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Novel 'carbonate looping' technique to be scaled up for carbon capture

27 November 2012

A new method for capturing carbon dioxide could reduce power plant CO2 emissions by more than 90 percent, using less energy and at lower cost.

The carbonate-looping pilot plant at TU Darmstadt
The carbonate-looping pilot plant at TU Darmstadt

A key technology for reducing emissions from fossil fired power plants is carbon capture and utilisation (CCU). The Technical University (TU) Darmstadt, which operates one of the world’s largest carbon capture pilot plants, has been investigating the 'carbonate-looping' method for the past four years. This method has emerged as a particularly promising approach.

The carbonate-looping method involves initially employing naturally occurring limestone for binding CO2 contained in power-plant flue gases in a first-stage reactor. At this stage, the pure, CO2 is 're-liberated' in a second-stage reactor and may subsequently be further processed or stored.

The TU Darmstadt’s pilot-scale research system proved capable of capturing more than 90 percent of the CO2 emitted, while reducing both the energy input and operating costs formerly required for CO2 capture by more than 50 percent.

Another benefit of the carbonate-looping method is that it may be retrofitted to existing power plants and implemented at full scale. The TU Darmstadt team is currently working on a system that has been scaled up by a factor of twenty. The aim of that project, which is being supported by the German Federal Economics Ministry and various industrial associates, is to install such a scaled-up system on an existing power plant in Germany, which has yet to be identified.

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