Keeping carbon in the ground: how some farmers grow plants to fight climate change

Read the full story from St. Louis NPR.

The agriculture industry accounts for 10% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, a big driver of climate change. Some farmers, like Bishop, are turning to an inexpensive solution to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: cover crops.

Finding the building blocks for next-generation batteries

Read the full story from the University of Chicago.

With more than a trillion tons of carbon dioxide now circulating in the atmosphere, and global temperatures projected to rise anywhere from 2 degrees to 9.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 80 years, switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a subject of critical attention. To make that switch, humanity will need entirely new methods for storing energy. 

The current standard, lithium-ion batteries, rely on flammable electrolytes and can only be recharged about a thousand times before their capacity is dramatically reduced. Other potential successors have their own issues. Lithium metal batteries, for example, suffer from a short lifespan due to long needle-like deformities called dendrites that develop whenever electrons are shuttled between Li-metal batteries’ anode and cathode.

To Chibueze Amanchukwu, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Molecular Engineering at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, such thorny chemistry boils down to one flawed and often overlooked process—modern electrolyte design.

Capturing carbon with crops, trees and bioenergy

Read the full story from Michigan State University.

MSU researchers find an integrated approach to land management practices can reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere far more than earlier estimates.

New direct air capture industry body aims to build public support

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

A new organization has been formed to connect and mobilize companies engaged in the nascent direct air capture (DAC) sector and build public support for technologies that directly remove carbon dioxide from the air.

The DAC Coalition, which formally launched last week, counts 22 technology companies, as well as a number of investors, philanthropies and universities, among its members.

Setting out its priorities on Twitter, the group said it would be focused on “educating, engaging and mobilizing society to scale direct air capture in a sustainable, equitable and effective way.”

The group includes Climeworks, the Swiss company behind the world’s largest operational DAC facility in Iceland, and Heirloom Capital, the firm which recently clinched $53 million to support the deployment of an ultra-low-cost DAC process that captures and processes CO2 ready for storage in rock form.

In a bid to save its coal industry, Wyoming has become a test case for carbon capture, but utilities are balking at the pricetag

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

Under a 2020 law, utilities must generate some of their power from coal plants fitted with technology that captures carbon, but in recent filings to regulators, two companies are warning about the cost and environmental impacts.

This start-up makes vodka out of CO2 emissions, and it’s backed by Toyota and JetBlue

Read the full story at CNBC.

At Bathtub Gin, a reinvented speakeasy in lower Manhattan, patrons may be pining for the past but they are drinking a vodka specifically invented for a cleaner future. Air Vodka is made in part from greenhouse gas emissions – specifically, captured carbon dioxide.

It is just one of a bevy of new products designed to make use of CO2 emissions that can be captured from various types of industry.

One Earth Energy ethanol carbon sequestration project advancing

Read the full story in FarmWeek.

A project that aims to capture and store underground carbon emitted by an east central Illinois ethanol facility is progressing after a series of successful preliminary tests and modeling.

One Earth Energy, which produces 150 million gallons of ethanol annually in Gibson City, has partnered with the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) since 2020 to study whether the half-million tons of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) it generates each year can be collected, liquified and injected below ground near the facility.

Biden administration launches $3.5 billion program to capture carbon pollution from the air

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released a Notice of Intent (NOI) to fund the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $3.5 billion program to capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution directly from the air. The Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program will support four large-scale, regional direct air capture hubs that each comprise a network of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) projects to help address the impacts of climate change, creating good-paying jobs and prioritizing community engagement and environmental justice. In addition to efforts to deeply decarbonize the economy through methods like clean power, efficiency, and industrial innovation, the widespread deployment of direct air capture technologies and CO2 transport and storage infrastructure plays a significant role in delivering on President Biden’s goal of achieving an equitable transition to a net-zero economy by 2050. 

Direct air capture is a process that separates CO2 from ambient air. The separated CO2 is then permanently stored deep underground or converted for use in long-life products like concrete that prevent its release back into the atmosphere. This differs from carbon capture systems at industrial facilities and power plants that prevent additional emissions from being released into the air in the first place. 

By midcentury, CDR will need to be deployed at the gigaton scale. To put this in perspective, one gigaton of subsurface sequestered CO2 is equivalent to the annual emissions from the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet—the equivalent of approximately 250 million vehicles driven in one year. 

Each of the projects selected for the Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program will demonstrate the delivery and storage or end use of removed atmospheric carbon. The hubs will have the capacity to capture and then permanently store at least one million metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, either from a single unit or from multiple interconnected units. 

In the development and deployment of the four regional direct air capture hubs, DOE will also emphasize environmental justice, community engagement, consent-based siting, equity and workforce development, and domestic supply chains and manufacturing.  

For more information, read the NOI on FedConnect

To learn more about DAC and other CDR approaches, please also join DOE for the virtual Carbon Negative Shot Summit on July 20 and 21, 2022. The Summit will convene a diverse set of perspectives to discuss the development and deployment of CDR technologies and infrastructure in the United States, as well as explore justice and equity principles and workforce development opportunities. 

DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) funds research, development, demonstration, and deployment projects to decarbonize power generation and industrial production to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to mitigate the environmental impacts of fossil fuel production and use. Priority areas of technology work include point-source carbon capture, carbon dioxide conversion, carbon dioxide removal, reliable carbon storage and transport, hydrogen production with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, and critical minerals production. To learn more, visit the FECM websitesign up for FECM news announcements and visit the National Energy Technology Laboratory website

DOE awards $2.5 million for direct air capture study at Constellation Nuclear Plant in Illinois

Read the company news release.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a $2.5 million grant to Constellation and its project partners to explore the benefits of constructing direct air capture (DAC) technology at the company’s Byron nuclear energy plant in Northern Illinois. While nuclear plants do not produce any carbon emissions, direct air capture would remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, a possible next-generation technology to help our nation combat the climate crisis.

Constellation, the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free energy, will partner with 1PointFive Inc., Worley Group Inc., Carbon Engineering Ltd., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to research the viability of DAC technology at the zero-emission Byron plant.

Technology to absorb CO₂ at power plants is promising

ISTC engineer Paul Nielsen stands beside the biphasic solvent system at the Abbott Power Plant in Champaign, IL.

by Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) researchers have given the thumbs up to an innovative biphasic solvent system for its efficiency and effectiveness in absorbing CO₂ from flue gas in a coal-fired power plant at the University of Illinois (U of I).

With $3.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory, an ISTC team sought to validate the various advantages of a biphasic CO₂ absorption process (BiCAP) at a 40-kilowatt electric small pilot scale at the Abbott Power Plant on the U of I campus. The system was designed based on the testing results at the laboratory scale under a previous DOE cooperative agreement.

Previous laboratory testing has proved the biphasic solvent-based process concept and has shown that the technique can achieve greater than 90 percent capture efficiency and greater than 95 percent CO₂ purity and has the potential to significantly increase energy efficiency and reduce  CO₂ capture cost.

From the recent field testing, the team verified that their technology could achieve 95 percent efficiency in CO₂ capture, compared with 90 percent in conventional methods, with a 40 percent higher energy efficiency. The cost advantages have not yet been determined, but previous laboratory testing showed a 26 percent cost reduction. The system has also been shown to run continuously for two weeks, verifying that it can operate under Midwest winter weather conditions.

“The conventional CO₂ capture process has several disadvantages, and our goal was to reduce the carbon footprint and costs and increase the energy efficiency,” said Yongqi Lu, principal investigator. “These energy-efficiency advantages of the BiCAP system, coupled with reduced equipment sizes when scaled up for commercial systems, will lead to reductions in both capital and operating expenses.”

The BiCAP method uses biphasic solvent blends that can form and develop dual-liquid phases during CO₂ absorption. The solvents, which were tested and selected in previous DOE-funded studies, are highly resistant to degrading from either high temperatures or oxidative atmospheres. Also, less solvent is required for this process.

Although the focus of the study was on CO₂ capture from flue gas at coal-fired power plants, the BiCAP technology can be used in natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants as well, incorporating flue gas from natural gas, biomass, plastics, and other renewable materials.

“The exciting feature of this capture technology is its robust nature and ability to be used on a variety of flue gas sources. We are now ready for commercial partners to assist in moving this technology to the marketplace,” said Kevin OBrien, co-principal investigator for the project and director of ISTC.

Preliminary tests with synthetic NGCC flue gas made of air and bottled CO2 gas have been performed on the small pilot unit recently. Results revealed that a 95 percent CO2 removal rate could be achieved, and the energy use only slightly increased compared with that for the coal flue gas that contains more concentrated CO2.

The concept of biphasic solvents was developed as part of a dissertation research project in 2013–2015. From 2015 through 2018, screening of biphasic solvents and studies of proof of the BiCAP process concept were conducted at the laboratory scale with funding from DOE. After that, the small pilot system was designed, constructed, and tested at the Abbott Power Plant with continued DOE support.

The main research team for this project was transferred from the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) to ISTC in January 2022. Now that the team has collected the data, the next steps are to complete a techno-economic analysis, then scale-up the technology for commercial use.

Media contact: Yongqi Lu, 217-244-4985, yongqilu@illinois.edu or
news@prairie.illinois.edu

This story first appeared on the Prairie Research Institute News Blog. Read the original story.