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CORA – Separation of CO2 from air for power-to-Xprocesses for sector coupling

CO2 on the conveyor belt

Carbon dioxide and water are sustainable raw materials for power-to-X processes, with the air providing an almost inexhaustible source for the processes at any location. Getting the carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air is not an easy task, however, and usually requires electricity and heat for the separation and concentration. The process of separating CO2 from the air is most interesting for locations with favorable wind and PV conditions where there are plans to make power-to-X products on a grand scale in the future. In the short term, CO2 consumers who have produced their CO2 from burning fossil fuels until now can switch their CO2 supply to a renewable option. In the longer term, the separation of CO2 from the air can facilitate adherence to the climate targets with negative CO2 emissions after the fossil CO2 emissions have been reduced to an unavoidable residual level.

The partners in the joint project “CORA” are facing the challenge of rolling out an effective and easily scalable technology. First, the German Institutes of Textile and Fabric Research (DITF) will develop a fabric/fiber tape for the efficient absorption and desorption of CO2. This will be accompanied by the development and testing of a belt system at the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW). This step enables to desorb CO2 and H2O in different zones of the running belt with the help of process waste heat such as electrolysis and downstream e-fuel synthesis and to make them available in concentrated form.

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The cheapest and most efficient method

Two processes, which can be operated continuously for the separation of CO2 from the air, have already been developed and demonstrated at the ZSW. Both methods use a scrubbing process for CO2 absorption. An aqueous sodium hydroxide solution (NaOH) was used to absorb CO2 in the first instance (2009). In this case, the carbonate solution formed was electrically regenerated through dialysis. The electricity consumption was correspondingly high, with over 5 kilowatt-hours per kilogram CO2. This is why an aqueous solution of polyethylene imine (PEI) of high molecular weight was used as the CO2 sorbent in a further variant from 2016 to 2019. This enabled thermal CO2 desorption, thereby allowing the use of waste heat from downstream power-to-X steps, which significantly reduces the electricity consumption for the CO2 supply to below 2 kilowatt-hours per kilogram CO2.

One aim pursued in developing the new process in “CORA” is to decrease electricity consumption by dispensing with large air blowers. Another is to recover water from the process instead of using water, as was previously the case with the air scrubber. The plan is to have a circulating tape of fabric with groups of amines fixed to it for the adsorption of CO2. That is why the material development process is of great importance. A tape apparatus is being developed at the same time. The design brief, in this case, is to come up with an efficient method of desorbing CO2 and H2O and to make them available on a continuous basis.

To ensure that the new process also meets the climate policy targets and is environmentally sound, the Institute for Energy and Environment Reasearch (ifeu) will flank a full life-cycle assessment and evaluation of long-term CO2 storage.

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Pooling expertise for the industrial roll-out

The research team – consisting of the research institutes DITF, ifeu, and ZSW and industrial partner Mercedes-Benz – has the necessary skills to realize the ambitious goals of an efficient CO2 and H2O supply for power-to-X processes.

The new “CORA” process aims to reduce the electricity consumption to values below 0.5 kilowatt-hours perkilogram CO2 and cut the required process heat. Another aim is to develop a cost-effective CO2 sorbent based on cellulose fibers and amines in order to lay the foundation for competitive industrial practices and scalable technology. The potential to provide CO2 and H2O in parallel makes the new process an ideal raw material supplier for power-to-X processes in remote locations with good PV and wind power conditions.

It is hoped that more industrial partners will come on board to prepare for the next steps in the industrial roll-out and join the pursuit of the large-scale strategy within the project framework.

CORA-Projektblatt zum Download

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