There’s a new race to develop bite-sized carbon capture tech

Technology to remove carbon dioxide from emissions before they enter the atmosphere is still nascent, but many scientists, governments and investors are already banking on the approach to reduce the climate impact of difficult-to-decarbonize industries.

But wide-scale adoption of carbon capture technology has so far been stymied by the size and expense of most capture systems, which can cost up to $500 million and typically require bespoke equipment and installation.

New standardized, modular designs that are aimed at small emitters could open the door for more widespread use.

Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. plans to start introducing a line-up of small to medium-sized carbon capture systems next year, which it says can sequester up to 95 per cent of CO2 emitted from small polluters like municipal waste incinerators, cement plants or ships. 

“Finding modular systems that can work at low-costs for small capacities would significantly improve the business case,” said David Lluis Madrid, an analyst at BloombergNEF. “Small scale plants have been highly uneconomical with current technology.”

The Japanese government estimates the market for the sequestering, transporting and storing CO2 will expand to nearly $70 billion a year by 2050.

The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act passed last month, which increases tax credits given for carbon captured at industrial facilities, could give a boost for such projects, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

Mitsubishi Heavy began developing technology to capture CO2 from emissions more than 30 years ago and says that over the past year more than 100 firms have expressed interest in its modular capture system. The company plans to begin introducing a range of modules that can capture between 0.3 to 200 metric tons of CO2 a day using an amine-based solution, from next year.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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