The US Department of Energy has selected six projects for funding that aim to find ways of converting captured carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources into useful products such as fuel, plastics, cement, and fertilizers.
Funded with $106 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—matched with $156 million in private cost-share—the selections highlight the potential opportunity to use CO2 as an inexpensive raw material that can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions while producing useful by-products.
Converting captured CO2 into products such as chemicals, carbonates, plastics, fuels, building materials, and other commodities is an important aspect of carbon capture and storage technology, the DOE said. Converting CO2 into other useful forms can help reduce carbon emissions in areas where long-term storage of CO2 is not practical.
DOE anticipates that large volumes of CO2 will be available as fossil fuel-based power plants and other CO2-emitting industries are equipped with CO2 emissions control technologies to comply with regulatory requirements.
The six projects were initially selected for a first-phase funding in October 2009 as part of a $1.4 billion effort to capture CO2 from industrial sources for storage or beneficial use. Over the succeeding months, the project teams have performed experiments on novel concepts and produced preliminary designs for pilot plants to study the feasibility of capturing and using CO2 exhausted from industrial processes. The selected projects now enter a second phase in which researchers design, construct, and operate their innovations at pilot-scale and evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of applying them commercially.
The projects selected to demonstrate the beneficial use of CO2 include:
Phycal, LLC (Highland Heights, OH) Phycal will complete development of an integrated system designed to produce liquid biocrude fuel from microalgae cultivated with captured CO2. The algal biocrude can be blended with other fuels for power generation or processed into a variety of renewable drop-in replacement fuels such as jet fuel and biodiesel. Phycal will design, build, and operate a CO2-to-algae-to-biofuels facility at a nominal thirty acre site in Central O’ahu (near Wahiawa and Kapolei), Hawaii. Hawaii Electric Company will qualify the biocrude for boiler use, and Tesoro will supply CO2 and evaluate fuel products. (DOE Share: $24,243,509)
Touchstone Research Laboratory Ltd. (Triadelphia, WV) This project will pilot-test an open-pond algae production technology that can capture at least 60% of flue gas CO2 from an industrial coal-fired source to produce biofuel and other high value co-products. A novel phase change material incorporated in Touchstone’s technology will cover the algae pond surface to regulate daily temperature, reduce evaporation, and control the infiltration of invasive species. Lipids extracted from harvested algae will be converted to a bio-fuel, and an anaerobic digestion process will be developed and tested for converting residual biomass into methane. The host site for the pilot project is Cedar Lane Farms in Wooster, Ohio. (DOE Share: $6,239,542)
Skyonic Corporation (Austin, TX) Skyonic Corporation will continue the development of SkyMine mineralization technology-a potential replacement for existing scrubber technology. The SkyMine process transforms CO2 into solid carbonate and/or bicarbonate materials while also removing sulfur oxides, nitrogen dioxide, mercury and other heavy metals from flue gas streams of industrial processes. Solid carbonates are ideal for long-term, safe aboveground storage without pipelines, subterranean injection, or concern about CO2 re-release to the atmosphere. The project team plans to process CO2-laden flue gas from a Capital Aggregates, Ltd. cement manufacturing plant in San Antonio, Texas. (DOE Share: $25,000,000)
Calera Corporation (Los Gatos, CA) Calera Corporation is developing a process that directly mineralizes CO2 in flue gas to carbonates that can be converted into useful construction materials. An existing CO2 absorption facility for the project is operational at Moss Landing, Calif., for capture and mineralization. The project team will complete the detailed design, construction, and operation of a building material production system that at smaller scales has produced carbonate-containing aggregates suitable as construction fill or partial feedstock for use at cement production facilities. The building material production system will ultimately be integrated with the absorption facility to demonstrate viable process operation at a significant scale. (DOE Share: $19,895,553)
Novomer Inc. (Ithaca, NY) Teaming with Albemarle Corporation and the Eastman Kodak Co., Novomer will develop a process for converting waste CO2 into a number of polycarbonate products (plastics) for use in the packaging industry. Novomer’s novel catalyst technology enables CO2 to react with petrochemical epoxides to create a family of thermoplastic polymers that are up to 50% by weight CO2. The project has the potential to convert CO2 from an industrial waste stream into a lasting material that can be used in the manufacture of bottles, films, laminates, coatings on food and beverage cans, and in other wood and metal surface applications. Novomer has secured site commitments in Rochester, NY, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Orangeburg, SC and Ithaca, NY where Phase 2 work will be performed. (DOE Share: $18,417,989)
Alcoa, Inc. (Alcoa Center, PA) Alcoa’s pilot-scale process will demonstrate the high efficiency conversion of flue gas CO2 into soluble bicarbonate and carbonate using an in-duct scrubber system featuring an enzyme catalyst. The bicarbonate/carbonate scrubber blow down can be sequestered as solid mineral carbonates after reacting with alkaline clay, a by-product of aluminum refining. The carbonate product can be utilized as construction fill material, soil amendments, and green fertilizer. Alcoa will demonstrate and optimize the process at their Point Comfort, Texas aluminum refining plant. (DOE Share: $11,999,359)