Reducing the carbon footprint

Friday October 9, 2015 13:30

How can we capture, transport and safely store the carbon dioxide generated by an industrial process? Various Dutch institutes have been conducting research on this during the past decade. Recently, ECN has designed an innovative technique to separate carbon dioxide from hydrogen. Our technique is now ready for testing on a larger scale. “This will really help major emitters of carbon dioxide reduce their carbon footprint.”

The capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) is itself not new, but conventional methods – such as wet scrubbing – are expensive and not very energy efficient. Eric van Dijk, senior researcher at ECN: “Often, a lot of energy is needed to separate carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Our goal was to reduce the costs of CO2 capture and make the process more energy efficient.” Based on years of targeted research, ECN has developed a vast amount of knowledge that can be of direct help to various sectors for reducing their carbon footprint. ECN’s expertise ranges from material development to process design, and from the testing of processes to reactor design.

Two energy-efficient methods
Within the Dutch research programme CATO, ECN has developed two techniques for CO2 capture. Eric: "One method uses membranes to separate pure hydrogen, leaving behind the carbon dioxide. This method is especially useful in the field of chemistry. The second method uses solid sorbents and is known as the Sorption Enhanced Water Gas Shift (SEWGS) technology. With this, ECN has achieved a significant breakthrough: additional energy consumption decreases by 50%, reducing the costs of capture by 40%, in comparison to current technologies. What remains behind is hydrogen. The technology is especially suitable for power plants that can burn the hydrogen to produce electricity. This is more energy-efficient and cheaper.”

Demonstrated in Sweden
The advantage of SEWGS technology has been established through various laboratory tests. Eric: “Now we are ready for a larger-scale trial to conclusively demonstrate the commercial benefits of this technology. This year, in cooperation with nine international partners, we plan to launch a pilot in the steel industry. Coal is still necessary for the production of steel. There are two possibilities for reducing the carbon footprint in this sector: building energy-efficient furnaces or capture of carbon dioxide. Naturally, the latter is the fastest method. In Sweden, we will set up an SEWGS installation near a steel company, where we will really prove the efficacy of this method in the coming years.”

Artist’s impression of an SEWGS installation on a commercial scale. The CO2 is captured in large reactor vessels.

Would you like to know more about the SEWGS technology? Watch this video or directly contact Eric van Dijk. He would be happy to discuss with you the potential opportunities for your sector.

Category: Oktober