New Technology Offers Hope for Cost-Effective Carbon Capture and Storage Systems

Academics at the University of Sheffield—a public research university in the UK—have begun two new carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, searching for cheaper methods of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil-fueled power plants.

The work is being funded by the European Commission’s (EC’s) Horizon 2020 Low Carbon Energy program.

Solvents Could Be Game-Changing

The “ROLINCAP” project received €3.2 million to explore how new chemical solvents could be used in a “rotating packed bed” process, which is designed to accelerate chemical reactions. The method may allow CO2 to be captured more efficiently, with smaller equipment than was previously required.

“Our European consortium will work with experts from South Korea to develop technologies for post-combustion carbon capture and storage. We will explore new solvents and new techniques for process intensification, which I hope will lead to cheaper, more efficient carbon capture,” said Meihong Wang, Professor of Energy Systems in the Department for Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Carbon Clean Solutions Ltd. (CCSL)—a Mumbai, India–based company—has also reportedly developed a new solvent for capturing CO2. CCSL, whose self-proclaimed mission is “to deliver step change products that reduce the cost of carbon dioxide capture,” says its patented CDRMax solvent can be swapped directly with amine-based solvents currently in use at existing CO2 capture/recovery plants with no process changes or equipment modifications necessary. The product’s benefits are said to include:

  • As much as a 35% reduction in energy demand.
  • Five to 10 times less degradation.
  • No corrosion inhibitor required.

According to an article published by The Independent, CCSL’s system is currently in service at a 10-MW commercial power station in Chennai, India, capturing 97% of the plant’s carbon emissions. The solvent is reported to have reduced the cost of capture to $30 per ton of carbon, a 66% reduction compared to the cost of some other methods.

CCSL CEO Aniruddha Sharma was quoted in the article as saying, “We can absolutely scale up the tech. We can go all the way to 1,000MW.”

Novel Membrane Technology

The second University of Sheffield project received €5 million from the EC to develop innovative materials, membranes, and processes for CO2 capture. Researchers working on that project, called “NanoMEMC2,” will study graphene-based nanosheets and cellulose nanofibres for possible modification to improve polymer compatibility and affinity with CO2.

Dr. Karen Finney, co-investigator on the NanoMEMC2 project and research fellow from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: “Carbon capture and storage is a proven technology, but we need to bring costs down and one way to do that is through innovative new techniques. This project will explore how membranes can sift out carbon dioxide from power stations and big industrial factories.”

Some of the large-scale testing will be conducted at the UK CCS Research Centre Pilot-Scale Advanced CO2-Capture Technology (PACT) core facilities. PACT is a collaborative activity between the Universities of Cranfield, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Leeds, Nottingham, and Sheffield. Facilities include a highly instrumented 250-kW air-oxyfuel combustion plant for coal, biomass, and gas; two 330-kW gas turbines; and gas mixing facilities for simulating combustion and industrial emissions. The facilities are connected to a 1-ton-per-day CO2 capture plant enabling post-combustion capture research for pulverized fuel and gas boilers, gas turbines (including research on exhaust gas recycling to increase CO2 in flue gas), solvent development, and materials research.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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