EU-backed carbon capture utilisation plant opens in UK

The UK's first carbon capture demonstrator plant has opened today (1 March), providing a new treatment that can convert carbon dioxide into polyol compounds that can be used in various manufacturing processes.

The first-of-its-kind plant has opened in Runcorn near Liverpool. Owned and operated by Econic Technologies, the plant can handle all production process for CO2 conversion, all the way through to final product treatment.

Econic Technologies believes that by 2027, its technologies could help manufacturers save 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually – the equivalent to taking two million cars off the road. The polyols can be used in products including bedding, footwear and vehicles.

“The demonstration plant is essential to helping our pioneering catalyst technologies develop as they move out of the lab and into the factory,” Econic Technologies’ chief executive Rowena Sellens said.

“The interest from polyol manufacturers and downstream polyol users in the plant has been overwhelming already. We are extremely confident that once we start demonstrating what our technology can do, we will help catalyse a transformation in attitude when it comes to the positive potential of carbon.”

Traditionally, the creation of polyols from CO2 could only be performed in plants at high pressure and high temperatures. By utilising innovating catalysts, Econic Technologies can produce CO2-based products at lower temperatures and pressures, saving costs on heat and energy in the process.

The catalyst technology was developed at Imperial College London, which has since been tailored by Econic Technologies for industrial systems. As much as 50% of captured CO2 can be used as a manufacturing feedstock. Econic Technologies claim that manufacturers can achieve cost savings of 30% on raw material sourcing as well as significantly lowering emissions.

The company has added 12 new jobs at the demonstration plant, since it relocated from London to Cheshire in 2017. The plant has received financial support through the European Horizon 2020 SME Award, and has since closed a major £7m funding round with OGCI Ventures.

National plans

Research suggests that carbon capture technologies could boost the UK economy by more than £160bn, but the Government has faced criticism for seemingly abandoning policies geared towards capture, including the £1bn CCS fund back in 2015.

Last year, Government officials revealed that a taskforce would be convened to deliver carbon capture and storage plants more cost effectively.

As part of the Clean Growth Strategy, more than £2.5bn will be spent on low-carbon innovation between 2015 and 2021 to boost job growth and foster new technologies in low-carbon businesses and supply chains. This includes existing Government spending of up to £505m from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Energy Innovation Programme. Up to £20m will be spent on a CCS demonstration programme.

Matt Mace

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