California has committed to be carbon neutral by 2045 and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) is in full swing to make that happen.
The new technology, called Isothermal Water Vapor and CO2 Capture (IWVC), was developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and is commercialized by Los Angeles-based startup Avnos. It uses a two-stage vacuum swing process to extract carbon dioxide and water from the air.
In the first stage, it attracts and binds water vapor and carbon dioxide. The second stage condenses the water out and compresses the carbon dioxide to make it usable for transport, storage, or the production of fuel.
“We believe that at scale this technology has the potential to generate approximately 15 million gallons of water a day while removing 1.8 million tons of CO2 from the air each year in a single system—the equivalent of taking more than 390,000 cars off the road for a year.”
The DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy has set aside $15 million in federal funding to finance cost-shared research and development of DAC technologies. The goal has been to advance technologies that remove CO2 from point sources such as fossil fuel-based power plants and industrial processes, or directly from the air.
However, conventional DAC technologies also carry risks. Dr. Peter McGrail, a laboratory fellow at PNNL, pointed out that the usage of high temperatures could make conventional DAC processes too energy-intensive and costly. However, in this hybrid IWVC system, there is no need for outside heating, which makes it economical to produce water and carbon dioxide.
“A 2020 study published in Nature Climate Change showed that large-scale deployment of conventional DAC technologies could exacerbate issues around water scarcity. Our technology upends those concerns by producing excess water while still doing the main job of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere,” said Dr. McGrail.
The IWVC demonstration system components are currently being designed and developed under the leadership of PNNL. Once the system is set up, it will then be tested in Southern California. The project is expected to be completed by 2023.
A recent economy-wide analysis by SoCalGas demonstrated the role of clean fuels such as hydrogen and renewable natural gas in California’s goal of becoming 100% net zero emissions by 2045. Solutions include electrification combined with clean fuels, carbon management, and technologies like fuel cells to deliver more sustainable and more affordable power to customers.
“The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency highlight the need for carbon management tools to meet our Paris Agreement commitments,” said Neil Navin, vice president of clean energy innovations at SoCalGas. “By helping jumpstart this technology we aim to help California reach its 100% net-zero goals more affordably, more equitably, and with less risk of power disruptions, customer conversion barriers, and technological limitations.”