CO2CRC and the University of Melbourne have conducted a successful trial of a newly developed membrane contactor technology. This could lead to substantial cost reductions in commercial-scale post-combustion capture (PCC) as part of the emissions reduction technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

At the Vales Point power plant in NSW, the research team conducted a world’s first continuous pilot scale demonstration of capturing carbon dioxide using membrane gas-solvent contactor technology, while simultaneously undertaking carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and solvent regeneration, which makes the technology much easier to implement.

Membrane gas-solvent contactors are a hybrid technology in which traditional solvent absorption occurs within a membrane module. The technology involves the transfer of CO2 from the flue gas and through a hollow-fibre membrane, where it is chemically absorbed into the solvent. This takes advantage of the highly selective nature of solvent absorption technology, while the membrane acts to physically separate the solvent and gas phases. The process enables more CO2 to be quickly transferred into the solvent phase requiring significantly reduced equipment sizes when compared with conventional CO2 absorption systems.

“By using membrane contactors we found the equipment size for carbon capture can be reduced by up to two thirds. This would mean much reduced capital cost requirements for commercial-scale PCC,” said Dr Colin Scholes, lead researcher for this project and Senior Researcher at The University of Melbourne.

“It’s also important to note that we used readily available commercial membrane contactors. This means the process can be readily scaled up and demonstrated in an industrially relevant environment,” he said.

The research also addressed aspects of the ‘energy penalty’ associated with post combustion capture technology. Traditionally, the CO2 absorbing solvent is heated to release the CO2 – a process known as solvent regeneration or ‘stripping’. This requires an exogenous energy source which makes up the bulk of the operational cost of the capture process. CO2CRC investigated the use of membrane contactors for the stripping process and found it to be a less expensive way of regenerating the solvent.

“The technology combines the advantages of solvents and membranes to deliver a compact and potentially lower-cost carbon capture process. It promises a significant change in how CO2 is captured in post-combustion settings. The challenge ahead is to progress the exciting findings from the pilot-scale phase through to larger scale modules with state-of-the-art membranes and solvents,” said Dr Matthias Raab, CO2CRC Chief Operating Officer.

“The end game is to develop a fully-tested, cost-competitive alternative to conventional capture technologies by significantly reducing the capital cost and operating expenditure for post combustion carbon capture.”

The research project was conducted by CO2CRC and the University of Melbourne with funding from the NSW Government’s Coal Innovation Fund.

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For more information please contact:
Roy Anderson, CO2CRC communications on 0435 474 342 or