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Advances in CO2 Capture

Advances in CO2 Capture

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, June 24, 2019/Categories: sustainability, environment, climate change

                   CO2 Direct Air-Capturing Plant, British Colombia, Canada (credit: Carbon Engineering)

Capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) has been trumpeted as one solution to the problem of climate change. Up to now, the technology used to capture the gas has been inefficiently, too expensive, or had no commercial use other than pumping it back into the ground. However, this situation has begun to change as several innovative ventures show. Three examples are worth presenting as they are technologically operational and commercial products have begun being marketed, even if still at a small scale.

1. Carbon8 Systems is a British company founded in 2006 as a 'spin-out' technology from the University of Greenwich. Carbon8 is commercializing more than 15 years of research in carbon capture at the University. The Company uses a patented technology, Accelerated Carbonation Technology (ACT), that provides a rapid and cost-effective treatment producing carbonate aggregated materials for industrial uses. According to the Company,

ACT is a controlled approach similar to the naturally occurring carbonation process creating carbonates that have improved chemical and physical properties. ACT utilizes waste CO2 from local power plants and has, so far, captured nearly 12,000 metric tons of CO2 and converted the gas into solid materials. With carbonation, the recovery and recycling of waste, creating products such as building blocks, creates real commercial products. The chemically neutral products are used as construction aggregates, engineering fill, or specialized building blocks.

  

      ACT Produced Carbonate Aggregate Materials (credit: Carbon8 technology)

2. CCm Technologies: another British company turns agricultural wastes into fertilizers that absorb more CO2 than produced when applied on fields. Cow dung, horse manure, and waste straw are combined in a bio-digester, basically a fermentation tank, where bacteria "digest" the muck producing biogas (methane) that can be used to generate electricity for the power grid. The remaining material is treated with captured CO2 that binds to the nutrient-rich sludge producing an agricultural grade fertilizer. The Company reports a 70% reduction in CO2 production compared with traditional fertilizer manufacturing. The resulting fertilizer pellets are being sold commercially and technology licenses have been acquired by international buyers for the technology. A significant added environmental benefit, besides CO2 capture as an essential production ingredient, is that the resulting organic fertilizer increases soil fertility and microbial activity both depleted by petroleum-based agrochemicals. The Company's CEO gave a recent presentation on their process at a cleantech showcase event at the UK's Royal Society:

carbon dioxide and other waste streams (such as Ammonia and Phosphate) into stable value-added materials with multiple uses across global priority sectors of food/agriculture, advanced materials converts captured carbon dioxide and other waste streams (such as Ammonia and Phosphate) into stable value-added materials with multiple uses across global priority sectors of food/agriculture, advanced materials & energy storage converts captured carbon dioxide and other waste streams (such as Ammonia and Phosphate) into stable value-added materials with multiple uses across global priority sectors of food/agriculture, advanced materials & energy storage

3. Carbon Engineering: inn British Columbia, Carbon Engineering has built a plant to help stop climate change by using gigantic fans and a chemical process to remove carbon dioxide directly from the air. The Company says its technology has advanced enough to make financial sense. One of their investors is Bill Gates but also includes oil companies Chevron, BHP, and Occidental. The commercial venture intends to use the captured carbon to make synthetic fuels and also use the CO2 gas to extract more petroleum from existing wells to create a 'carbon neutral' business. The issue of decreasing the volume of heat-trapping CO2 in the atmosphere, and possibly prolonging the use of fossil fuels, vs. using completely renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydrogen-power are an obvious tradeoff. The question becomes one of time to scale-up any carbon capture or renewable energy technology to make a real "dent" in the problem. Each perspective is presented in this new CNBC report.

Each year we contribute approximately 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally into the atmosphere. CO2 measurements just taken by NOAA and scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the Mauna Loa Observeratory registered ~415ppm of the gas. For perspective, that CO2 concentration has not existed since prior to humans evolving in Africa and palm trees grew in the Arctic. No one technology will represents a "magic bullet" to address this existential problem but a combination of approaches will be required. Each carbon capture technologies is either a carbon-negative process, using more CO2 than is generated, or is carbon neutral, using the same amount of CO2 as is produced in a product's manufacturing.

The range of scientific, technological, business, and political efforts available to address such a global problem is broad. However, with each passing year, our options become more limited and more expensive to implement assuming we have the will to do so.

WHB

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