Carbon Capture Pilot Project in an Alcoa Aluminium Smelter

18 03 2010

Lately, Alcoa’s Deschambeault smelter has been the home of a pilot project aimed at capturing carbon emitted during the smelting process through a carbon capture technology relying on an enzyme rather than on a solvent as is more commonly used in carbon capture processes. The technology used has been developed by the Canadian firm CO2Solution.

Carbon capture is the process by which carbon emissions from large point sources are gathered to then be processed, transported and ultimately stored in an underground geological formation. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is seen by many as one of the key technologies to mitigate greenhouse gases emissions yet the costs associated with its deployment and its operation (the capture process is in itself energy intensive) have deterred companies to commit to CCS as it’s too costly in the absence of carbon pricing.

The technology developed by CO2 Solutions is different as it is based on a biotechnology rather than a solvent. This platform exploits the natural power of a biocatalyst (enzyme), carbonic anhydrase, which functions within humans and other mammals to manage CO2 during respiration. The company adapted the enzyme to work within a reactor to act as a lung in industrial environments in order to concentrate the emissions into pure CO2. The enzyme can also work in tandem to solvents to increase their C02 removal capacity by 30%. These results point to the ability of the enzyme to lower the capital and operating costs and reducing the energy requirements of the process.

CO2Solution’s web site does not disclose anything about the results of the pilot project. Yet this technology is quite promising; New York Times has made mention of its potential in the quest for clean coal.

CO2 Solutions is listed on the TSX-V under the ticker CST.

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