No-pressure way to capture CO2

Carbon capture and storage has become the latest techno-political issue in the fight against global warming – in no small part because technologies for nabbing carbon dioxide emissions in a cost-effective way before they leave the power plant are still in their infancy.

Now, researchers at the University of Wyoming say they have developed a way to scrub at least 90 percent of the CO2 from power-plant emissions and at a far cheaper cost than other proposed approaches.

Once the technique is refined – it relies on activated carbon or charcoal filters – it could be applied cost-effectively on existing plants as well as included in new designs, the team says.

So far, the results that appear in the latest issue of the journal Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research are based on lab tests, although the team alludes to ongoing field tests.

The team estimates that with this method, recovered CO2 would cost as little as $20 a ton, compared with nearly $40 a ton for other techniques.

One reason for the lower cost: the filters operate at low pressure, according to Maciej Radosz, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and head of the university’s Soft Materials Laboratory. Other techniques require the flue gas to be pressurized before the gas is run through CO2 separators. The Wyoming group’s approach would require pressurization of CO2 later on, before it’s transported by truck or pipeline.

Still, the group holds that the simple materials used in this new method – free of a need for compressors or refrigerators as part of the extraction process – should make it an attractive option. The group has applied for a patent on its approach.

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