Mopping up industry CO2 with a clay sponge



A process which will use clay-based 'sponges'  to capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) waste from a wide range of industries is being developed by a consortium led by Heriot-Watt.

We hope to………produce a system which is both cost effective and environmentally sound. 
Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer

While much attention has been focussed on CO2 produced by energy providers, industrial processes account for 25% of total EU CO2 emissions. As they are already operating very close to their efficiency limits, capturing emissions will be an important element for governmental and international emission reduction targets. The UK government, for example, has an ambitious target to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.

Industry, however, tends to produce CO2 at a smaller scale than power plants, which means different challenges for CO2 capture in a cost effective manner.

The new process will not only involve a special clay-based material, called hydrotalcite, to capture the CO2, but will then use waste heat from the original industrial process itself to extract the concentrated CO2 from the hydrotalcite, after which it can be sent for utilisation or storage.  The project will also investigate novel fluidised bed configurations, with 3D printed test micro-beds giving flexibility of design and followed by large scale testing.

This multidisciplinary collaboration brings together leading teams from Heriot-Watt University, Newcastle University and University of Hull with industrial partners covering the breadth of the sectors impacted. The project is led by Heriot-Watt's Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer together with Dr Susana Garcia and Prof Graeme White from the Institute of Mechanical, Process and Energy Engineering, and has received £1m funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Professor Maroto-Valer, holder of the Robert M Buchan Chair in Sustainable Energy Engineering at Heriot-Watt, said, “This funding will allow us to bring together a range of interdisciplinary expertise and use novel materials to solve a real and pressing issue in an energy efficient and cost sensitive manner.

“We believe that industry is open to the benefits of carbon capture and storage, but are deterred by inefficiencies and cost implications of some traditional systems. We hope to bring our range of expertise to bear on these issues and produce a system which is both cost effective and environmentally sound.”