Capturing Carbon: the role of biocatalysts and biofuels

August 6, 2013 |

akermin-HQCarbon capture: much talked-about, less seen.

Could biocatalysts and biofuels provide the kicker needed to make this class of technologies feasible?

New news and data from Akermin suggests that bio may be just the ticket.

In Missouri this week, Akermin, a biocatalyst company developing technology to improve the removal of carbon dioxide from industrial gas streams, reached the 1600 hour operational milestone at its pilot plant, which is capturing more than 80% CO2 from a coal-fired power plant gas exhaust stream.

So, why is this significant — and what is the role of biocatalysts and biofuels in the capture and use of carbon dioxide?

By now, Digest readers might well conclude, without extensive discussion, that carbon dioxide capture represents not only a potential value stream for industrial sites that generate it — but that CO2 capture represents a significant “at birth” means of addressing CO2 build-up in the atmosphere — linked by a consensus of researchers (though not unanimously) to climate change and global warming. Thereby, it also represents a “life-saving” technology to power-generation feedstocks, such as coal, that generate significant CO2 streams and are disadvantaged under most, if not all, greenhouse gas regulation schemes.

The problem is cost.

For example, a Congressional Budget Office study of Carbon Capture & Storage technologies concluded that the technology is not (now) economically feasible without a significant increase in the carbon price — as high as $40+ per tonne.

But that is capture and storage — let’s look at capture and re-use, which is where biofuels and biocatalysts may well play a role. For example, with technologies based on algae, or technologies such as Joule that make fuels directly from CO2, water and sunlight. Enhanced oil recovery is another use for industrial CO2 — if the oil wells are close enough to the power plants to minimize transport costs.

In today’s Digest, we look at the economics of CO2, the composition of flue gas, the role of the biocatalyst, the role of biofuels, the scale of potential operations, next steps — and ultimately, “feasible or not feasible?” All available via the page links below.

A printer-friendly version of this article is available here.

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