Carbon Capture from Power Plant and Atmosphere

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Geosciences


Energy supply for the UK, and for the World as a whole, will experience major changes during the next 20 years, as states seek secure energy supplies, combined with low costs, and sustainable environmental impacts. Most of world energy currently derives from combustion of fossil fuel. The UK is no exception.In the UK, fossil fuel (oil) dominates transport use, and this is unlikely to change in the near future. Electricity and heat generation is dominated by gas (41%) and coal (34%), with 20% from nuclear, only 3% from renewables, and 2% imported electricity. This gas and coal will from now onwards largely be imported, paying costs to suppliers outside the UK. This also means security of supply is not guaranteed. Can improvements be made to the use of these energy sources?A key environmental problem is that fossil fuel combustion releases CO2 to the atmosphere. This is now, beyond reasonable doubt, linked to global warming and climate change. Atmospheric CO2 also dissolves in ocean water, forcing an increased acidity greater than any time in the past 20 Million years. Even those who still do not believe in climate change cannot escape the inevitability of ocean acidification / with as yet un-predicted consequences. For this reason alone, atmospheric CO2 must be reduced.To enable continued use of fossil fuels it is an urgent requirement to de-carbonise their combustion. The Stern Review of Climate Change Economics in 2006 clearly re-stated that significant progress must be made during the ten years until 2017.This research proposal addresses the fossil fuel issues in two ways: Firstly, to create a UK Centre of university expertise in the capture of CO2 from power plants. Current industrial systems rely on chemical absorption by solvents, but require a very high energy input, which reduces the environmental gain. The Centre will focus on new technologies of CO2 separation by adsorption onto nanoporous materials, by filtration of CO2 from power plant flue gases by semi-permeable membranes, and by membrane and adsorption separation processes for the production of oxygen from air, to enable oxy-fuel combustion and efficient CO2 separation.Secondly, we acknowledge that there is, and will be, a need to remove existing CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. The reductions proposed from power plant emissions do not reduce existing CO2, but rather just make the increase slower. To control the earth atmosphere and produce a sustainable climate requires extraction of CO2 already emitted. This is routinely achieved, at low cost, by vegetation. We will create an entirely new centre of university expertise which will focus on using bio-mass from agriculture, forestry and waste. This can firstly make bio-fuel to replace fossil sources, and the residues can be pyrolised to form charcoal. Such charcoal has been used in traditional cultures to enhance soil fertility, and locks up carbon for thousands of years. Improvements in land use in the EU, the USA, and developing world can achieve this, by an integration of engineering, soil science, and social benefit to cultivators.Edinburgh (with the British Geological Survey and Heriot-Watt) already hosts the UK's largest academic centre investigating geological burial of captured CO2. There are existing multi-skilled networks at Edinburgh linking land use, agriculture, social, legal and economic analysis, chemical engineering and petroleum geoscience. Creation of the Carbon Capture Centre will be an ideal complementary activity, and the range of expertise, from atmospheric capture, to power-plant capture to cultivation and geological burial will be unique.Outputs from the Centre can help the UK to combust coal and gas with environmentally clean methods, to enhance energy security by diversifying away from fossil fuel sources, and to commence the direct clean-up of CO2 from the atmosphere in an energy and financially efficient, sustainable way.


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Description Heating biomass in a zero-oxygen environment to temperatures of 250°C or greater yields energy-rich gases and liquids, and a solid charcoal, or char.
When this char has been produced specifically to have beneficial effects - for example as a soil improver or to store carbon - we call this material biochar.
The thermal process used to produce biochar is known as pyrolysis, and by altering the pyrolysis conditions, it's possible to change the character of the biochar. In general higher pyrolysis temperatures mean a smaller amount of char, but containing a greater proportion of highly stable carbon.
This carbon seems to remain sequestered in biochar for centuries, and so sustainable biochar production could be a powerful tool in the fight against anthropogenic climate change.
There is strong evidence that biochar can also have some beneficial effects when added to soils. Its highly porous structure can act like a slow-release 'sponge' for water and useful soil nutrients.
Biochar can be made from almost any type of dry biomass - including waste materials. Therefore, biochar production could be an enormous opportunity for 'closed-loop' type resource management, with numerous valuable benefits.
Exploitation Route For CCS, Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage has developed an international profile and can evidence tens £Millions of policy and science impact, with tens of academic articles from academic members. The SCCS is continuing on track to be essential in using research evidence to develop the worlds first full chain carbon capture and storage project with offshore storage (in the UK), and the worlds first 100% hydrogen for domestic heat network (in the UK).

For biochar. this was achieved by creation of the UK's first research unit on Biochar. This has continued to grow and is the UK national leading group, the UK Biochar Research Centre. This has created and holds the UK (an international) 'charcive ' a national repository for biochar standards. The biochar method is now being seriously evaluated as contributor to Net-Zero carbon and Paris 2015 climate agreement policy actions.
For more information on carbon capture from atmosphere,
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Construction,Energy,Environment,Security and Diplomacy,Transport

Description The world external to Universities continues to change at an unprecedented rate. May of these changes are driven by, or overlap into, the topics tackled by this award. The impacts of the research were manifested from 2009. o Worldwide concerns about climate change, carbon, and energy supply and the challenges this poses for governments and citizens o Increasing requirements from large and small businesses in how to respond to climate change within their organisations o Research funding increasingly diverted to large multidisciplinary groups addressing global grand challenges, of which climate change, carbon and energy are crucially important o Increasing emphasis (REF, UK and Scottish Government, public pressure) on universities to translate their research into "real world" impact
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Energy,Environment,Retail,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services