MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Catalytica Combustion Systems Inc., a subsidiary of Catalytica Inc., has been awarded $1.6 million under a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help fund research and development of durable and cost-effective low emissions technologies for small gas turbines used in distributed power generation. The project will focus on catalyst life extension, cost reduction and application of Catalytica’s Xonon Cool Combustion technology to additional gas turbines.

In announcing the awards, DOE Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson stated, “Distributed energy resources are critical in protecting the reliability of our electricity grid and preventing power outages. This award goes hand-in-hand with the Department of Energy’s exploration of a variety of low or no emission electric production methods, including natural gas turbines, renewable resources, and fuel cells, to help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy and economic efficiency.”

Sporadic power outages around the country and increasing concerns about power reliability in the new digital economy are driving market participants to consider local, or distributed generation-power generated at or near the point of use—and for small (under 15 MW) gas turbines to be installed at these sites as an alternative to traditional utility-generated power. At the same time, the need for ultra-low emissions power production becomes critical given the strict emissions levels that are enforced in populated areas. Catalytica has operated its Xonon technology on a 1.5 MW turbine producing power at near zero emissions for the customers of Silicon Valley Power. Small gas turbines equipped with Xonon can be sited in urban areas close to users, eliminating the need to expand transmission and distribution capacity while enhancing power quality and reliability.

According to Forecast International, sales of gas turbines smaller than 15 MW (excluding microturbines) should generate $1.1 billion in 2000. Gas Research Institute predicts that generation of power in this size range will reach a 20-40 percent share of the total power generation capacity additions over the next ten years.

Catalytica’s Xonon Cool Combustion system enables gas turbines to achieve near-zero emissions by essentially eliminating the formation of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a primary contributor to smog, and drastically reducing emissions of other pollutants. It is a patented technology that allows combustion to occur at lower temperatures, below the threshold at which NOx is formed. While reducing overall combustion temperatures, Xonon achieves equivalent combustion efficiency and performance. Xonon is also the only combustion system demonstrated to meet California Air Resources Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District emissions guidelines, among the strictest in the U.S., for new gas turbines without the use of an exhaust cleanup system.