International collaboration aims to reduce carbon capture costs

SINTEF researchers with the INSPIRE project.

VANCOUVER, B.C., CANADA — A CDN$3 million international collaboration to optimize a novel carbon capture system could reduce the cost of capturing carbon from industrial processes.

Although industry and power generation account for 46 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, companies are reluctant to install carbon capture technologies because of high operating costs. U.S. based Westec Environmental Solutions (WES) and SINTEF Norway, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia, are hoping to change that reluctance by marrying two technologies to realize savings in operating and capital costs.

This CDN$3M INSPIRE project, lead by SINTEF and funded by CLIMIT – Norway’s national carbon capture and storage research funding program, will see a unique contactor container developed by WES used with a new novel precipitating solvent developed by SINTEF. The Carbon Capture and Conversion Institute (CCCI) will be responsible for engineering design work to scale up the process if initial tests are promising. CCCI is a business division of CMC Research Institutes.

“The aim of this very exciting project is to demonstrate, for the first time, a system that streamlines the capture process and eliminates several stages. This will make the overall operation significantly less capital and energy intensive,” says Goran Vlajnic, executive director of the CCCI. “If successful, the new process could play a significant role in reducing industrial emissions.”

“Precipitating solvents have shown great potential for reducing capture costs but process integration can be complex,” says Bill Hargrove, CEO of WES. “Our goal is that by combining the unique features of the WES contactor and SINTEF solvent we can demonstrate a viable, cost efficient solution to CO2 capture.”

Ugochukwu Edwin Aronu, SINTEF Scientist and Project Leader, notes that the project marks a milestone in terms of the development of capture technology.

”I believe this project offers a clear route to cost reducing innovations, thanks to its uniquely international and multidisciplinary approach,” says Ugochukwu Edwin Aronu, SINTEF Scientist and Project Leader. ”For the first time, an advanced precipitating CO2 capture technology will be demonstrated in a full height state-of-the art pilot plant facility, integrating two unique solvent and contactor technologies. Successful demonstration will take this technology a step closer to commercialization.”

Contactors, the vessels in which CO2 is captured by a solvent, are typically large and expensive to build and operate. WES’s innovative design is compact and can tolerate solids formed by precipitates without clogging.

The WES contactor also uses the new precipitating solvent designed and developed by SINTEF. The SINTEF product is more efficient than most solvents currently in use. It reacts with and absorbs CO2 more rapidly than other solvents, the regeneration process takes place at a lower temperature, uses less energy, and can have a lower environmental footprint.

The contactor and solvent will be brought together for testing and validation in Trondheim, Norway next year. If the results are positive, CCCI experts will engineer and design a system to scale up the process. In the third stage of development, CCCI will design a modular unit that can be tested at the Institute’s technology development centre or in an industrial setting.

About SINTEF Norway
SINTEF is the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia. It is an independent, not-for-profit research institute. We create value and innovation through knowledge generation and development of technological solutions that are brought into practical use. SINTEF is a broadly based, multidisciplinary research institute with international top-level expertise in technology, medicine and the social sciences. We conduct contract R&D as partner for the private and public sectors, and we are among the four largest contract research institutions in Europe. SINTEF’s goal is to be a world-leading research institute. We create value and develop solutions to some of society’s grand challenges by being at the forefront of our strategic focus areas: renewable energy, climate and environmental technology, oil and gas, ocean space technology, health and welfare, and enabling technologies.

About Westec Environmental Solutions (WES)
Westec Environmental Solutions, LLC was formed in 2008 with the mission to develop a gas to liquid contactor that would enable new solutions posed by the challenges of capturing CO2 emissions on a large scale. The development of the WES Contactor has been conducted at the WES laboratory in Kahului, HI. The unique properties of the WES contactor provide for high mass transfer efficiency and the ability to operate in a three phase flow condition which enables new solutions to solvent based capture processes to reduce operating and capital costs. The first demonstration of this technology was a pilot line on a Brown Coal power plant in SE Australia in 2013.

About the Carbon Capture and Conversion Institute (CCCI)
The Carbon Capture and Conversion Institute is an initiative between CMC Research Institutes, BC Research Inc. and the University of British Columbia’s Clean Energy Research Centre. This unique group of participants bring depth and diversity to the CCCI, creating a high energy innovation hub. The CCCCI’s mission is to accelerate the development, piloting, scale-up, and validation of carbon capture and conversion technologies. We offer clients access to engineering and design experts as well as a comprehensive set of facilities for pilot plant design, fabrication, testing and refinement. The CCCI is a business division of CMC Research Institutes.