The development of an inexpensive polypropylene membrane and more efficient carbon dioxide (CO2) capture process will enable CO2 to be separated on a commercial scale from natural gas or gases produced by coal-fired power stations for resulting storage in disused gas fields. Thus reducing CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming.
Ms Julianna Franca is a University of Melbourne PhD student working on a research project funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC). [17 May 2007, CRCA Conference]
Franca presented her research on reducing the cost of capturing CO2 in a ten minute presentation as part of Showcasing CRC Early Career Scientists. This fourth plenary session of the Cooperative Research Centres Association Conference was chaired by Professor Lyn Beazley, Chief Scientist of Western Australia.
Franca provided an overview of the issues and evidence for global warming before describing the capture and storage of CO2 studies conducted at the CO2CRC. Franca and her research team’s specific project is to separate CO2 from other gases using a process called Membrane Gas Absorption (MGA), and this was the focus of her presentation.
Franca explained that current technologies exist to capture and separate CO2, but the amount of energy required for the capture and storage of CO2, currently doubles the costs for electricity. A pilot-plant in Kårstø (Norway) using a teflon membrane was abandoned due to the expense of the membrane and required scale for a commercial plant using MGA units.
The polypropylene membranes used in the MGA units at the University of Melbourne are treated to increase their water-repellent qualities. This enables a greater efficiency and a greater volume of CO2 to be separated and hence reducing the size of the plant required to separate CO2 from other gases. The CO2 is absorbed into a solvent.
The separated CO2 is stored underground (geosequestration) in depleted gas fields.
Following the conference, CO2CRC announced that they had identified a potential geological storage site of carbon dioxide in the southern Perth Basin, off the south-west coast of Western Australia. This brings the research and innovation of Franca’s team a lot closer to home.
Note: Diagrams and photograph courtesy of CO2CRC Image Library.