A team of chemical engineering researchers has been granted a patent for an energy-saving solvent absorption process for capturing carbon dioxide from power plant flue gas. The invention was created by Stuart Higgins and Yueying Yu, former chemical engineering doctoral students at Virginia Tech, along with Y. A. Liu, alumni distinguished professor and the Frank C. Vilbrandt endowed professor of chemical engineering.
For every ton of carbon dioxide captured, the process requires a solvent regeneration energy of 1.67 Giga Joule. By comparison, past reports in the patents and in the literature show a solvent regeneration energy of 2.4 to 3.3 Giga Joule per ton of carbon dioxide captured, according to the highly respected Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change of the United Nations Environmental Program. One Giga Joule is approximately equivalent to 7.6 gallons of gasoline. This work resulted from an industrial outreach project of the Center of Excellence in Process System Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering, sponsored by the Aspen Technology, Inc. and by the SINOPEC Corporation. Aspen Technology is the world’s leading software technology company in the process industries, and SINOPEC (China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation) is FORTUNE 2019 global top two company.
The process is being implemented commercially. Mr. Cao Xianghong, SINOPEC’s former Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer and an elected member of the U. S. National Academy of Engineering, said: “My colleagues and I were so pleased with the lowest solvent regeneration requirement of the new process that is leading competing processes internationally, and have recommended its actual implementation in our Shengli Oil Field Power Plant to capture one million ton of carbon dioxide per year for enhanced oil recovery".
Both Virginia Tech President, Dr. Timothy Sands, and Provost, Dr. Cyril Clarke, have congratulated the team for the invention and its industrial implementation in support of a cleaner and stable climate.
The highlights of the process were reported in an article, “CO2 Capture, Energy Savings and Heat Pump Integration” in the journal, Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, in February 2015.