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Possible industrial use of carbon capture tech

Media Release
October 9 2009

Discovery paves way for industrial use of carbon capture technology Industrial Research Ltd (IRL) has made a breakthrough that enables the world’s most efficient carbon dioxide capture technology to become commercially viable. IRL Research Scientist Robert Holt is leading the multi-disciplinary team that is investigating the development of a cost-effective enhancement to an existing technique that uses limestone for the capture of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power combustors.

An emerging technology considered essential in the fight against rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide capture and sequestration promises to enable a significant reduction in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from industrial processes such as coal-fired power plants. The captured CO2 is sequestered, which means that it is stored underground in suitable geological formations.

The process is designed to capture carbon dioxide from coal fired power stations and other industries that emit significant amounts of the greenhouse gas.

IRL has been awarded $350,000 over three years by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology to further develop its technology.

The lime cycling process uses limestone, a relatively abundant and inexpensive material. It is heated to around 900 degrees centigrade to become lime, which is a very effective material for absorbing carbon dioxide.

When post-combustion flue gas is passed through the lime in a fluidised bed, the CO2 is captured. The process is then reversed to transform the lime back into limestone, which is then used again to capture more CO2.

The 95 per cent pure CO2 that is produced can be compressed to about 3% of its original volume and can then be stored efficiently or used in another industrial process. This process has been known for many years but until now it has not been efficient enough to be considered commercially applicable.

“Every time the lime is re-used, its ability to absorb the gas declines. This is the result of the pores on the lime surface closing over. Lime absorption slows so much on successive cycles that this technique is not commercially viable,” says Mr Holt.

The IRL team confirmed that exposing the lime to steam reopens its pore structure and enables it to absorb CO2 efficiently again.

“Our big breakthrough was the discovery of a way of thermally treating the lime, after it had been hydrated, so that we could also maintain its activity and structural integrity. This is key in an industrial context because it means the lime can be used 100 times before it breaks down significantly.” The IRL team has patented its novel reactivation process and hopes the practical implementation of the technology will be less than two years away.

“We have estimated that our technique will reduce CO2 capture costs by up to 70 per cent. We are currently seeking a commercialisation partner to take this technology and apply it in an industrial context,” says Mr Holt.

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