Carbon capture innovation could slash energy costs by 80%

Power plants and other industrial producers of CO2 may soon be able to capture their emissions using 80% less energy, thanks to a new carbon capture technology being developed by General Electric (GE).

A team of GE scientists has received a $1m grant from the US Government to develop their technology, which they call “CO2 capture in a bottle”.

The solution uses an amino silicone compound which attaches itself to carbon dioxide at 105 degrees fahrenheit. When heated another hundred degrees, the amino silicone releases the CO2, which can then be removed and piped away for storage.

Unlike conventional carbon capture methods, the GE solution doesn’t use water to help capture the CO2.

“If you need to boil water to drive off the CO2, you are facing an enormous energy drain,” said GE scientist Robert Perry. “The existing technology will increase your cost of electricity by 80%”.

Scaling up

This conventional method, known as oxy-combustion, also increases water consumption per MW of electrical output by up to 90%.

The funding, from the US Department of Energy (DoE), will allow GE to develop its new technology to prepare it for large-scale pilot testing. If successful, the project could be eligible for Phase 2 funding which would see the technology tested at an industrial scale by mid-2016.

GE is one of 8 companies to receive a share of $25m to advance their carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. A separate round of DoE funding this week saw five universities receive a share of $7m to test the feasibility of producing fresh water from brine at carbon storage sites.

Domestic plan

In the UK, politician have also been taking steps to develop the still-nascent technology, with a Labour-led coalition of Lords adding an amendment to the Energy Bill requiring oil and gas companies operating in the UK to pay a CCS tax.

The argument behind the policy is that CCS is an orphan technology, with no specific stakeholder willing to invest enough to properly develop it. CCS is described as some experts as the best way to decarbonise British industry, but by others as surplus to requirements.

The UK Government is currently considering bids from Peterhead’s gas-fired power station in Aberdeenshire and the Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire as part of a £1bn competition to encourage the development of CCS . A final decision is not expected until 2016.

Brad Allen

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