emissions
Metal-organic frameworks are highly porous, making them ideal for absorbing gases and liquids. This graphic shows the interior of a MOF based on the metal magnesium (green balls), and has added molecules — tetraamines (blue & gray) — added to the pores to more efficiently absorb carbon dioxide from power plant emissions. (UC Berkeley graphic by Eugene Kim)

Is it possible to change the story of natural gas – or even coal – through the use of carbon capture technology?

Our most-read article over the past few days has been one about a collaboration between scientists from ExxonMobil, the University of California, Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  The researchers have discovered a new material that could capture more than 90% of carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas-fired power.

Laboratory tests indicate the [patent-pending] materials, known as tetraamine-functionalised metal organic frameworks (MOF), capture carbon dioxide emissions up to six times more effectively than conventional amine-based carbon capture technology.

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By manipulating the structure of the MOF material, the team have shown the ability to “condense a surface area the size of a football field, into just one gram of mass – about the same as a paperclip – that acts as a sponge for carbon emissions,” according to the UC Berkley website.

This got me wondering: If we improved carbon capture efficiency and costs – does that change our perspective on natural gas and the gas bridge?

According to Jeffrey Long, the senior researcher on the UC Berkley team: “For CO2 capture, steam stripping — where you use direct contact with steam to take off the CO2 — has been a sort of holy grail for the field. It is rightly seen as the cheapest way to do it.”

“These materials, at least from the experiments we have done so far, look very promising.”

Simon Weston, senior research associate and the project lead at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering says further: “We were able to take the initial discovery and, through research and testing, derive a material that in-lab experiments has shown the potential to not only capture CO2 under the extreme conditions present in flue gas emissions from natural gas power plants but to do so with no loss in selectivity.”

“We have shown that these new materials can then be regenerated with low-grade steam for repeated use, providing a pathway for a viable solution for carbon capture at scale.”

You can read the full story on the UC Berkley site, but if the technology is as promising as it initially sounds, could this change the role of natural gas in the energy story? Could it change the story of coal?

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We’ve reached out to UC Berkley with some questions and will provide an update on some of these questions – however, your opinion is important too. If there was a way to effectively remove CO2 from gas or even coal-fired power – would you want to use it? Would it change your perception of the urgency of the transition to renewable energy?

You can respond to our post on LinkedIn with your comments.

Until next time,
Claire