Exxon Mobil Backs FuelCell Effort to Advance Carbon Capture Technology

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For years, FuelCell Energy has been considered a company to watch. Its technology promised to help economically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which could help combat climate change. The Danbury, Conn., company might be able to make a difference, experts said, if only it had a partner with really deep pockets.

Now it has one.

In an agreement announced on Thursday, Exxon Mobil said it had tightened an existing relationship with FuelCell in hopes of taking the technology from the lab to the market.

Any commercial development is years away, warned Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development at Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering. But, he added, “We think it’s got the possibility to be a game changer.”

Although the companies did not disclose the size of Exxon Mobil’s investment in FuelCell, “We’re putting the necessary resources behind this to take the research to the next level,” Dr. Swarup said.

The technology — known as carbon capture and sequestration, or C.C.S.— is an important but challenging potential solution to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The goal is to take carbon dioxide, after it is removed from exhaust steam, and to lock it away by pumping it into the ground or use it in industrial applications.

Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released by power plants could provide a bridge of sorts to the use of energy sources that do not emit greenhouse gases, said Emily A. Carter, founding director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University.

While many climate activists demand an immediate shift to renewable power sources like solar and wind, “We’re going to be burning fossil fuels for the vast majority of our electricity for some time to come, whether we like it or not,” she said. “We desperately need C.C.S.”