Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers reveal new carbon capture procedure

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Sunday, September 5, 2021

On August 21, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) researchers published a paper on Chemistry Europe's website describing a new chemical process for carbon capture. The authors claim this carbon dioxide to methane conversion method to be 12 percent cheaper than the standard one. Carbon capture is used in industrial settings to trap carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas.

Dr. David J. Heldebrant, leader of the Separations Materials team (Image: Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Via email, Wikinews requested comments from Dr. David J. Heldebrant, chief scientist and leader of the Separations Materials team at PNNL.

"We are looking at how we can make technology that can offer companies a means to sell carbon dioxide as a product (in this case, methane) as compared to simply burying it in the ground" said Dr. Heldebrant. "Our goal is to give economic incentives to pay for the capture unit and start capping emissions as soon as possible."

Conventional capture settings use high water content solvents to capture carbon dioxide from exhaust fumes then ship the gas off-site for processing or underground storage.

The new approach is based on another solvent, N-(2-Ethoxyethyl)-3-propoxypropan-1-amine. The retained gas is then pressurized to over 15 bars, heated to 170 °C, mixed with hydrogen, and undergoes the conversion process catalyzed by ruthenium.

The applied pressure is half of a conventional system and water usage is reduced. The end-product, mostly methane, can be used as fuel. The researchers claim a 95 percent efficacy in capturing, and a 90 percent efficacy in converting the captured carbon dioxide to methane. Calculated price reductions for a 550 megawatt power plant are 12 percent for the unit price of methane, and 32 percent for initial investment, compared to the Sabatier process.

"We are working with industrial partners to manufacture 6 tons of the solvent for an upcoming test for cleaning coal exhaust at the National Carbon Capture Center.” continued Dr. Heldebrant. "If the solvent works as designed, our goal is to find commercialization partners to get the solvent to market."

Dr. Jothi Kothandaraman, research scientist in the Separations Materials team (Image: PNNL)

Jotheeswari Kothandaraman, a member of the research team, noted that their future goal is to create either methanol, which has more applications than methane, or plastics from the waste gas.

The increasing presence of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is a leading cause of climate change.


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