Carbon capture and storage is rapidly accelerating in global deployment. The world is racing to reduce increasing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere and researchers are doing their part to facilitate the process.
In partnership with Exxon, researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have discovered a new way that captures and stores CO2 emissions more efficiently. They have found a way to speed up the formation of carbon dioxide-based crystal structures that could be sequestered under the ocean floor for centuries, if not forever.
New Way Of CO2 Storage
Structures, known as hydrates, form when CO2 is mixed with water at high pressure and low temperature. Then the water molecules start acting like cages that trap CO2 molecules. However, that carbon capture process initiates very slowly – it takes hours or days to get the reaction started.
The new discovery is that when magnesium is added to the reaction, hydrates form 3,000 times faster or for one minute – the quickest method found today. That is also the fastest hydrate formation reaction ever documented.
“The state-of-the-art method today is to use chemicals to promote the reaction…It works, but it’s slower, and these chemicals are expensive and not environmentally friendly,” said Vaibhav Bahadur, an associate professor participating in the research.
The process could work using existing carbon capture technology to extract CO2 from the air and take it to reactors where the hydrates could be formed. The reactors could be taken underwater. The method was deemed more safe and efficient than other forms of CO2 storage like injecting the gas into abandoned wells.
The project is part of a research partnership between ExxonMobil and the Energy Institute at UT Austin. Exxon and the researchers have filed a patent application to commercialize the carbon storage discovery. The next step for them is to increase the amount of CO2 converted into hydrates during the reaction and to establish continuous production of hydrates.