Cryogenic system freezes up to 99% of CO2 emissions from coal power plants so carbon can be stored, potentially repurposed
This August, President Obama announced an ambitious plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent by 2030. BYU professor Larry Baxter is developing a technology that can actually do it.
Baxter, a chemical engineering professor, has created a system that separates carbon dioxide from other gases (and prevents it from escaping into the air) by freezing it.
And while there are other ways to curb carbon emissions, Baxter’s cryogenic carbon-capture system gobbles up 99 percent of the CO2 from emissions and costs half as much as conventional methods.
“We took a completely different approach,” says Baxter, who spun the research into a startup that is predominantly funded by government grants and employs BYU grads and interns among others. “What if we cooled down the gas to the point that the CO2 condenses out of the air?”
After his system freezes the CO2 with -130 degree Celsius temperatures, it separates the dry ice from the gas and heats everything back up. The CO2 is pressurized to become a liquid so it can be stored safely in underground aquifers or storage facilities for later use, such as enhanced oil recovery.
Industry expert Carl Bauer said Baxter’s technology is a “technological game changer for CO2 capture.”
“Cryogenic separation of gases is not a newly discovered area of science, but what Dr. Baxter has done is develop a new approach to the process that significantly improves the energy and economic performance of cryogenic gas separation,” said Bauer, the former director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory.
In the latest of a series of publications on the process, Baxter details the energy storage element of cryogenic carbon capture in a paper recently published in academic journal Energy.
While Baxter is confident in his technology, he hopes efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. will spur other nations to follow suit.