The Biden administration’s support for carbon sequestration is driving an abundance of interest in established companies working in this space. Here are six of the best companies for negative emissions technology: Net Power, Quest, Carbon Engineering, Global Thermostat, Climeworks and Carbfix.
In previous articles I have explored why we need to siphon greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere, assessed carbon capture technologies, the cost and scalability of these technologies. In addition to Net Power and Quest, I will review four working examples of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies These are the most well-established pilot projects and commercial demonstration plants in the world. These companies were selected based upon the fact that they all have generated enough data to warrant further scrutiny. “These guys actually have something you can measure,” said Princeton’s Pacala (Service, 2018). They are proofs of concept which have demonstrated their viability. The CO2 which is captured by these technologies can be injected underground or used to manufacture anything from plastic to fuel.
Climeworks and Global Thermostat have piloted systems in which they coat plastics and ceramics, respectively, with an amine, a type of chemical that can absorb CO2. Carbon Engineering uses a liquid system, with calcium oxide and water. All have functional plants, and all are modular (Rathi, 2017). Net Power makes and Quest stand apart because of their association with fossil fuels.
Net Power makes emissions free energy and this is significant because electricity generation is responsible for 40% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions (Ryan, 2019). Net Power’s patented thermodynamic cycle is known as the Allam cycle (aka the Allam power cycle). This a process for converting fossil fuels into mechanical power, while capturing the generated carbon dioxide and water. It works by using a turbine, it burns natural gas and pure oxygen which in combination with heat and high pressure turns a shaft to generate electricity. The mixture that exits the turbine is separated and the CO2 is recycled, compressed, and put back into the chamber. The carbon that isn’t reused is captured and can then be used or injected underground, where it’s permanently absorbed by rock. The net result is an emissions-free process that can generate electricity on a large scale (Rathi, 2018; Ryan, 2019).
The Quest carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility sequesters CO2 as a byproduct of its fossil fuel refining process. The company. is owned and operated by Shell. Their facility is called Scotford upgrader and it turns tar sands bitumen into synthetic crude for fuel. The process requires hydrogen, and it captures CO2 with a product called amine. The CO2 is then separated from the amine and pressurized to turn the captured CO2 gas into a liquid that is transported by pipeline 65 kilometers through well sites. At the wells, the liquid CO2 is injected more than two kilometers underground.
Carbon Engineering (CE) is a Canadian company that has plants located in Squamish, British Columbia, and Houston, Texas. The company was created in 2009 by Harvard professor David Keith an academic at Harvard University specializing in geoengineering. CE launched its first pilot plant in 2015. It captures carbon by blowing air through towers containing a liquid hydroxide solution. The CO2 molecules react with the chemical mixture to make potassium carbonate which is then processed into calcium carbonate pellets. These pellets are then dried and heated and the CO2 is captured.
U.S.-based Global Thermostat (GT) has pilot plant and commercial demonstration plants. The SRI International plant in Menlo Park California has been operating since 2010. GT’s technology pulls in atmospheric air, then through a series of chemical reactions, extracts CO2 while returning the rest of the air to the environment. GT uses custom equipment and proprietary (dry) amine-based chemical sorbents that are bonded to porous, honeycomb ceramic monoliths which act together as carbon sponges to absorb CO2 directly from the atmosphere, a smokestack, or a combination of both. Its process includes a unique DAC polymer that is modeled on a car’s catalytic converter. Their carbon capture technology cleans up emissions from burning fuel by using heat and a chemical that breaks apart chemical bonds. The captured CO2 is then stripped off and collected using steam.
Climeworks (CW) is a Swiss company that uses fans to draw air through filters coated with CO2-scrubbing amines that chemically bind CO2. After a few hours, the filters are then heated to strip off the carbon-producing CO2 gas. Carbon-free air is then released back into the atmosphere. This continuous cycle is then ready to start again. The filter is reused many times and lasts for several thousand cycles.
Through an enhanced weathering process called carbon mineralization, Carbix (CF) sequesters CO2 by diluting it with water and injecting it into basaltic rock where it interacts with calcium, magnesium, and iron to transform into stable calcareous rocks (Andrews, 2018). This is a form of geological sequestration (the underground storage potential for CO2) that prevents sequestered carbon out of the atmosphere. In a partnership with Climeworks, CarbFix is using Iceland’s geothermal vents and abundant basalt formations to permanently store captured CO2 as rock in the subsurface. They inject it 700 meters underground into volcanic bedrock where it turns into limestone.
Click here to see an assessment of the major companies leading the carbon capture space.
- Assessment of the Leading Carbon Capture Companies
- Assessment of Geological Carbon Sequestration
- The Economic Opportunities Associated with Carbon Removal
- Assessment of Carbon Capture Technologies (DACCS, CCU, and CCS)
- The Costs and Scalability of Carbon Capture Technologies
- Natural Climate Solutions for Carbon Sequestration
- Short Brief on the State of Carbon Capture Research
- Why We Need Carbon Capture and Sequestration
- Negative Emission Technologies are our Last Hope
- What We Should and Should Not Do with Captured Carbon
- Examples of Carbon Capture Technology
- Carbon Capture and Storage is Essential Post Paris
- Carbon Capture and Storage (Videos)
- Canada is Banking on Carbon Capture to Offset Tar Sands
- The Farce of Canada’s Carbon Capture