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Innovative Concepts for Beneficial Reuse of Carbon Dioxide

Funding for 12 projects to test innovative concepts for the beneficial use of carbon dioxide (CO2) was announced by the U.S. Department of Energy. The awards are part of $1.4 billion in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for projects that will capture carbon dioxide from industrial sources.

These 12 projects will engage in a first phase feasibility study that will examine beneficial uses in a variety of ways, including mineralization to carbonates directly through conversion of CO2 in flue gas; the use of CO2 from power plants or industrial applications to grow algae/biomass; and conversion of CO2 to fuels and chemicals. Each project will be subject to further competitive evaluation in 2010 to determine a portfolio of projects that will be funded for design, construction, and testing.

The initial phase of these 12 projects includes $17.4 million in ARRA funding and $7.7 million in private funding for a total investment of $25.1 million. During a competitive Phase Two process, approximately $82.6 million in Recovery Act money will be awarded to the most promising of these projects to complete design, construction and testing of pilot systems.

Innovative concepts for beneficial CO2 use awards include:

  • Alcoa, Inc. (Alcoa, Pa.)—Alcoa, Inc., and its partners, U.S. Nels, CO2 Solutions Inc., and Strategic Solutions Inc., will capture and convert CO2 into mineral carbonates for reuse. Flue gas will be treated in a sodium alkali scrubber design, coupled with a carbonic anhydrase-based enzyme catalyst, to convert alkaline clay to carbonate-enhanced clay for soil remediation. (DOE share: $999,451)
  • Calera Corporation (Los Gatos, Calif.)—Calera will demonstrate an innovative process to directly mineralize CO2 in flue gas to carbonates and convert them to materials directly usable in the construction industry. Calera, along with Bechtel, EPRI, U.S. Concrete, and Khosla Ventures, will use a novel membrane electrolysis process to produce sodium hydroxide for use in a CO2 absorber. Intermediate slurry from the absorber will be converted to aggregates and cementitious substitutes. (DOE share: $1,681,377)
  • Gas Technology Institute (GTI) (Des Plaines, Ill.)—GTI and partners University of California San Diego, the University of Connecticut, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and Southern California Gas Company propose to capture power plant flue gas CO2 using macroalgae (seaweeds) cultivated in nonsubmerged greenhouses. The macroalgae will be harvested and processed via anaerobic digestion into methane for fuel to the power plant. (DOE share: $993,284)
  • Novomer Inc. (Ithica, N.Y.)—Researchers from Novomer plan to develop polycarbonates from a petrochemical, CO2, and a proprietary catalyst. The system will permanently store CO2 in new chemical structures which are up to 50% by weight CO2. (DOE share: $2,107,900)
  • Phycal LLC (Highland Heights, Ohio)—The project objective is to capture CO2 gas and recycle it in an algal oil production process in an open raceway pond using partially processed wastewater. Phycal, along with SSOE Engineering; GE Global Research; Aqua Engineers; Seambiotic; Kuehnle AgroSystems, Inc.; Group 70; and the NASA Glenn Research Center, will use two patented technologies, Heteroboost™ and Olexal™, to cultivate the microalgae and produce algal oil. (DOE share: $3,000,000)
  • Renewable Energy Institute International (REII) (McClellan, Calif.)—REII will process CO2 and natural gas in a solar reformer to produce syngas suitable for a Fischer-Tropsch process for making liquid fuels. REII will collaborate with Desert Research Institute, Pacific Renewable Fuels, and Clean Energy Systems Inc. (DOE share: $1,358,920)
  • Research Triangle Institute (RTI) (Durham, N.C.)—RTI, along with Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) and Süd Chemie, will use CO2 and waste fuel gas stream in existing ethylene production facilities to produce pipeline-quality synthetic natural gas. The process will leverage commercial reactor technology used in fluid catalytic crackers in petroleum refining and a novel nickel-based catalyst developed by RTI. (DOE share: $1,065,743)
  • Skyonic Corporation (Austin, Texas)—Skyonic will demonstrate its patented SkyMine® process to remove CO2 from industrial waste streams and generate saleable carbonate and/or bicarbonate materials. Skyonic will collaborate with Capitol Aggregates; Ford, Bacon and Davis LLC; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom; RDB Environmental Consulting; and Wm Smith and Co. (DOE share: $3,000,000)
  • Sunrise Ridge Algae (SRA) (Houston, Texas)—This project will involve the cultivation of algae using CO2 from cement plant waste stack gas. The harvested algae will be converted into liquid fuel and carbonaceous char using catalyzed thermochemical conversion technology. The liquid fuel may serve as a diesel fuel replacement or extender, while the char can be burned as fuel instead of coal in the cement factory kilns. SRA will collaborate with URS Group, Texas Lehigh Cement Company, UOP LLC, and the Houston Technology Center. (DOE share: $511,327)
  • Touchstone Research Laboratory (Triadelphia, W.Va.)—Touchstone will use a novel phase change material to enclose raceway ponds where they will cultivate algae using CO2 from combustor flue gas. The algal lipids will be recovered to produce biofuel and the algae biomass will be used in an anaerobic digestion process to produce electricity and recover nutrients. Partners with Touchstone include The Ohio State University Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. (DOE share: $517,818)
  • University of Massachusetts, Lowell (Lowell, Mass.)-The University of Massachusetts, Lowell, along with Jordan Development Company and Core Energy, will use CO2 to investigate permanent storage via mineralization in Otsego County, Mich., by injecting the CO2, water, and black carbon as an emulsion into a nearby semi-depleted oil reservoir.  (DOE share: $572,891)
  • UOP LLC (Des Plaines, Ill.)—UOP and partners Honeywell-Resins and Chemicals, Honeywell-Process Solutions, Envergent, Aquaflow, Vaperma, and International Alliance Group will use a Vaperma membrane to capture exhaust stack CO2 from the Hopewell, Va., caprolactum (used to make nylon) plant. The CO2 will be used to grow microalgae for eventual processing to biofuel and fertilizer. (DOE share: $1,522,149)

In July 2010, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu selected six projects to continue into Phase II that aim to find ways of converting captured carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources into useful products such as fuel, plastics, cement, and fertilizers. These include:

  • Alcoa, Inc. (Alcoa Center, Pa.) - 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. (DOE Share: $11,999,359)
  • Novomer Inc. (Ithaca, N.Y.) - 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, and Orangeburg, SC where Phase 2 work will be performed. (DOE Share: $18,417,989)
  • Touchstone Research Laboratory Ltd. (Triadelphia, W. Va.) - This project will pilot-test an open-pond algae production technology that can capture at least 60 percent of flue gas CO2 from an industrial coal-fired source to produce biofuel and other high value co-products. A novel phase change material incorporated in Touchstone's technology will cover the algae pond surface to regulate daily temperature, reduce evaporation, and control the infiltration of invasive species. Lipids extracted from harvested algae will be converted to a bio-fuel, and an anaerobic digestion process will be developed and tested for converting residual biomass into methane. The host site for the pilot project is Cedar Lane Farms in Wooster, Ohio. (DOE Share: $6,239,542)
  • Phycal, LLC (Highland Heights, Ohio) - Phycal will complete development of an integrated system designed to produce liquid biocrude fuel from microalgae cultivated with captured CO2. The algal biocrude can be blended with other fuels for power generation or processed into a variety of renewable drop-in replacement fuels such as jet fuel and biodiesel. Phycal will design, build, and operate a CO2-to-algae-to-biofuels facility at a nominal thirty acre site in Central O'ahu (near Wahiawa and Kapolei), Hawaii. Hawaii Electric Company will qualify the biocrude for boiler use, and Tesoro will supply CO2 and evaluate fuel products. (DOE Share: $24,243,509)
  • Skyonic Corporation (Austin, Texas) - 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. (DOE Share: $25,000,000)
  • Calera Corporation (Los Gatos, Calif.) - 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. (DOE Share: $19,895,553)