Engineers will suck CO2 from the ocean

Chemical engineers at Brunel University London are developing a pilot plant to strip CO2 from seawater that will then suck emissions out of the atmosphere.

The SeaCURE plant will be built at the Sea Life centre in Weymouth where it will process 3,000 L of seawater per minute, removing an estimated 100 t/y of CO2. The three-year project has received £3m (US$3.6m) of UK Government funding and the plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2024.

Salman Masoudi Soltani, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at Brunel University, and his research group will work to design, model and optimise the solvent-based CO2 capture process. The team aims to file a patent for the process so was unable to share the specific details of the process but Soltani said the key steps involve lowering the pH of the seawater to extract CO2. This CO2 stream will then be purified for use by industry, for example in building materials, or locked away in geological storage.

In April, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said large-scale deployment of CO2 removal technologies was unavoidable if net zero emissions are to be achieved. In a report published in 2019, it said CO2 removal technologies would need to remove 100bn–1,000bn t of CO2 over the course of the 21st Century to limit warming to 1.5°C. Technologies for direct air capture – or DAC – are already in commercial operation and interest is growing. Currently, the largest direct air capture and CO2 storage facility is operated by Climeworks in Iceland, which has a capacity to capture 4,000 t/y of CO2, showing the measure of the scaleup and scale-out challenge faced in achieving the IPCC projections. In May, the US Government pledged to invest US $3.5bn to develop four large-scale DAC hubs, each capable of capturing 1m t/y of CO2.

Adam Duckett, The Chemical Engineer, 27 July 2022. Full article.

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