UKCCSRC Spring 2023 Conference – Parallel 2a “CO2 Sourcing” (ECR Meeting Fund)

Reinaldo Juan Lee Pereira (Newcastle University) and Marcin Pokora (University of Sheffield) provide a great summary of Parallel session 2a “CO2 Sourcing” at the UKCCSRC Spring 2023 Conference on “CCS from geographically dispersed industries”.

The world is facing a major challenge in tackling climate change, with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions being one of the primary culprits. One way to address this challenge is by capturing carbon from industrial processes such as power plants and storing it safely underground. In this regard, the speakers at this session presented on novel carbon capture technologies, plans to decarbonise one of the largest CO2 emitters in Wales, and the significant funding and collaborative opportunities provided by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) to develop carbon capture technologies.

Paul Kirkman, from Promethean Particles, works with synthesis, scale-up and application of metal organic frameworks in gas separation processes. MOFs are highly porous and structured materials that act as sieves to trap CO2. Unlike other commercial carbon capture technologies based on amine sorbents, MOFs have a lower energy penalty and are more attractive in terms of handling. They are solid materials as opposed to liquid amines, which makes them easier to handle and transport.

The PICASSO project, in collaboration with Promethean and DRAX, focused on demonstrating the feasibility of using MOFs for post-combustion carbon capture at a pilot scale. The project aimed to scale up the technology, increase the technological readiness level, demonstrate CO2 capture with MOF at power plants, assess CO2 purity from the technology, and perform lifecycle and techno-economic analysis.

One of the key challenges with this technology is achieving a high CO2 capture rate while ensuring that the outlet CO2 purity of the flue gas remains low during each cycle. To achieve this, various packing types were tested, such as MOF coatings, powders and pellets. Pellets showed promising results, such as a sharp breakthrough curve and relatively low CO2 concentration in the outlet gas. In the future, there will be further work aiming towards MOF synthesis scale-up for the process, and building a potentially larger system.

During the Q&A session, the audience raised several interesting questions, one of which was about how to get rid of the initial amount of CO2 at the outlet due to desorption from the previous step. The answer was that there is still a lot of room in terms of how the system is designed and operated, and it should be possible to reduce this to the parts. As an example, an advanced pressure swing adsorption cycle can be used.

Richard Little, representing the RWE is the Director of the Pembroke Net Zero Centre (PNZC). As the manager of one of the most efficient natural gas combined cycle plants, Richard and the Pembroke power station are aiming to significantly revamp the site and achieve net-zero capabilities. One of the underpinning advantages of the system is its high flexibility towards fluctuations in renewable power sources. This aspect was noted as a key piece in achieving flexible plans towards decarbonising the area.

Various ideas are thus being tackled in tandem, such as post-combustion capture plants for the power station, blue and green hydrogen production from natural gas and renewable sources respectively, using natural gas with hydrogen blends, developing renewable energy sources, battery grids for energy storage, and of course CO2 transportation and storage in off-shore sites, all with the goal to reduce emissions to reach net-zero targets. Achieving any one of these targets will bring one of the biggest point source emitters in Wales closer to carbon neutrality.

Both renewables and hydrogen are required to achieve this target, since the former only would require decades to plan and construct, impeding efforts to achieve required targets, but also because the latter is not only quicker but also essential to industrial heating.

Questions from the audience highlighted key metrics of this process as well as future opportunities. A key issue revolved around the efficiency of post-combustion capture power plants. With natural gas plants the efficiency is expected to drop by 10%, whereas it is not fully clear yet what it will be with hydrogen or blended fuels.

The increase of raw water demand due to blue or green hydrogen was highlighted, in addition to this, production of green hydrogen would produce a large excess of oxygen gas. Management of these resources in terms of their supply and demand raised questions in terms of how the water would be obtained, and where the oxygen could be supplied to. Of note is that pure oxygen could be used in oxy-fuel combustion or steel plants to achieve carbon capture!

Frank Morton, the technology development director of the National Carbon Capture Centre located in Wilsonville, Alabama, presented the third talk. The National Carbon Capture Centre has many partners, all striving for negative CO2 emissions, and is focused on international collaboration to drive CCS technologies forward.

One of the Centre’s biggest goals is to collaborate with third-party innovators who share the same common goal of developing critically needed CCS technologies. The Centre can be used as a test bed for third-party developers, helping bridge the gap between laboratory research and large-scale demonstrations, which is crucial for accelerating the development of CCS technologies.

So far, the Centre has logged over 129,000 hours of technology testing for carbon capture innovators, resulting in many process enhancements and technological breakthroughs. The Centre is credited with the development of more than 70 technologies and, as a result, has already reduced the projected cost of carbon capture from fossil-based power generation by over 40%.

In his talk, Frank outlined the positive developments in CCS, touching on some policies such as the Section 45Q policy, which drives commercial investments into CCS technologies. This policy, along with other others such as the Inflation Reduction Act 2022, is showing efforts to address the climate crisis, leading to a bright future for CCS. The Inflation Reduction Act 2022 will cut Americans’ energy costs, create good jobs and is the largest single step that Congress has ever taken to address climate change, ultimately leading to a huge positive in the field of CCS.

With the main goals of striving for negative CO2 emissions, as well as international collaboration, the National Carbon Capture Centre is a great collaboration opportunity for any third-party innovators. Frank’s talk presented the positive steps that are being taken towards a sustainable future, and the National Carbon Capture Centre is playing a significant role in driving these needed CCS developments forward.