Systematic framework for carbon dioxide capture and utilization processes to reduce the global carbon dioxide emissions

Rebecca Frauzem, Cristina Calvera Plaza, Rafiqul Gani

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In the year 2013, 9.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide gas was emitted into the air, and each year this amount is increasing [1]. Carbon dioxide emissions are of particular concern as they represent 80% of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore are a large contributor to global warming. Among the two approaches that are currently being investigated, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilization (CCU) [1] to address this issue, the later approach is more promising as it reuses captured carbon dioxide, as a fuel, reactant, solvent, and others, to produce valuable products. There is not only a need for technologies for capture and utilization, via conversion, but also there are numerous questions that need to be resolved. For example, which higher value chemicals can be produced, what are their current demands and costs of production, and, how much of the captured carbon dioxide would be utilized? Also, how much carbon dioxide would be indirectly generated due to the capture and utilization efforts? Can the regulated carbon dioxide emission reduction targets be achieved only through the CCU and/or CCS efforts? Therefore, there is a need for a systematic computer-aided framework through which the issue of global carbon dioxide emissions can be investigated in terms of different available capture-utilization technologies, solution methods, and benefit scenarios, with the objective to determine more sustainable solutions within an appropriate application boundary. The framework would need to provide, amongst other options: useful data from in-house databases on carbon dioxide emission sources; mathematical models from a library of process-property models; numerical solvers from library of implemented solvers; and, work-flows and data-flows for different benefit scenarios to be investigated.
It is useful to start by developing a prototype framework and then augmenting its application range by increasing the contents of its databases, libraries and work-flows and data-flows. The objective is to present such a prototype framework with its implemented database containing collected information-data on various carbon dioxide emission sources and available capture-utilization technologies; the model and solution libraries [2]; and the generic 3-stage approach for determining more sustainable solutions [3] through superstructure (processing networks) based optimization – adopted for global carbon dioxide emission problems. More specifically, the prototype framework and the three-stage approach adopted for systematic and sustainable design of carbon capture and utilization processes incorporates (i) process synthesis stage, the determination of a processing path from a network of alternatives; (ii) process design, the design and analysis of a process or generated processing path in terms of process “hot-spots” or deficiencies to set design targets for improvement; and (iii) innovative and more sustainable design, determination of solutions matching the design targets. In this way, the starting point is an analysis of the current carbon dioxide emission status and the end point is an analysis of the more sustainable solutions in terms of one or more carbon dioxide benefit scenarios.
The developed framework contains a database constructed based on a developed knowledge representation structure, which has collected data on carbon dioxide emission sources, capture technologies, carbon dioxide-based reaction paths, and known utilization technologies leading to various products. The database currently has 5 carbon dioxide emission sources, 3 capture technologies, 10 conversion routes leading to 8 products, and over 50 reaction paths for many more products. The framework also integrates a software tool (the Super-O interface [2]) containing a library of process models and links to numerical solvers that enables the generation of processing networks (superstructure) and the determination of the optimal processing route. Finally, the framework has access to, a collection of tools for analysis, such as economic analysis, sustainability and life cycle assessment, and links to detailed process simulation (process simulators).
Following the work-flow and data-flow implemented in the framework, data for the carbon capture and utilization alternatives are retrieved from the database and linked to form a network using the interface tool, Super-O. For each alternative, models for economic and environmental impacts are available; the promising utilization products considered are methanol, dimethyl carbonate, and succinic acid. The optimal utilization process (or processes) is determined via a superstructure-based method (using solvers in GAMS). Then, the carbon dioxide emission values for the utilization routes are compared with the current industrial production routes for the listed products in order to identify those that have zero or negative emission values (objective function). Subsequently, the identified utilization processes are designed rigorously and further improved with unique technology and integration options. Using this approach, the utilization processes for methanol, dimethyl carbonate and succinic acid give the following interesting result: by converting at least 70% (methanol), 40 % (dimethyl carbonate) and 20% (succinic acid) of the current industrial processes to the corresponding utilization processes, the emissions from these processes can be neutralized, representing over 100 million metric tons of emissions that are neutralized. Note that the issue of product demand increase has not been considered. Also, on a global scale, this reduction of carbon dioxide emissions represents a very small but very valuable reduction. A more complete sustainability analysis is needed to enlarge the boundary of the analysis; for example, the boundary can change in terms of reduction of non-renewable resources and the use of renewable energy sources, as well as more efficient and sustainable designs of current production routes. While a combination of methods is needed to globally address carbon dioxide emissions and other aspects of sustainability, this systematic approach to designing carbon capture and utilization processes shows the capacity for such processes to reduce emissions and improve sustainability while producing valuable products. The current prototype framework with its implemented methods and tools is a small but important step. Collaboration and integration of data, methods and tools is necessary to provide a more sustainable solution to the global carbon dioxide emission problem.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2016
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event2016 AIChE Annual Meeting - Hotel Nikko San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: 13 Nov 201619 Nov 2016


Conference2016 AIChE Annual Meeting
LocationHotel Nikko San Francisco
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, CA
Internet address


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