Using Enzymes to Capture CO2 in Smokestacks
Coal-fired power plants provide nearly 50% of all electricity in the U.S. While coal is a cheap and abundant natural resource, its continued use contributes to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. Capturing and storing this CO2 would reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels while allowing power plants to continue using inexpensive coal. Carbon capture and storage represents a significant cost to power plants that must retrofit their existing facilities to accommodate new technologies. Reducing these costs is the primary objective of ARPA-E’s carbon capture program.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Nalco is developing a process to capture carbon in the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. Conventional CO2 capture methods require the use of a vacuum or heat, which are energy-intensive and expensive processes. Nalco’s approach to carbon capture involves controlling the acidity of the capture mixture and using an enzyme to speed up the rate of carbon capture from the exhaust gas. Changing the acidity drives the removal of CO2 from the gas without changing temperature or pressure, and the enzyme speeds up the capture rate of CO2. In addition, Nalco’s technology would be simpler to retrofit to existing coal-fired plants than current technologies, so it could be more easily deployed.
If successful, this technology would reduce incremental carbon capture costs by up to 50 percent and make it more affordable for coal -fired power plants to clean their smokestack emissions.
Enabling continued use of domestic coal for electricity generation will preserve the stability of the electric grid.
Carbon capture technology could prevent more than 800 million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.
Improving the cost-effectiveness of carbon capture methods will minimize added costs to homeowners and businesses using electricity generated by coal-fired power plants for the foreseeable future.