(685b) NH4oh Looping with Membrane CO2 Absorber and Distributed Stripper for Enhanced Algae Growth | AIChE

(685b) NH4oh Looping with Membrane CO2 Absorber and Distributed Stripper for Enhanced Algae Growth


Nikolic, H. - Presenter, University of Kentucky
Liu, K., University of Kentucky
Crocker, M., University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy (UK CAER) has devised a unique, integrated CO2 capture and utilization technology. CO2 from coal-fired power generation flue gas is first captured at half the operating cost of a typical aqueous CO2 capture system (CCS), distributed in an aqueous stream and then fixed by algae in bioreactors where the algae production is increased by 50% over that with a typical intermittent nutrient feeding system. Lower CCS operating cost is achieved by eliminating the flue gas pretreatment step for cooling and SO2 removal, eliminating steam extraction from the power generation steam cycle for solvent regeneration, and eliminating CO2 compression. Higher algae production is achieved by continuous, just-in-time nutrient feed to the bioreactors directly from a distributed solvent regenerator, which maintains the bioreactor pH for optimum growth.

The process starts with a uniquely configured membrane absorber, where the flue gas is indirectly contacted with an ammonium hydroxide (NH4OH) solvent. Dissolved NH3 is attractive for both CO2 capture and as an algae nutrient. For CO2 capture it is inexpensive, has a low regeneration energy, is thermally- and oxidatively-stable and has a viscosity near that of water, which makes is easy to transport. Numerous studies have shown that the scrubbing capacity of NH3 is approximately 0.9-1.2 kg of CO2/kg of NH3, with a CO2 removal efficiency of ~99% and half the solvent regeneration energy than that of 30 wt% MEA[1, 2, 3]. NH3 is attractive as an algae nutrient due to its low cost.

The rich NH4OH solvent is pumped to a set of distributed regenerators which are co-located with the algae bioreactors. Solvent pumping, transport and distribution reduces the balance of plant (BOP) cost compared to a typical aqueous CCS related to the flue gas duct and boost fan required to transport the flue gas. The energy required for the distributed solvent regeneration is supplied by solar-thermal panels eliminating the need for steam extraction from the power generation steam cycle. After solvent regeneration, the product stream contains both the CO2 captured from the flue gas and volatized NH3 from the solvent. This product stream is fed directly to the bioreactors, eliminating the need for compression of the CO2 stream. The relative amounts of CO2 and NH3 in the product stream are adjusted and controlled by a controlling the regeneration conditions (pressure and temperature). The continuous feed of the right ratio of nutrients overcomes the typical inhibition of algae growth resulting from frequent pH swings in the bioreactor due to unbalanced (intermittent) feeding systems for CO2 and N. Also, because the regenerators will operate at pressure and be located in close proximity to the bioreactors, there is no worry about pressure drop when sparging the gas into the algae. Sparging produces small bubbles which is beneficial for mass transfer efficiency.

One known challenge when using an NH4OH solvent is high NH3 emission. Hydrophobic membranes are used for CO2 capture using an aqueous NH3 solution[4, 5] without the direct contact between flue gas and aqueous solution. Additionally, UK CAER CO2 capture and utilization process manages NH3 slip in three extra measures. First, NH3 slip is minimized by working with minimal species partial pressure, which is proportional to the concentration in the liquid. Hence, lowering the capture solvent concentration will lower the NH3 partial pressure. Second, UK CAER’s previous work has demonstrated that the addition of Zn2+ into NH3 solutions to chelate the NH3 can reduce NH3 volatility. Third, the configuration of the membrane CO2 absorber utilizes condensed water from the flue gas to continually wash the gas-side of the membrane to reduce fouling and recapture NH3 slip.

Additional details about the UK CAER unique, integrated CO2 capture and utilization technology will be presented along with technology development plans.

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