Spring Conference 2022 ECR blog series #8 – highlights from Flexible Funding Parallel session 2A

As part of our Spring Conference ECR blog series, Mengbin Li, University of Nottingham, Jacqueline Penn, Newcastle University, Adam Zaidi, University of Manchester share their experiences of Flexible Funded Projects Session 2A.

The session of UKCCSRC Flexible funded research programmes chaired by Dr Lindsay Marie Armstrong was kicked off with updates on carbon capture.

First, Prof Ed Lester from University of Nottingham introduced the pilot-scale carbon capture using solid sorbents.

This project aims to demonstrate established and robust MOFs named PICASSO that can perform well and capture over 100 kgs CO2/day from actual flue gas at Drax incubation facilities. Many MOFs that have been designed for CO2 capture are simply too expensive or too air-sensitive to work with real flue gas, the research team has industrial involvement that can operate the largest MOFs production at scale and in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way. The initial trials showed promising adsorption and cycling performance of the sorbents and the energy penalties appear to be quite promising relative to alternatives. Pilot-scale demonstrations at Drax will further determine the cycling ability and robust nature of the MOFs.

Mike Gorbounov and Ben Petrovic are research associates from Brunel University London, with their research covering the development of absorbents for post-combustion CO2 capture using biomass.

Biomass is a clean and renewable energy source, generates lower emissions than fossil fuels, and utilises landfill waste freeing up land. Mike and Ben have capitalised on biomass and researched CO2 adoration by biomass fly ash, a by-product of biomass combustion.

Currently, the research focuses on two aspects: the production and testing of pelletised zeolitic absorbents derived from biomass fly ash in a fixed-bed reactor. Secondly, techno-economic assessment for effective, low-cost adsorbents, justifying the performance of adsorbents with reduced costs compared to current CO2 adsorbents. Overall, the initial results look promising; it would be interesting to see the adsorbent’s performance version under differing conditions, such as more significant pressures with further experimentation planned.

The key theme for this presentation is the utilisation of a waste material (biomass) post-combustion product as a viable material for CO2 capture, which is an exciting avenue to explore, helping the environment from a reduction in solid waste and emission reductions, as well as being profitable. Using waste materials can also be applied to my project, with a possible waste gas stream or a waste solid material to be used as a catalyst.

Dr Xin Liu from University of Nottingham proposed scalable step-change carbon materials achieving high CO2 adsorption capacity and selectivity at practical flue gas temperatures for potential breakthrough cost.

This project aims to develop carbon materials by using recycled waste PIR/PIF as low or cost-free feedstocks for CO2 capture at realistic flue gas temperature (above 40-50 oC) to achieve significant breakthroughs in cost reduction. The PIR/PIF derived carbons have been characterized and tested to optimise the synthesis methodology for further performance improvements in terms of adsorption capacity, selectivity and kinetics. The Lab TGA analysis results showed the carbons process promising CO2 uptake capacities at flue gas conditions and the comprehensive continuous performance of adsorbents from a lab multi-kilogram scale is being tested with moving bed facilities to evaluate the scale-up production. Based on the pilot-testing results, the maximum regeneration energies, or energy penalties achievable of the adsorbents have also been assessed for scale-up demonstration.

At the end, Dr. Vincenzo Spallina gave a talk about the Clean hydrogen and chemicals production via chemical looping. Vincenzo Spallina is a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, devoting his research to process intensification applied to sustainable routes for energy and chemical production. The novel process Vincenzo is researching is chemical looping, a method for fuel combustion coupled with the inherent separation of CO2. Oxygen carriers are the backbone of this process and facilitate fuel conversion by providing oxygen in a combustion reaction.

Current work focuses on chemical looping reverse water gas shift reaction in a packed bed reactor using 500g of commercial catalyst. The process aims at producing a syngas composition of 2 for use in the Fischer-Tropsch process. With its inherent separation, this process would eliminate downstream separation units, reducing costs. The commercial catalyst showed a constant capacity throughout 1000 hours of operation, at temperatures as high as 900°C and pressure up to 5 bars.

It would be interesting to see the effects of using a range of catalysts or modifying the catalyst, to increase fuel conversion or testing another process such as steam methane reforming to know how it compares to current production methods. What makes chemical looping a standout at the conference is that rather than removing CO2, it provides a direct pathway for CO2 utilisation as well as syngas or pure H2 generation. It will be interesting to see how to scale-up of this process will work and how the oxygen carriers can be developed.

This session brought informative and up to date research activities which involve different materials and technologies for carbon capture and CO­2 utilisation. The initial trails from many of these UKCCSRC Flexible funded research programmes show promising results toward on the scale-up process, giving us strong confidence and energy to move CCS forward.