Computational Modelling and Optimisation of Carbon Capture Reactors

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Chemical Engineering

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.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/J020184/1 30/01/2013 11/09/2015 £580,960
EP/J020184/2 Transfer EP/J020184/1 12/09/2015 11/11/2017 £227,091
 
Description 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.
VOF (volume of fluid) CFD model is suitable for micro- and meso- scale simulation to accurately capture the film spreading, gas-liquid interaction with heat/mass transfer and chemical reaction. The meso-scale model can be used for optimisation of design and operational parameters. The main challenge is for macro-scale simulation where VOF model cannot be used due to extensive computing costs. On the other hand, Eulerian two phase model has its limitation without the detailed gas-liquid interface.
Encapsulated solvents with microfluidic process provide attractive options to reduce the size of the reactors due to much larger surface area. The permeable polymer cells allow gas passing through while keeping liquid out. The new materials have a property of solvents but can be handled like solid. The new CO2 capture materials can be used in fluidised bed reactors to greatly reduce the size of structure packing in the reactors. Further research is required to found the suitable polymer for solvents like MEA. 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. 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.
Our feasibility study shows that porous structure has the potential to significant reduce the size of the packing but with major challenge on pressure drops. Using nature-inspired design or artificial intelligence based evolution algorithm could provide novel approaches to design new generation of packing. New manufacturing techniques such as 3-d printing will make such no standard, complicated geometry possible at acceptable costs.
Exploitation Route The multi-scale CO2 capture model can be used for both academic and industrial partners.
The encapsulated CO2 capture materials need to be manufactured in industrial processes at low cost.
We are collaborating with experts in ICT, biology and creative design to bring new structure design to live.
We are in discussions with industry for support on this new packing structure via Innovate UK, EU and CASE projects.
Sectors Chemicals,Education,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
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 multi-scale model has been used by industrial partners for design and process optimisation. 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 exploring the use of encapsulated solvent technologies with industrial partners for application in domestic and industrial environments. An Innovate UK Energy Catalyst grant was won to use the CO2 capture technology for in-door air quality control. We are also exploring new way of design structured packing with CFD models developed from this project. A number of ideas are being pursued including nature-inspired design of porous structure and using artificial intelligence to design packing. This will involved expertise from different areas such as ICT, biology and creative design. Our research has generated further interests from industry looking for innovations to improve carbon capture efficiency in industrial processes. We are collaborating with a number of industrial partners including Fluor, Exxonmobil, Sulzer, etc. to develop new generation of packing materials and structures. We have developed international collaborations with universities and research institutes in China, India and EU on carbon capture research.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Chemicals,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
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 09/2015 
End 09/2016
 
Description Combined Energy Recovery & CO2 Removal Project
Amount £147,622 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N508615/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
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 08/2015 
End 08/2016
 
Description Collaboration with Fluor on carbon capture technology 
Organisation Fluor Corporation
Department Fluor Centre Farnborough
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Fluor has its own Econamine FG process for CO2 capture. We are collaborating with Fluor to optimise their process using computational models developed from this research project.
Collaborator Contribution Fluor is providing the Econamine FG process and data for us to study and optimise the carbon capture process.
Impact We have internal report for this collaboration and also prepared research proposals for further research.
Start Year 2019
 
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 Shanghai Jiaotong University 
Organisation Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution To provide CFD modelling and optimisation of their designed fast pyrolysis reactors at different scales
Collaborator Contribution To carry out the fast pyrolysis for different feedstock available in China with data for product yields
Impact Organised workshop and seminars in China for bioenergy research
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaboration with South East University 
Organisation Southeast University China
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution To share our multiscale modelling expertise
Collaborator Contribution To provide large scale experimental facility
Impact A number of visits were made between the partners.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaboration with Southeast University of China 
Organisation Southeast University China
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborating with Southeast University of China on bio-oil upgrading and fundamental kinetic study
Collaborator Contribution Our researcher visited Southeast University and carried out experimental work. The collaboration leads to joint publication and supervision of PhD researchers.
Impact This is leading to journal publications which are listed in the publication record.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Internation collaboration with Ghana 
Organisation Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - Ghana
Department Institute of Industrial Research
Country Ghana 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have expanded our collaboration on energy research to other countries in Africa. During the project period, we successfully received a Leverhulme-Royal Society Africa Award to develop fast pyrolysis based second generation biofuel technologies in Ghana. Biomass feedstock and preparation Researchers to work in the UK
Collaborator Contribution The Ghanaian partner has extensive network in Ghana and other African countries to promote our international activities.
Impact Two papers published with the Ghanaian partner; Established good contacts with government organisations in Ghana.
Start Year 2009
 
Description International collaboration with India 
Organisation Indian Institute of Petroleum
Country India 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We received an award from Royal Academy of Engineering on The Research Exchange with China and India during the project. The project partner is Indian Institute of Petroleum and the project is "Development of computational models for biomass fast pyrolysis". Dr Jasvinder Singh was seconded to our group for 12 months. Review of biomass feedstock and processing method, fast pyrolysis modelling.
Collaborator Contribution The Indian partner has considerable expertise in petroleum refining technologies which are highly valuable for upgrading of pyrolysis oils.
Impact Two joint papers published with Dr Jasvinder Singh
Start Year 2010
 
Description Partnership with Peterborough City Council 
Organisation Peterborough City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We provide technical support to the city council on development of clean tech sector including staff training, research and technology development
Collaborator Contribution The city council provided sponsorship for an academic post and also facilities for a clean energy centre.
Impact We support Peterborough's bid for the UK future city and Peterborough was awarded £3m from TSB.
Start Year 2013
 
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 13th Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies (GHGT-13). 14 to 18 November 2016. Lausanne (Switzerland) 
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 A presentation is given
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description AIChE Annual Meeting San Francisco 
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 We host a Reception to promote our research in this largest chemical engineering conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited talk at Technische Univertaet Berlin, Germany on "CFD modelling of the multiphase flow in structured packings" 1 February 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Over 30 postgraduate students attended the seminar
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Oral and poster presentation: CFD study of the gas-liquid interface in structured packings at ChemEngDay UK on 27-28 March 2017, at Birmingham, United Kingdom. 
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 Over 200 postgraduate students attended the workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Oral presentation "A novel power unit concept using CSP and desert sand" at Process Systems Engineering Research Day on 27 June 2017, London, United Kingdom. 
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 Over 50 participants in the workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
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 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 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 Poster presentation: CFD modeling of structured packings at small- and meso-scale at International Conference of Greenhouse Gas Technologies (GHGT-13) 14-18 November 2017. Lausanne, Switzerland. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This is the largest conference for carbon capture and storage with over 1000 visitors
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description UKCCSRC Autumn Biannual Meeting 2015, CCS in the UK - Taking Stock, was held at Strathclyde University (Glasgow), 8-9 September 2015. 
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 A presentation is given
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
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