Carbon in, clean air out
Carbonated water - photo credit Congerdesign & Free Images - Pixabay
Welcome to the twentieth edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
This week I explain what carbonate is and what products use it as an ingredient. I also look at innovative carbon capture and utilisation companies such as Carbon Capture Machine and Carbon Engineering and the technologies they are using.
In chemistry, a salt or carbonic acid that contains carbonate ion is defined as a carbonate. Carbonation is the process of increasing carbonate or biocarbonate ions in water to create carbonated water (sparkling water).
In geology, the term ‘carbonate’ is used to describe carbonate minerals and carbonate rock. The most common form of carbonate rock is calcium carbonate. Limestone is primarily composed of calcium carbonate.
Uses for Carbonate
Since ancient times humans have found multiple practical uses for carbonates in everyday life. Carbonates, and sodium carbonate, in particular, have been used as inputs in the production of the following:
Carbon Capture Machine
Carbon Capture Machine (CCM) is a multidisciplinary team of academics, engineers, and industrialists led by Dr. Mohammed Salah-Eldin Imbabi at the University of Aberdeen. The University of Aberdeen in partnership with Graham Engineering (Canada), LaFargeHolcim (Switzerland) and Omya A.G. (Switzerland) has developed a technology that converts Co2 emissions captured from smoke stacks into solid carbonate. The carbonate is then used to make animal feedstocks. CCM have progressed to the semi-final stage of the NRG COSIA Xprize.
A Broadbent Institute report commissioned in October 2015 highlighted multiple benefits that can accrue from the technology by 2030, these include:
Carbon Engineering Ltd (CEL) with headquarters in Calgary, Canada have constructed a direct air capture pilot plant at the site of an old Nexen chemicals facility in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. Investors in this project include Bill Gates, Murray Edwards and Emissions Reduction Alberta. Carbon Engineering is a finalist in Richard Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge.
The pilot plant sucks CO2 from the atmosphere, moves it through equipment where the CO2 is absorbed by a liquid solution and converted into calcium carbonate pellets. The solid carbonate is then heated at temperatures of between 800 and 900 degrees Celsius to allow the separation of the pure carbon. The plant can capture up to a tonne of CO2 per day. In an interview with CBC in October 2015, CEL’s CEO Adrian Corless emphasized the potential to expand this technology on a large scale basis as the equipment required already exists across other industries.
CEL’s next innovation will be to combine the pure carbon captured with hydrogen generated through clean sources to produce diesel and jet fuel.
The possibilities for the conversion of captured carbon into carbonates is great and is recognized by the shortlisting of CCM and CEL for prestigious awards. What is of great appeal is the scalability of this technology and the fact that this equipment is already in use in other industries.
Next week’s blog will profile Sweden and their efforts to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets.