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Capturing CO2 using novel direct air capture for storage or reuse 

Project Summary

Industry context/Challenge: 

With an estimated 10 gigatonnes of CO2 per year needed to be removed by 2050 to reach global warming targets, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies like direct air capture (DAC) for large scale deployment of CO2 removal, will be required. 

With the lower concentrations of CO2 in air, relative to pre or post combustion capture from industrial processes, and the high energy penalty of extracting the CO2, the cost of DAC needs to decrease dramatically for it to be a practical solution.  

Project overview: 

The novel SMART-DAC process aims to capture CO2 directly from air using a two-step process: 1) absorption of CO2 from air by membrane gas absorption (MGA) using a potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution absorbent and 2) regeneration of the absorbent by electrodialysis bi-polar membranes (EDBP). 

MGA uses a membrane to keep gas and liquid phases separated while allowing mass transfer between gas and liquid phases. The KOH absorbs the CO2 from the air as it passes through the membrane and on contact with CO2 converts into potassium carbonate/bicarbonate (K2CO3/KHCO3). In the regeneration step the potassium (bi)carbonate is converted back into KOH for reuse as an absorbent and the CO2 is concentrated and separated out.   

Wind circulation will be used, as opposed to turbines used in current DAC systems, for contacting and the flow of air through the membranes. Power, in the form of electricity, will only be required for the electrochemical regeneration process of the used absorption material. Average energy consumption for the regeneration unit has been estimated to be approximately 37 kWh.  

A ‘smart’ tanker storage system has been built into the design to manage operational down time and periods of low passage of air through the system to enable continuous and efficient operations. This will also offer the flexibility in the system to run in periods of low-cost surplus electricity or by direct use of green electricity from solar or wind powered sources. 

To achieve a minimum of 100 tonnes CO2eq per annum the capacity of the pilot plant has been designed to capture 0.314 tonnes CO2 per day. This is based on 350 operational days, including a 10% overdesign margin, giving a 110 tonnes per annum CO2 capture capacity. 

Industry value:  

With an estimated 10 gigatonnes of CO₂ removal per year required by 2050, potentially doubling to 20 gigatonnes by the end of the century  

Direct Air Capture technologies will play a key role in delivering net zero objectives through mitigating CO2 emissions. 

The scalability and sustainability of the SMART-DAC system makes it an affordable solution to small, medium, and large-scale capture of CO₂. 

Lessons learned: 

Application for Phase 2 funding from BEIS for the GGR Innovation programme. If successful a detailed design study will be completed to further the maturity of the proposed design parameters sufficiently to allow procurement, construction of the pilot plant to operate oat a capacity of at least 100 tonnes CO2 per annum.   

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