Image courtesy of melancholic optimist via flickr
Carbon capture and storage (see here and here for a primer) has always been a tough proposition: Scientists and environmentalists worry about the potential leakage from storage sites and its additional fuel requirements, while energy utilities complain about the excessive costs and risks associated with the technology. A new technology developed by scientists at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, could help ease its adoption by significantly reducing the cost factor.
Currently, companies typically pass their carbon dioxide emissions through a solution containing monoethanolamine (MEA) to bind the gas. The process of heating the saturated MEA solution, which is necessary to release CO2 and restore the material, incurs huge costs; it is believed to drive the cost of recovering CO2 to around $47 a ton.Maciej Radosz and his colleagues at UW decided to use activated carbon and other carbon-rich materials -- much cheaper alternatives -- to adsorb the CO2. While previous studies had suggested that high pressure conditions were needed for the carbon-rich materials to work effectively, Radosz intuited that separation could also occur under low pressure/temperature conditions -- a gamble that paid off when he put it into practice.
The researchers are now working on scaling up the process and on making the carbon materials more selective; if successful, they believe it could drop the cost of CCS to $20 a ton, or less than half current prices. Yet doing so could prove tricky: As we've mentioned before, scaling up such technologies can often reveal hidden costs, environmental and other.
Via ::ScienceNOW: Catching a Climate Offender (news website)