Breakthrough in CO2 removal technology
In the future, energy companies will be able to generate cleaner electricity or hydrogen from coal or natural gas at a lower cost thanks to new ECN technology. This perspective is coming into sight thanks to a breakthrough in the Sorption Enhanced Water Gas Shift (SEWGS) technology for removing CO2 from fossil fuels.
SEWGS is a relatively new technology that captures the CO2 of a fossil fuel before combustion, thus preventing its emission into the atmosphere. By combining chemical reactions and gas separation, CO is converted into CO2 and subsequently captured with adsorbents. The technology is very promising, but up to now it was much more expensive than existing separation methods. In the laboratory in Petten, researchers have recently succeeded in developing a new adsorbent that is able to absorb twice as much CO2 as previously used products. This makes the SEWGS technology much more efficient and hence more low-cost than the more conventional capture technologies. SEWGS enables CO2 capture at only € 17 per tonne, a price that is expected to decrease even further.
Artist’s impression of a SEWGS installation on commercial scale. Seven giant reactor vessels capture the CO2.
This discovery has been demonstrated in CAESAR, a European project in which ECN researchers have been collaborating with British, Norwegian and Italian researchers in the past four years in search of options for making the SEWGS technology more efficient. They focus on enhancing the reactor, the process and the sorbent. The CAESAR project is partly financed by the European Union. ECN is also working on the technology together with Dutch trade and industry in the framework of CATO-2, the national research programme for CO2 capture, transport and storage. The aim of the projects is to get clean, carbon free electricity production from fossil fuels within reach as a supplement to other clean energy technologies such as solar energy and wind energy.
A major step has now been made on this road. The SEWGS technology is ready to enter the next stage: demonstration in an industrial pilot set-up with a capacity of capturing about 35 tonnes of CO2 per day. This is 100 times less than the eventual commercial scale, but 200 times more than the laboratory set-up at ECN. ECN is looking for an industrial environment where such a pilot set-up can be realised.