Enzymes aid more cost-effective carbon capture

June 24, 2010   by PLANT STAFF

QUEBEC CITY: CO2 Solution Inc. has announced it’s making some headway with a proprietary enzyme-based technology that could potentially shrink the size of carbon capture equipment by more than 90% while reducing the amount of energy used to process CO2 produced by industry.

The Quebec City clean tech company harnesses the carbonic anhydrase (CA) enzyme (which helps mammals manage carbon dioxide during respiration) to act as an industrial lung within a reactor that captures CO2 from industrial flue gases. The enzyme then assists in the production of pure CO2 that is either stored underground or used in oil recovery. 

Working with Dutch scrubbing technology experts Procede Group B.V., CO2 Solution said lab scale testing and process modelling has demonstrated the potential to reduce the size of CO2 absorber columns at coal-fired power plants by more than 90% when the enzymatic technology is used with MDEA, a solvent used for treating natural gas.

“Achievement of these positive results mark another milestone towards the commercialization of our technology in terms of validating its potential to enable significant cost reductions,” said Glenn Kelly, CO2 Solution’s president and CEO.

MDEA is generally regarded as too kinetically limited for CO2 capture from power plant flue gas and other low-pressure gas effluent streams, but the company said by employing the enzyme, the rate of CO2 absorption in MDEA was increased more than 10 fold, reducing the height of the modelled CO2 absorption column from more than 200 metres to approximately 20 metres. And by taking advantage of the low-energy properties of MDEA, solvent regeneration and process energy consumption could be reduced by approximately 30% compared to the use of the monethanolamine (MEA) process, the current industry standard.

“These results point to a significant reduction in capital and operating costs of commercial scale carbon capture at typical coal-fired power plants or other large emitters, while utilizing a widely available commercial solvent,” said the company in a statement.

There are other benefits: use of the enzyme is energy-neutral to the process; the use of MDEA lowers corrosiveness and volatility; and relatively small quantities of the enzyme catalyst are necessary to achieve the desired rate increase.

This technology is being developed with Codexis Inc., a provider of advanced carbonic anhydrases for energy, pharmaceutical and environmental industries based in Redwood City, Calif.

CO2 Solution is presently commercializing its technology for coal-fired power generation, the oil sands and other CO2-intensive industries.

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