In an age where global carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have crossed a worrying milestone, carbon capture is becoming an increasingly important aspect of greenhouse gas removal and decarbonisation technologies. Carbon capture and its subsequent storage (CCS) is recognised as a key factor to tackle global warming – by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. Figures by the International Energy Agency suggest that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) could contribute to a 19% reduction in global CO2 emissions by 2050. It is a technology where the waste carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed or separated from large scale sources, such as fossil fuel (coal and gas) power plants or heavy industry. According to the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, CCS is a technology that typically captures up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately, current CCS processes can increase industrial costs substantially, add complexity or introduce environmental risks.
Building on the University’s energy expertise at Thornton Science Park, carbon capture experts within the institution’s Department of Chemical Engineering are working closely with start-up energy company PMW Research Ltd, which is based on site in the High Growth Centre. PMW Research’s Director, Paul Willson, is collaborating with Dr Carolina Font Palma from the University to lead the Research and Development of a new technology for Carbon Capture patented by sister company PMW Technology Ltd – continuous cryogenic separation.
Removing carbon dioxide cryogenically means that CO2 can be captured in a solid form. When exhaust gases containing carbon dioxide are cooled to a low temperature (around minus 100 degrees) the CO2 is deposited as a frost, which makes it easier to separate from the exhaust gases. The process goes through different stages – once the CO2 frost is formed, it is carried into a separate section where it is warmed to recover the CO2 as a liquid. This can then be collected locally before it is transported for injection deep underground for storage. The process’s patented concept is called A3C technology.
The collaboration project includes a PhD partnership part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the University through the Eco-Innovation Cheshire and Warrington programme (run in partnership with Lancaster University). The PhD project is called ‘Advanced carbon capture by desublimation’ and aims to demonstrate and evaluate cryogenic CO2 capture to refine our knowledge of the subtleties of the process.
Welcoming the partnership, Dr Carolina Font Palma said: “We are extremely pleased to have been involved in this carbon capture initiative from its concept and have developed other closely linked projects. I am delighted to be part of a project where research is applied in an innovative solution to reduce CO2 emissions.”
PhD student David Cann graduated recently with an MEng in Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham. After a competitive selection process, David was chosen because of his strong academic background and commitment to carbon capture development. He explains why he chose this project and the University of Chester: “I feel privileged to be part of such innovative research from the very beginning – it’s very exciting and its impact has such potential. The focus will be designing and building an in-house apparatus (a testing rig) to demonstrate a proof of concept. This will go a step further on the path to making a new and innovative carbon capture technology a reality.”
PMW Research Director Paul Willson added: “I am delighted to be working with the University team at Thornton who contribute outstanding technical skills, ambition and commitment to an exciting but demanding project. We hope to show that the simple low hazard A3C process offers a more economic option for carbon capture.”
The University is also collaborating with PMW Technology and a range of other academic and industrial partners to work on a one-year techno-economic feasibility study on the process, which is funded by Innovate UK and was launched recently