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Solving carbon capture challenge

WHILE renewable energy sources offer long term potential, cleaning up coal-fired power is being touted as having a greater emissions reduction impact in the short term.

Solving carbon capture challenge

In an industry briefing last week, Canadian company HTC Purenergy sold the potential of its pre-engineered, modular CO2 capture system for power plants and industrial emitters, billed as a world first.

The company, named by CNBC European Business magazine as one of its top 50 "Low Carbon Pioneers", has developed the technology to pilot scale and is looking to take it commercial. It can be retrofitted to large industrial greenhouse emitters, but the key play is existing power plants.

There is considerable local interest in carbon capture and storage (CCS), with several Australian generators set to test plants, such as Victoria's Hazelwood power station. The planned privatisation of the NSW energy sector has also sparked talk of developing new power stations that are "carbon capture ready", though just what this means in practical terms remains a mystery.

HTC's stand-alone unit, the CCS1000, can process up to 1,000 tonnes of exhaust gases per day. The process works by stripping the CO2 from flue gases via designer solvents, then compressing it for storage.

The first step takes place in an absorption tower filled with a packing material to enhance the mixing of the flue gas and the solvent, an amine or mix of amines dissolved in water, with the concoction tailored to the exhaust specifics. A second tower heats the CO2-rich solvent to separate it from the solvent.

The economics are considerably sweetened if it can be injected into oil fields for enhanced oil recovery, which while common in HTC's home-base in Saskatchewan is in its infancy here. Santos, however, has shown interest locally.

Brisbane-based EESTech Inc in December acquired the Asia-Pacific rights to the technology, which it hopes to pair with its Hybrid Coal Gas Turbine (HCGT) system designed to produce electricity using waste coal dust and fugitive vented methane from coal mines.

The integrated package will allow coal facilities to efficiently generate the necessary steam and electricity for the C02 capture process, which together account for 66% of the system's operating cost. HTC's preliminary analysis indicates the successful integration of the two processes could reduce the cost of C02 capture by up to 40%.

EESTech chief operating officer Graeme Lynch said the system "will be able to be manufactured, shipped and erected at the emitter sites around the world at a much lower cost than other systems that have to be custom built on site".

The company says it has secured electricity supply agreements in China with contract revenue potential of over $100 million for each installed system.

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