Today we hear from Cambridge Carbon Capture, a clean tech company developing a process to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and turn them into a lightweight, fire-and-water-resistant product that can be used in building materials.
The UK-based firm has developed CO2LOC, which combines two distinct stages: the production of low-cost consumables and the CO2 capture itself.
The first stage involves the low energy digestion of silicate minerals with sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to produce low-cost magnesium hydroxide (MgOH2) for the carbon capture stage. By products from this initial process include silicon dioxide and a number of trace metals.
The second stage is where CO2 capture occurs: the exhaust gas is bubbled through a reaction column, in which the MgOH2 reacts with the CO2 to produce magnesium carbonate (MgCO3). MgCO3 is then filtered out, forming a rock-like substance, permanently storing the sequestered carbon in solid form.
In this exclusive interview with Cambridge Carbon Capture, CEO Michael Evans tells gasworld about what role the company’s technology will play in tackling climate change, highlights from 2019, as well as the current scale of carbon capture and storage use globally.
Gasworld (GW): To start, could you tell us a little about Cambridge Carbon Capture and its technology?
Michael Evans (ME): Cambridge Carbon Capture (CCC) is an award-winning early-stage clean technology venture company based in Cambridge, UK.
CCC is developing CO2LOC technology, a breakthrough solution to industrial CO2 capture and utilisation, based upon IP-protected advanced CO2 mineralisation technology.
CCC’s processes produce a number of valuable by products such as metals, silica and construction materials whilst permanently sequestering CO2.
Revenues from the sale of these by products have the potential of more than offsetting the cost of carbon capture. CO2LOC technology can capture CO2 for a profit.
GW: What role will Cambridge Carbon Capture’s technology play in tackling climate change?
ME: One of the main barriers to CO2 emissions reduction from industry and the power sector is that current technology solutions such as carbon capture and storage add cost.
CCC’s technology captures the CO2 and permanently stores it as a solid mineral by product which has commercial value.
Revenues from the sale of this material and a number of other valuable by products produced by our process have the potential of more than offsetting the cost of capturing the CO2, resulting in net profits thereby removing this key barrier to emissions reduction.
Once we can demonstrate that viable businesses can be established that permanently sequesters CO2 from industrial processes, we will attract significant investment leading to rapid deployment of the technology and significant reductions in CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.
Additionally, when our technology is deployed alongside biogas production and other biomass energy sources, we can offer negative emissions, effectively drawing CO2 out of the atmosphere.
GW: What are the company’s top stories from 2019?
ME: This year we have seen a significant increase in interest in our technology, particularly from the industrial and finance sectors.
This has led to a contract with a significant energy utility company to develop and trial a demonstrator of our technology and also to the development of relationships with major construction materials manufacturers to develop new low carbon construction materials using the by-products from our process.
GW: What is the current scale of carbon capture and storage use, globally and in the UK?
ME: According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there is a need for rapid scale-up of CCUS deployment, from around 30 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 currently captured each year to 2,300 Mt per year by 2040.
Demonstration projects for carbon capture and geological storage (CCS) have been running for many years and the technology is very well understood.
Carbon capture and utilisation is different to CCS as the captured CO2 is used rather than stored.
Source: Cambridge Carbon Capture
There are many technologies aimed at using the CO2 to typically manufacture synthetic fuels, produce base chemicals and to make construction materials.
Ironically, currently the largest use of CO2 is for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) where liquified CO2 is injected into depleted oil wells or into oil bearing shale to liberate hard to reach oil reserves.
There are a number of early demonstration projects in the UK and the UK currently leads the world in innovation in this field.
However, as with solar, wind and tidal turbine technologies, other countries such as the US and China are likely to steal this lead due to the UK’s inability to support early stage high risk technologies through grants and early investment, commonly referred to as the ‘valley of death’.
GW: Finally, if you had one thing on your bucket list for the gases industry, what would it be and why?
ME: We absolutely need to hit net zero by 2050 if we are to prevent dangerous climate heating. Accepting this, the gas sector in its current form will not exist past 2050.
As a consequence, investments in gas distribution infrastructure and gas fired capital equipment will need to be amortised over shorter and shorter time scales and decommissioning costs need to be factored into the gas industry today.
This should be of great concern to the entire gas industry and maximum effort and investment must be directed at technologies such as mass conversion to hydrogen with carbon capture utilisation and storage in order to ensure there is a future for the industry.
Therefore, my bucket list for the gas industry would be to invest heavily in infrastructure and technology necessary to convert natural gas to hydrogen and then convert the distribution system to transport hydrogen.
The sector must also work alongside other industrial sectors and the transport sector to deliver large scale hydrogen infrastructure to support the ‘Hydrogen Economy’.
The 2019 in Review Series continues tomorrow with Dennis Richardson, Sales, Engineering and Marketing Manager at Thermco Instrument Corporation.