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NanoMaterials Enhanced Membranes for Carbon Capture

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NanoMEMC2 (NanoMaterials Enhanced Membranes for Carbon Capture)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2019-09-30

Within the current environmental concerns about global warming, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is seen as a necessary medium term technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere while waiting for a complete transition towards a more sustainable energy system.
Currently, the main limit to the application of CCS technologies is its high cost of implementation; therefore, strong research efforts are needed to optimize current capture processes and make CCS an economically viable solution for the decarbonisation of the industrial sector.
The NANOMEMC2 project aimed at solving such limitations through the development of innovative materials, membranes and processes for CO2 capture, able to achieve a substantial reduction in the energy penalty related to the decrease of CO2 emissions. (Fig. 1)
NANOMEMC2 developed and applied new membranes to both Pre- and Post-combustion capture schemes with the final goal to reach TRL 5 by carrying out industrial tests on the most promising membranes developed within the project. It also addressed the techno-economic and environmental analysis of different possible process schemes tailored for a competitive implementation of membrane-based capture steps in the industrial plants of interest.
Finally, to fulfil the different goals and increase the impact of the project, NANOMEMC2 also continuously sought the cooperation with its partner from the Republic of Korea in the field of CCS to which had strong complementary expertise in the development of materials for membrane based new capture solutions
NANOMEMC2 activity can be divided in 3 different main tasks: Materials development, Technoeconomic and environmental analysis – Exploitation and dissemination of results.
Materials development focused on the production of graphene or nanocellulose based hybrid membranes and allowed to obtain more than 80 different membrane materials by coupling purposely modified nanofillers with commercial or pseudo commercial polymers.
The different materials resulted in many close to, and even able to surpass the Robeson’s upper bound indicating the state of the art limit for membrane separations (Fig 2). Two membranes were selected for industrial testing within the project (Fig. 3), one based on Polyvinylalcohol and Aminoacid salts and a second one obtained by blending porous graphene and Polyallylamine. Interestingly, lab scale test showed similar properties for the two membranes (permeance in the order of 800 GPU and selectivity close to 40), but the results of the tests for the second membrane revealed higher fluxes (Fig. 4) and also proved its resistance to most common contaminants such as SOx and NOx.
Materials development was always accompanied by process analysis aiming at a competitive integration of membranes into different industrial processes. These activities demonstrated the applicability of the novel materials developed for carbon capture in industrial environment considering production scenarios originating from 3 industrial sectors:
• Power generation (from natural gas or coal gasification)
• Clinker production
• Hydrogen production via steam methane reforming
The analysis, suggested that NANOMEMC2 membrane materials are economically very attractive over conventional, non-membrane-based carbon capture soluteions, when processing streams with high partial pressure of carbon dioxide such as in the case of the production of hydrogen from reformers or the production of power by coal gasification (Fig. 5).
The lifecycle assessment also indicates that the NANOMEMC2 membranes represent very promising materials, as all test cases studied showed a reduced Global Warming Potential (GWP) with respect to the business as usual case. More restricted benefits are found with regard to the total environmental impacts due to the additional use of utilities and resources (natural gas, water etc.) needed to carry on the capture. (Fig. 6)
Additional areas of application were also explored confirming the potential of the membranes in high CO2-partial pressure scenarios (i.e. Autothermal reforming) and showing very promising results in biogas upgrading applications due to the boosted selectivity of the material that minimises the losses of methane compared to conventional solution-diffusion membranes.
In order to maximise the impact of the project results, several exploitation and dissemination activities were also performed: 3 exploitation workshops were organized and a stakeholder analysis was carried out as a basis for the project’s exploitation strategy. KER were identified and discussed within the consortium and a market analysis was also carried out for the most interesting applications namely Hydrogen production clinker production and biogas upgrading.
Projects results were also presented to a vast audience through a number of dissemination activities including the use of social media, project website and several communication materials, the organization of a dissemination and an industrial workshop, the presentation or results at international conferences and in scientific publications.
NANOMEMC2 aimed at a substantial decrease of the costs associated to carbon capture, by developing innovative membranes materials with high flux and selectivity and innovative processes able to maximize the membrane impact on the capture performance in industrial applications.
Naturally, a quantification of the real impact of NANOMEMC2 results on CCS costs and on its deployment in the industrial and energy sectors is somewhat uncertain given the still early stage of development of the different membranes materials considered. Nonetheless the project results were satisfactory and showed potential application for the developed membranes.
Most of the materials investigated in this period, showed properties in line or above the current permeability/selectivity trade off limit for CO2 separation membranes.
They were successfully implemented in hollow fibers modules and tested in industrially relevant condition confirming if not exceeding the expectation based on the lab scale results. Resistance to the most common contaminants present in flue gas was also demonstrated.
Parallel to materials development new modelling tools were applied for the first time to the problem of facilitated transport membranes, obtaining interesting results in terms of both macro and micro scale approach.
Based on these results the technoeconomic analysis as well as the LCA showed that NANOMEMC2 membranes can surpass the reference CCS technology in different industrial processes (cement production, hydrogen production and biogas upgrading) bringing to lower costs and a better environmental footprint
Fig. 3: Industrial testing rig and membrane modules
Fig. 2: Nanomemc2 Membrane performances
Fig. 4: Industrial testing results
Fig. 5: Overview of the technoeconomic analysis results
Fig. 6: Example of LCA results
Fig. 1: Project objectives