Carbon Capture Pilot Plant

Carbon Capture Pilot Plant

Project: Carbon Capture Pilot Plant

Client: Imperial College

Problem

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, and the one most associated with human activity and industrial development.  The management of atmospheric CO2 by Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is seen as essential in limiting climate change while fossil fuels remain the world’s principal sources of energy.  Carbon Capture technology is in its infancy and there are significant research projects underway in many countries.

Strata was appointed by Imperial College to design a state-of-the-art Carbon Capture Pilot Plant.  It was required not only to be functional, but would also stand as the centrepiece of the pilot plant hall in the newly refurbished Aeronautics and Chemical Engineering (ACE) extension at the university’s South Kensington campus. Spanning four storeys, and including two 10-metre high columns fitted with viewing windows, the plant was required to employ a solvent capture process to extract CO2 from a gaseous stream.  It needed to incorporate a wide variety of control and instrument platforms – including the latest wireless control technology from ABB – and technical advances in pump and heat exchanger technologies.  The plant would operate on a closed loop, absorbing CO2 gas into a stream of liquid amine in its absorber column, and subsequently transferring the stream to a stripper column within which the CO2 would be desorbed at high temperatures, with the desorbed CO2 gas recycled back to the absorber column.

Solution

Strata carried out all the process and mechanical design, including flowschemes, P&IDs, pressure vessels, 3D CAD layouts interfacing the plant with the building layout, and assembled all the parts manifests to enable the plant to be built.   The pilot plant was commissioned in 2012, and is used both as a research tool and as a student training platform – it provides the rare opportunity for chemical engineering students to take engineering problems and solutions from the textbook to real life experience.

Including it in their list of Ten Groundbreaking University Research Projects, the Daily Telegraph said of the plant: “The Carbon Capture Pilot Plant at Imperial College London is the most advanced facility of its kind in the world.  […] the plant demonstrates best practice in capturing and storing harmful carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere.  The plant brings together academics, students and industrial partners, to test and develop new ways of capturing and harnessing carbon dioxide emissions.”

Benefit to the Client

The Carbon Capture Pilot Plant at Imperial College London is the most advanced facility of its kind in the world.  Stretching over four storeys, the plant demonstrates best practice in capturing and storing harmful carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere. The plant brings together academics, students and industrial partners, to test and develop new ways of capturing and harnessing carbon dioxide emissions. The £2 million plant was unveiled in 2012, and features a wide variety of advanced control and instrumentation technology, meaning students are trained to work with a range of different industrial plant systems[1].

CCS is the only way which we can continue to use the fossil fuels upon which the energy supply of our current society is based, and one of the only realistic ways to prevent dangerous climate change whilst we move towards a fully sustainable future[2].

Post combustion capture can be done in a number of ways:  Solvent Capture (including MEA or amine scrubbing), uses some form of solvent to reversibly react with CO2 from the flue gas (i.e. after the fuel has been burned, a post-combustion technology), with heat being applied to remove the CO2 and produce a pure stream of CO2[3].

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[1] Daily Telegraph – Ten Groundbreaking University Research Projects
[2] Carbon Capture and Storage at Imperial College London
[3] What is Carbon Capture and Storage?
[4] Sky News – Scientists test radical ways to repair Earth’s climate