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Commissioning completed for a carbon-capture pilot plant that uses a novel solvent

| By Scott Jenkins

Commissioning is wrapping up this month for a pilot facility designed to validate the capabilities of a new carbon-capture solvent. The pilot plant was constructed by Koch Modular Process Systems (KMPS; Paramus, N.J.; as part of Project Enterprise, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded endeavor to capture CO2 from the fluegas of Calpine Energy’s Los Medanos Energy Center, a natural-gas combined cycle power plant in Pittsburg, Calif. The solvents being tested were developed by ION Clean Energy (Boulder, Colo.; and are proprietary amine-based solvents designed to improve on the performance and long-term costs of monoethanolamine (MEA), a traditional carbon-capture solvent.

“The process equipment, including columns, heat exchangers, tanks and pumps were all designed and built by Koch Modular based on process simulation output from ION for their carbon capture solvent,” explains Tom Schafer, VP for KMPS.

In prior testing at two leading carbon-capture research centers, the ION solvents, called ICE-21 and ICE-31, showed rapid CO2-absorption kinetics, as well as the ability to capture more CO2 per unit of volume than MEA. Combined with the fact that the CO2-solvent binding energy is lower than MEA’s, the solvents require less energy to release the CO2 and regenerate the solvent.

“There are also important ‘soft’ benefits over MEA processes,” explains ION vice president for engineering Andrew Awtry. “For example, ICE-31 is highly stable under oxidative conditions, so we see less degradation to the solvent over time when used with fluegas from natural gas plants, which contains significant quantities of oxygen.” In addition, Awtry says because the ICE-31 doesn’t degrade easily, there are very few volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted.

ION’s plan is to first test MEA at the pilot facility to establish baseline performance and cost, followed by ICE-21 and then ICE-31, which will be run at the pilot facility for one year to validate long-term stability results from previous testing at CO2-capture research facilities. Once operating with ION’s solvents, the pilot plant is expected to have a capacity to capture 10 ton/d of CO2, Awtry says.