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Simple Process Developed to Remove Smokestack CO2 Emissions

Coal plant (


Researchers at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Québec City, Canada are developing an economical method for removing most carbon dioxide from emissions put out by large industrial plants. The project led by INRS environmental scientist Guy Mercier, is funded by a two-year, $300,000 grant from Carbon Management Canada, a federal Canadian research network that supports studies to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the fossil fuel and other industries.

The project aims to devise an economical technique that companies can easily integrate into their operations, using abundant rocks, waste concrete, or tailings from mines in Quebec. Mercier’s team is adapting and improving the process by which CO2 reacts with various types of crushed rocks to form carbonates, a benign but commercially valuable by-product.

“You take the waste material, the rock, concrete or mine tailings” Mercier explains, “and crush it to make a powder and then you send that powder up the chimney with the gas. The resulting chemical reaction removes 80 per cent of the CO2.”

The process also creates carbonate by products that have commercial value, and can be sold by the emitting companies. For industrial operations, carbonates such as sodium carbonate can be used in the manufacture of glass, paper, and detergent, as well as a water softener. Potassium carbonate or potash is also used to make glass.

The INRS team is collaborating on this project with University of Calgary and University of Melbourne in Australia, as well as Holcim Canada, a building materials and construction company. The researchers expect to react various magnesium and calcium rocks available in mine tailings with the gaseous emissions containing CO2 from a Holcim cement plant.

Mercier says many engineering challenges remain, the project has a lot of promise for industry. “It’s a lower cost, low pressure, low temperature technology,” notes Mercier, “that doesn’t require capturing purified CO2.”

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