harendra’s project focuses on building zero liquid discharge systems for this waste water. The zero liquid discharge system eliminates the waste streams and produces high-purity water for reuse. Harendra says that by using a zero liquid discharge system, a power plant’s water consumption could be reduced by as much as 80 percent—saving money and conserving water.

The IPR is patented by NETL and will be available commercially soon. NETL’s IPR process is unique in that it uses heat exchange followed by several stages of compression, with cooling between each compression stage. The system’s flexibility allows the technology to be applied to existing power plants or incorporated into new designs.

“My experience at NETL has been awesome,” said Harendra, noting that he has gained more knowledge than expected within a short period of time. “My research topics are very useful for the future generations—nationally and globally.”