What Can We Do with CO2 after We Capture It?

The US Government has at least twelve answers to this question.

This is the question the Federal government is asking six companies to demonstrate with $106 million in stimulus money.  Six companies will have to match the grants with $156 million in private investment on conversion projects.  Another six projects will receive $4.4 million in US DOE funding to demonstrate reuse applications for converted CO2.  These projects emerged from the $1.4 billion in first round of stimulus money devoted to capture CO2 from industrial processes and turn them into beneficial use.

The six conversion projects selected by the US Department of Energy include:[1]

  • Alcoa (DOE Share: $11,999,359)Alcoa will use its Point Comfort, Texas aluminum plant to demonstrate its proposed process for high efficiency conversion of flue gas CO2 into soluble bicarbonate and carbonate with an in-duct scrubber system and enzyme catalyst. The scrubber output is formed into solid mineral carbonates after reacting with alkaline clay, a by-product of aluminum refining. The carbonate product is then reused as construction fill material, soil amendments, and green fertilizer.
  • Calera Corp. (Los Gatos, Calif.) 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 (DOE Share: $18,417,989) of Ithaca, NY will demonstrate its process for converting waste CO2 into plastics for use in the packaging industry. Novomer’s technology uses CO2 to react with petrochemical epoxides to make thermoplastic polymers that are as much as 50% CO2 by weight. The project captures CO2 from an industrial waste stream and turns it into basic material to make bottles, films, laminates, coatings on food and beverage cans, and other applications. Novomer has partnered with Eastman Kodak and Albemarle Corp to use their facilities in Rochester, NY, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Orangeburg, SC for the project.
  • Phycal, LLC of Highland Heights, Ohio (DOE Share: $24,243,509) will test an integrated system to produce liquid biocrude from algae grown with captured CO2. The algal fuel can be blended with other fuels for power generation or processed into replacement fuels for jet fuel and biodiesel. Phycal will run the CO2-to-algae-to-biofuels facility 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
  • Skyonic Corp. of Austin, Texas (DOE Share: $25,000,000) use its SkyMine® mineralization technology—a potential replacement for existing scrubber technology to transform CO2 into solid carbonate or bicarbonate materials while removing sulfur oxides, nitrogen dioxide, mercury and other heavy metals from flue gas streams of industrial processes. Solid carbonates allow long-term, safe aboveground storage without pipelines, underground sequestration, or worry over CO2 leaking back into the atmosphere. The project will use CO2-laden flue gas from a Capital Aggregates, Ltd. Cement plant in San Antonio, Texas.
  • Touchstone Research Laboratory Ltd. of Triadelphia, W. VA (DOE Share: $6,239,542) will test an open-pond algae growing technology that capture and reuses up to 60% of flue gas CO2 from an industrial coal-fired source to produce biofuels. The Touchstone’s technology will cover the algae pond surface to regulate daily temperature, reduce evaporation, and control invasive species. Lipids from harvested algae are converted to biofuel, and an anaerobic digestion process will be tested to converting residual biomass into methane. The site for the project is Cedar Lane Farms in Wooster, Ohio.

The six reuse projects for transforming captured CO@ into more commercially useful products include:[2]

  • Brown University of Providence, R.I. (DOE share: $417,155; recipient share: $107,460; duration: 24 months) will use CO2 and ethylene as reactants to produce acrylate compounds with low-valent molybdenum catalysts for use in other products.
  • CCS Materials, Inc. of Piscataway, N.J. (DOE share: $794,000; recipient share: $545,100; duration: 36 months) will create an energy efficient, CO2-consuming inorganic binding material as a substitute for Portland cement (PC) in concrete.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Cambridge, MA (DOE share: $1,000,000; recipient share: $250,067; duration: 24 months) will research electrochemical technology that uses CO2 from emissions at power plants to produce useful commodity chemicals. This capture and convert process will produce chemicals to substitute for petroleum-derived products.
  • McGill University of Quebec, Canada (DOE share: $399,960; recipient share: $100,000; duration: 24 months) working with 3H Company (Lexington, Ky.), will develop a curing process using CO2 as a reactant for the precast concrete industry
  • PhosphorTech of Lithia Springs, GA (DOE share: $998,661; recipient share: $249,847; duration: 36 months) will demonstrate an electrochemical process using a light-harvesting CO2 catalyst to turn CO2 into produce useful commodities products such as methane gas.
  • Research Triangle Institute of Durham, N.C. (DOE share: $800,000; recipient share: $200,000; duration: 24 months) RTI will test the feasibility of producing carbon monoxide, by reducing CO2 using petcoke, sub-bituminous coal, lignite, and biomass to produce other marketable chemicals, such as aldehydes, ketones, carboxylic acids, anhydrides, esters, amides, imides, carbonates, and ureas.

This kind of basic research and development is a productive use of government R&D support for commercial applications.  It sure beats some of the ways stimulus money is being spent.

[1] http://fossil.energy.gov/news/techlines/2010/10027-DOE_Announces_Six_Projects_to_Conv.html

[2] http://www.carboncapturejournal.com/displaynews.php?NewsID=594&PHPSESSID=kul884p0sdoenqj47a3gngqum7