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How CO2 Scrubbing Works

Following on from the recent COP the intergovernmental panel on climate change recently declared that the commitments made to date including those established through the GCP, the United Nations Paris Agreement from 2015 and others could limit the growth of the atmospheric temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

During the industrial revolution, we burned roughly 551 billion tons of carbon, the world’s atmospheric concentration is now 100 parts per million higher than it was 200 years ago, meaning that human beings have some decisions to make regarding their energy consumption.

One such way being the case of carbon sequestration and CO2 scrubbing. The term carbon sequestration refers to the broad selection of processes which takes carbon dioxide and directs it away for permanent storage or productive use. While CO2 scrubbing is a particular form of carbon capture which takes place after fossil fuel has been combusted, before the exhaust is distributed into the surrounding atmosphere.

The Process of C02 Scrubbing

CO2 Scrubbing works by isolating CO2 from flue gases before they are released into the air. Flue gas is the gas exiting to the atmosphere via a flue ( a pipe or channel for conveying exhaust gases from a fireplace, oven, furnace etc.)

Irrespective of where you live around the world, the chances of your home’s electricity being powered by a power plant is extremely high a few years ago. To produce energy, power plants burned coal or other fossil fuels into the air to create steam. This steam would then be used to turn a turbine in order to generate electricity. Aside from generating steam, flue gases are also created and released into the surrounding environment, many of these emissions are greenhouse gases which contribute to the greenhouse effect.

In order to prevent CO2 from being released into the atmosphere, post- combustion carbon capture works by isolating the CO2 from the other flue gases after combustion. Once these gases have been removed or “scrubbed” they are then discharged into the air. There are also several scrubbing techniques which have the capability to isolate other greenhouse gases such as sulphur and mercury, however as CO2 is currently the biggest issue, it is generally the main focus.

As it stands the most commonly used method for isolation is to use a liquid solvent to bind with the CO2 and separate it from the other gas components. The two most common solvents currently used are aqueous ammonia and monoethanolamide (MEA).

Regardless of the chosen solvent the process is the same:

One the fossil fuel is combusted in the air, the resulting gases are accumulated and cooled. The solvent of choice is then added and then begins to adsorb the CO2 forming a new compound in a flexible chemical reaction. The new compound then begins to split from the other gases by registering a more solid state which then gets pushed into a new chamber and then reheated. This heat causes the CO2 to exit the solution in order to be redirected to storage. The solvent is then reissued back to the beginning of the cycle to be reuses and the cleaned flue gas is distributed into the atmosphere.

There are also other CO2 scrubbing methods which could be considered other than using solvents:

- Applying adsorbents which attract CO2 to their surface where it can be removed

- Using selectively permeable membranes which inhibits CO2 from passing through but still allows the more benign gases to escape

- Cooling the flue gases to a lower temperature which forces the CO2 to condense out of the solution for separation.

Although each of the aforementioned techniques has proven effective, due to the challenges inherent in separating C02 from flue gases, scientists are investigating better options to find the best and cheapest solution.

Apex Gasgen CO2 Scrubbers

The Apex CO2 extractor range is an extensive range of scrubbers used in both laboratory or industrial CO and CO2 removal for analytical equipment, purging ovens and for protecting sensitive equipment.

Apex Gasgen manufactures it’s CO2 scrubbers to use Pressure Swing Adsorption Technology. Air form an external source enters the units via inlet filters and then enters the scrubber tower where carbon dioxide is removed and the air is dried.

The CO2 extractors supply you with dry air, free from carbon dioxide, which is essential for a variety of industrial and laboratory applications and leads to improved process quality, limited equipment downtime and overall lower operating costs.

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