Computational Modelling and Optimisation of Carbon Capture Reactors

Lead Research Organisation: CRANFIELD UNIVERSITY
Department Name: Sch of Aerospace, Transport & Manufact

Abstract

This programme is proposed to answer the EPSRC call on "Carbon capture and storage for natural gas power stations" by forming a close partnership between the University of Southampton and E.ON. The proposed research has a strong focus on industrial needs by integrating with the industrial partner's existing activities for developing CCS technologies suitable for commercial gas power plants. E.ON is generating around 10% of the UK's electricity and is committed to reducing its CO2 emission by 50% by 2030 (1990 baseline). E.ON has setup a dedicated CCS unit to address the technical challenges while one of the priorities is to develop CCS technologies suitable for natural gas power stations. This research specifically targets at natural gas power plants, which has a lower concentration of CO2 approx. 4% compared to 13% from coal-fired plants, and harder to extract, representing the most challenging case for CCS.

Carbon capture and storage involves separating the CO2 from emissions so it can be transported and stored away from the atmosphere. The most commercially viable approach to be fitted in natural gas power plants is the post-combustion capture which absorbs CO2 from the flue gas using a chemical reaction - also known as scrubbing, which E.ON has been actively pursuing and will be the focus of this research. Whilst research on the chemical processes has been taking place for several decades, CFD modelling of the reactor is a recent development. E.ON has recognised that CFD plays a vital role in the optimisation of current CCS reactors by including more CFD research in their future research strategy. University of Southampton is a prime place for CFD based research while the School of Engineering Sciences currently holds £5M CFD focused EPSRC projects. The combined expertise forms a strong academic and industrial partnership to tackle current barriers of reactor scale-up in carbon capture using advanced CFD models.

By addressing all the challenges outlined in the EPSRC call, this research aims to design an optimised reactor using a novel CFD modelling approach that is capable of achieving in excess of 90% CO2 absorption whilst ensuring the cost of service energy is minimised to below 35%. The new concept idea will incorporate improved mixing designs and improved heat transfer whilst reducing reactor size. It is planned through the enhancement of current CFD multiphase models to incorporate reaction and the inclusion of flow control devices that an optimal structured packing arrangement, which promotes the reaction process whilst reducing pressure drop, can be found. This project will not only produce conceptual ideas developed through enhance CFD methods but will also perform tests, in a lab-scale reactor, to determine its validity with respect to its flow dynamics and would potentially lead to the production of intellectual property.

Planned Impact

Electricity generation is the largest source of CO2 emissions in the UK and currently represents a third of total emissions. This research has the potential for a very large impact on society by developing a cost-effective technology for the reduction of CO2 emission from power plants.
In general aspect, amine scrubbing has the potential for wide applications. It can be utilised in both pre- and post-combustion technologies, suitable to new and existing plants. Furthermore, it is adaptive to the emissions from different fuel reactors, i.e., natural gas, coal, biomass etc., and also different conversion techniques such as gasification and combustion. Therefore, the outcome of this project would be applied for a variety of conversion technologies which are already being utilised in the energy sector throughout the UK and also worldwide.
In technology aspect, counter-current absorbers and stripper configurations are also used for other chemical processes such as the production of ammonia. This process is vital for the formation of amine solutions which is used during the carbon capturing process. Therefore, the optimised absorber design could be extended to this process which would further reduce the costs and improve efficiencies over a wider range of the carbon capturing process beginning with solvent production.
In the modelling aspect, the code to be developed will be the state-of-the-art with the incorporation of multiple phases into periodic modelling which is currently not available. Furthermore, reactions will be enabled to allow for mass transfer between phases to account for the absorption processes that take place in the reactor. Demonstrating such modelling capabilities will not only enhance research in the modelling of carbon capture but also other processes that exhibit a strong reactive behaviour. Successful application of these advance models demonstrates the capabilities of CFD and its ability to aid engineering design, process optimisation and technology breakthrough for industry.

This project enables the formation of a close partnership between the University of Southampton and E.ON, so technologies developed can be explored commercially in the UK and knowledge gained can be shared around the world. The investigators have extensive experience in Industrial CASE Award, KTP, TSB and EU projects with industrial partners such as BOC, Praxair and Air Liquide, etc. In relevant clean energy research, we have been working closely with Lurgi (a leading technology provider for gas cleaning and CCS technologies) and involved in their research and development of advanced coal gasification plants in China. In South Africa, we are working with Sasol (a leading company in commercialization of clean coal technologies) in EPSRC energy research (EPSRC EP/G034281/1) project. In this new project, we will continue to identify appropriate mechanism for industrial collaborations according to industrial and technical requirements.
 
Description A chemical absorption process model was developed including: the absorption of CO2 into the solvent and the desorption to regenerate the solvent and produce the high concentrated CO2. The process model was validated with experiment from pilot plants. The model can be used for scale-up study of solvent based CO2 capture. Microscale model based on volume of fluid (VOF) method was developed to capture the interaction between gas and liquid film on packing surface as well as chemical reaction and heat transfer.
Mescoscale model has been developed for a representative unit of packing column to capture the gas-liquid interaction.
Macroscale reactor model has been developed including mass and heat transfers. CFD model was developed consisting in a smooth inclined plate to study the effect of
the contact angle on the morphology, residence time and mass transfer into liquid rivulets, validated with measured contact angles.
Exploitation Route The models can be used by industrial users for optimisation of structured packing columns and operation parameters.
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment

URL http://fast-pyrolysis.com/carboncapture/home.html
 
Description The research is making a major progress for developing advanced models for solution based post combustion carbon capture with structured packing. We have successfully developed micro-scale model for interaction between gas and liquid film on the packing surface including mass transfer and chemical reactions. A series of papers are published and presented in major international conferences. The results were also presented in UKCCSRC seminars and workshops with strong interests from other UK researchers including Universities of Edinburgh, Loughborough, Newcastle and Cardiff. We developed a novel method to encapsulate capture solvents with polymer cells. This will remove the direct contacts between solvents (MEA) with reactors. The new materials have a property of liquid, but behave like solids. We are in discussion with industrial and academic partners to explore this new materials.
Sector Chemicals,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Combined Energy Recovery & CO2 Removal Project
Amount £150,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N508615/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2015 
End 09/2016
 
Description International Research Collaboration Fund
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation UK Carbon Capture & Storage Research Centre 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2015 
End 08/2016
 
Title Microscale VOF model for liquid and gas interaction during CO2 capture 
Description Microscale model was developed for liquid and gas interaction on the packing surface using VOF (volume of fluid) method. The model has mass transfer and chemical reaction for CO2 absorption with MEA. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Three papers were published. 
 
Description Collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati 
Organisation Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution To share our multi scale modelling expertise
Collaborator Contribution To provide relevant experimental facility
Impact A number of researchers were exchanged between the partners.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Collaboration with Norwegian University of Science and Technology 
Organisation Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Department Department of Chemical Engineering
Country Norway 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide process system modelling for post-combustion carbon capture
Collaborator Contribution To provide experimental facilities for our researchers to carry out solution based carbon capture
Impact Conference paper is prepared
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with Université Catholique de Louvain 
Organisation Catholic University of Louvain
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution To share our multi scale modelling knowledge and expertise with the partner.
Collaborator Contribution To provide access to some experimental facilities not available in our group.
Impact The partnership led to a new FP7 Marie Curie project, iComFluid.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Organize European Carbon Capture & Storage Research and Development Workshop in Cranfield University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 15 Speakers from the leading UK and EU CCS groups gave presentations. About 100 audience from the UK universities participated the workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Participate 8th "Trondheim Conference on CO2 Capture, Transport and Storage" was held June 16 - 18, 2015, in Trondheim, Norway. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Over 300 participants in the conference, post presentation about our CCS project, established collaboration with SINTEC and Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.sintef.no/projectweb/tccs-8/
 
Description Participate Process Simulation Conference&Training, Madrid 16-28/09/2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Post presentation in the conference and attend the training session for process simulation, good interactions with industrial engineers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Participate UKCCSRC Biannual Meeting, 10-11/09/2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral and post presentations on our CCS projects, developing collaboration with UK groups.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Participate in Annual Early Career Researcher Summer Meeting, Newcastle University, 1-2 July 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Give presentation "Carbon Capture by Chemical Absorption: CFD approach" to about 100 research students
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Participate in CCS in the bigger picture - Cambridge Biannual, 2-3 April 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Give presentation about our CCS project to about 50 audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Participate in Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies (GHGT) Austin, Texas (US) 5-9 October 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Give presentation "Computational modelling and optimisation of carbon capture reactors" in the largest CCS conference with 500 audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description UKCCSRC Biannual Meeting, Cranfield University, 21-22/04/2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Oral and post presentations in the workshop about our CCS project, develop good collaborations with other UK groups
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015