In Washington, the US Department of Energy announced the award of $228 million, including $122 million to establish an Energy Innovation Hub aimed at developing revolutionary methods to generate fuels directly from sunlight, and $106 million for six projects that convert industrial CO2 emissions into fuel, plastics, cement, and fertilizers.
The Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub is one of three Hubs that will receive funding in FY10. The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), to be led by the Cal Tech in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The goal of the Hub is to develop an integrated solar energy-to-chemical fuel conversion system and move this system from the bench-top discovery phase to a scale where it can be commercialized. JCAP research will be directed at the discovery of the functional components necessary to assemble a complete artificial photosynthetic system: light absorbers, catalysts, molecular linkers, and separation membranes. The Hub will then integrate those components into an operational solar fuel system and develop scale-up strategies to move from the laboratory toward commercial viability. In addition to the major partners, Cal Tech and Berkeley Lab, other participating institutions include SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford, California; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University of California, Irvine; and the University of California, San Diego.
The $106 million for CO2-to-products grants will be matched by $156 million in private cost shares. The projects were initially selected for a first phase funding in October 2009 as part of a $1.4 billion effort to capture CO2 from industrial sources for storage or beneficial use. The selected projects now enter a second phase in which researchers design, construct, and operate their innovations at pilot-scale and evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of applying them commercially.
Two of the six projects involve the conversion of CO2 to biotech products. The projects selected include:
Alcoa (Alcoa Center, Pa.)—DOE Share: $11,999,359. Alcoa’s pilot-scale process will demonstrate the high efficiency conversion of flue gas CO2 into soluble bicarbonate and carbonate using an in-duct scrubber system featuring an enzyme catalyst. The bicarbonate/carbonate scrubber blow down can be sequestered as solid mineral carbonates after reacting with alkaline clay, a by-product of aluminum refining. The carbonate product can be utilized as construction fill material, soil amendments, and green fertilizer. Alcoa will demonstrate and optimize the process at their Point Comfort, Texas aluminum refining plant.
Novomer (Ithaca, N.Y.)—DOE Share: $18,417,989. Teaming with Albemarle Corporation and the Eastman Kodak Co., Novomer will develop a process for converting waste CO2 into a number of polycarbonate products (plastics) for use in the packaging industry. Novomer’s novel catalyst technology enables CO2 to react with petrochemical epoxides to create a family of thermoplastic polymers that are up to 50 percent by weight CO2. The project has the potential to convert CO2 from an industrial waste stream into a lasting material that can be used in the manufacture of bottles, films, laminates, coatings on food and beverage cans, and in other wood and metal surface applications. Novomer has secured site commitments in Rochester, NY, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Orangeburg, SC and Ithaca, NY where Phase 2 work will be performed.
Skyonic (Austin, Texas)—DOE Share: $25,000,000. Skyonic Corporation will continue the development of SkyMine mineralization technology—a potential replacement for existing scrubber technology. The SkyMine process transforms CO2 into solid carbonate and/or bicarbonate materials while also removing sulfur oxides, nitrogen dioxide, mercury and other heavy metals from flue gas streams of industrial processes. Solid carbonates are ideal for long-term, safe aboveground storage without pipelines, subterranean injection, or concern about CO2 re-release to the atmosphere. The project team plans to process CO2-laden flue gas from a Capital Aggregates, Ltd. cement manufacturing plant in San Antonio, Texas.
Calera (Los Gatos, Calif.)—DOE Share: $19,895,553. Calera Corporation is developing a process that directly mineralizes CO2 in flue gas to carbonates that can be converted into useful construction materials. An existing CO2 absorption facility for the project is operational at Moss Landing, Calif., for capture and mineralization. The project team will complete the detailed design, construction, and operation of a building material production system that at smaller scales has produced carbonate-containing aggregates suitable as construction fill or partial feedstock for use at cement production facilities. The building material production system will ultimately be integrated with the absorption facility to demonstrate viable process operation at a significant scale.
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