The need for technology that can capture, remove and repurpose carbon dioxide grows stronger with every carbon dioxide2 The molecule that reaches the Earth’s atmosphere. To address this need, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have set a new milestone in their efforts to make carbon capture more affordable and widespread. They have created a new system that efficiently captures carbon monoxide2 – the least expensive yet – and turns it into one of the most widely used chemicals in the world: methanol.
Snaring co2 By floating in the atmosphere is a key component in slowing global warming. However, creating incentives for the largest emitters to adopt carbon capture technology is an important premise. The high cost of commercial capture technology has been a long-standing barrier to its widespread use.
PNNL scientists believe that methanol can provide this incentive. It has many uses as a fuel, solvent, and an important ingredient in plastics, coatings, building materials, and auto parts. CO conversion2 to useful substances such as methanol that provides a pathway for industrial entities to capture and repurpose carbon.
Chemist David Hildebrandt, who leads the research team behind the new technology, compares the system to recycling. Just as one can choose between single-use and recyclable materials, so one can recycle carbon.
“That’s basically what we’re trying to do here,” Hildebrandt said. “Instead of extracting oil from the ground to make these chemicals, we’re trying to do it from carbon dioxide2 taken from the atmosphere or from coal plants, so that they can be reconstituted into useful things. You’re keeping carbon alive, so to speak, not just “pull it out of the ground, use it once, throw it away”. We’re trying to recycle carbon dioxide2Just like we try to recycle other things like glass, aluminum and plastic. “
As described in the journal advanced energy materialsThe new system is designed to suit coal, gas or biomass fired power plants, as well as cement kilns and steel mills. Using a capture solvent developed by PNNL, the system captures CO2 molecules before they are emitted, and then turns them into useful materials that can be sold.
A long line of dominoes must fall before carbon is completely removed or completely banned from entering Earth’s atmosphere. This effort – getting the capture and conversion technology out into the world – ticks some critical first few boxes.
Deploying this technology will reduce emissions, Hildebrandt said. But it could also help spur the development of other carbon capture technologies and create a market for carbon dioxide2Contains materials. With such a market in place, carbon sequestered by predictable direct air capture technologies can be better recombined into longer-lasting materials.
Advocating for lower cost carbon capture
In April 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Working Group III report focusing on mitigating climate change. Among the emission reduction measures described, carbon capture and storage has been named as a necessary component of achieving net zero emissions, especially in sectors that are difficult to decarbonise, such as steel and chemical production.
“Reducing emissions in industry will involve using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products and reducing waste,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a press release released alongside one of the installments of the 2022 report. In order to reach net zero CO2 society’s desired carbon emissions (eg, plastics, wood, jet fuel, solvents, etc.),,” the report reads, “it is important to close the carbon and carbon dioxide utilization loops by increasing circulation with mechanical and chemical recycling.” “
PNNL’s research is focused on doing just that – in line with the DOE’s carbon negative snapshot. By using hydrogen from renewable sources in the conversion, the team can produce methanol with a lower carbon footprint than traditional methods that use natural gas as a feedstock. Methanol is produced by carbon monoxide2 Conversion can qualify for market policy and incentives aimed at driving adoption of carbon reduction technologies.
Methanol is one of the most produced chemicals by volume. Known as the “platform material,” it has a variety of uses. In addition to methanol, the team can convert carbon dioxide2 into formate (another commodity chemical), methane, and other substances.
There is still a great deal of work to improve and extend this process, and it may be several years before it is ready for commercial publication. But, said Cassie Davidson, Sector Director of Carbon Management and Fossil Energy Market at PNNL, replacing traditional chemical commodities is only the beginning. “The integrated team approach opens up a new CO world2 Conversion chemistry. There is a sense that we stand on the threshold of a whole new field of scalable and cost-effective carbon technology. It’s a very exciting time.”
Commercial systems absorb carbon from flue gas at about $46 per metric ton of CO22According to a DOE analysis. The PNNL team’s goal is to continually eliminate costs by making the pickup process more economically efficient and competitive.
The team brought the capture cost down to $47.10 per metric ton of carbon dioxide2 in 2021. A new study described in Cleaner Production Journal Explores the cost of operating a methanol system using various capture solvents developed by PNNL, and that figure has now dropped to just under $39 per metric ton of CO22.
We looked at three companies2“Binding solvents in this new study,” said chemical engineer Yuan Jiang, who led the evaluation. We found that they capture more than 90 percent of the carbon that passes through them, and they do so at about 75 percent of the cost of conventional materials. Capture technology.
Different systems can be used depending on the nature of the factory or furnace. But no matter the setting, solvents are central. In these systems, solvents wash over carbon dioxide2– Enrichment of the flue gas before it is emitted, leaving behind carbon dioxide2 Molecules are now bound within this liquid.
Production of methanol from carbon monoxide2 Not new. But the ability to capture carbon and then convert it into methanol in one continuous flowing system is. Capture and transformation have traditionally occurred as two distinct steps, separated by the unique, non-complementary chemistry of each process.
“We are finally making sure that a technology can do both steps and do them both well,” Hildebrandt said, adding that traditional conversion technology usually requires very high purity carbon dioxide.2. The new system is the first to produce methanol from “dirty” carbon dioxide.2.
Request to reduce tomorrow’s emissions
carbon dioxide capture process2 And turning it into methanol is not carbon dioxide2-Denial. The carbon in methanol is released when it is burned or sequestered when the methanol is converted into materials with a longer life. Hildebrandt said the technology “paves the way” for the important work of keeping carbon bound both inside the materials and out of the atmosphere.
Other target materials include polyurethanes found in adhesives, coatings, foam insulation, and polyesters, which are widely used in fabrics for textiles. Once the researchers have finished with the chemistry behind the carbon dioxide conversion,2 In materials that keep them out of the atmosphere for climate-relevant time scales, an extensive network of capture systems could be on hand to trigger such reactions.
Instead of today’s chimneys, Heldebrant envisions carbon dioxide2 Refineries built into or next to power plants, where carbon dioxide is2– Products containing products can be made on site. “We are at a tipping point,” Hildebrandt and colleagues wrote in a recent article in the journal. Chemical sciences“where we can continue to use a homogeneous 20th century CCT infrastructure or we can begin to transition to a new 21st century paradigm for solvent-based CCT technologies.”
This technology is available for licensing. Please contact Sara Hunt, Director of Marketing at PNNL, to find out more.
This work was supported by the Department of Energy’s Technology Commercialization Fund, Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, and Southern California Gas. Part of the work was performed at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science user facility at PNNL.