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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Nov 1;41(21):7558-63.

Energy and material balance of CO2 capture from ambient air.

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Columbia University, Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, 918 Mudd MC 4711, 500 West 120th Street, New York, New York 10027, USA.


Current Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies focus on large, stationary sources that produce approximately 50% of global CO2 emissions. We propose an industrial technology that captures CO2 directly from ambient air to target the remaining emissions. First, a wet scrubbing technique absorbs CO2 into a sodium hydroxide solution. The resultant carbonate is transferred from sodium ions to calcium ions via causticization. The captured CO2 is released from the calcium carbonate through thermal calcination in a modified kiln. The energy consumption is calculated as 350 kJ/mol of CO2 captured. It is dominated by the thermal energy demand of the kiln and the mechanical power required for air movement. The low concentration of CO2 in air requires a throughput of 3 million cubic meters of air per ton of CO2 removed, which could result in significant water losses. Electricity consumption in the process results in CO2 emissions and the use of coal power would significantly reduce to net amount captured. The thermodynamic efficiency of this process is low but comparable to other "end of pipe" capture technologies. As another carbon mitigation technology, air capture could allow for the continued use of liquid hydrocarbon fuels in the transportation sector.

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