Why capture carbon?




Dotz Nano Limited (ASX:DTZ) Director Glenn Kelly discusses the carbon capture market and the different technologies available.

Paul Sanger: I'm Paul Sanger for the Finance News Network, and today I have the pleasure of speaking with Glenn Kelly, who is an industry expert in carbon capture technologies. Glenn Kelly has over 35 years of operational, business development and strategic leadership in the natural resources and clean technology sectors. Mr Kelly holds a Bachelor of Science with honours degree in civil engineering from Queen's University and an MBA from Laval University. Welcome to the network, Glenn.

Glenn Kelly: Glad to be here, Paul. Thank you.

Paul Sanger: Absolute pleasure. Glenn, to kick things off, and before we get into carbon capture technology, can you just explain for the audience, why do we capture CO2?

Glenn Kelly: Okay. That's a pretty big question, but basically it's summed up in two words: climate change, and the ever-increasing average temperature of our atmosphere. Just to remind you, we're up on average about 1.2 degrees centigrade since the mid-1900s, over the last 70 years, and that's directly in correlation with the amount of CO2 that's in our atmosphere. How did that CO2 get there? Man-made emissions, notably the use of fossil fuels, burning of coal, natural gas and oil, and the production of cement by itself.

So, if we're going to, as our governments want us to do, tackle climate change, we have three options. Stop using fossil fuels. That's not going to happen. The world's energy needs keep going up. Two, replace them with renewable energy sources. We're already doing that, and we're meeting new demand, new energy demand with renewable energy. Or three, start capturing our emissions. And that's what carbon capture is all about. And the International Energy Agency has estimated and has put forth a study saying we're going to have to capture close to 6 billion tonnes of CO2 per year from now to 2050 to limit our temperature increase to 1.5 degrees centigrade. How much are we capturing today? 40 million tonnes. So, we have to go up greater than a hundredfold over the next 25 years. So, that’s the first part of my answer.

Now, between you and I and the wall, why would you capture CO2? The only reason you'll do it is if there's a cost to you as an industry. And that's where we get into carbon taxes and in Europe what's called the carbon credits. And right now the value of a tonne of carbon or the penalty if you omit a tonne is about $85. And where is the cost of technology today? Right about there.

Paul Sanger: Okay.

Glenn Kelly: So, when the cost of the technology is lower than the penalty, that's when rapid adoption will come into place. And we're right at the cusp right now, where the technology cost curve is coming down and where the penalty is going up.

Australia, you used to have a carbon tax. I forget your female Prime Minister's name, had brought it in there and then it was taken out. But you're putting other mechanisms in now. The US has it, Canada has it, Europe has it. So, I'd say we're four or five years away from having a pretty well global price of carbon.

Paul Sanger: And now can you share your insights on the latest advancements in carbon capture and storage technologies currently in development? In particular, we're interested in hearing your perspective on solid sorbent CO2 capture technology. How does this method operate, and what stage of development has it reached?

Glenn Kelly: CO2 capture is not very new. It's not something that's new. It's been around for a while. And there are four different technologies. Basically, absorption, which is a chemical reaction. Adsorption, where we're using a solid to capture the CO2. Membrane technology, which are just like screens, where you try and push through the flue gases and separate that CO2. And cryogenic gas separation. Those last two I won't talk about because they're extremely expensive and will never see the light of day at commercial scale.

Now, getting back to absorption, which is a chemical reaction, that comes straight out of the oil and gas industry. Very mature technology, very well known, and about 20 years ago was applied to the capture of CO2 from our flue gases. It's the most mature technology. It's the one that's been tested at pilot all the way to large industrial scale, but it's fully mature and won't get any better. It also happens to be extremely costly and does not have a very viable future to capture those 6 billion tonnes I was talking about earlier.

That brings us to solid sorbents or adsorption with a “D” and not a “B”. And it's basically using physical sorbents or physical solids -- they look like sponges, really -- to attract the CO2 molecule and separate it from the flue gas coming out of our stacks. And that's what the solid sorbents being developed by companies like Dotz Technologies (ASX:DTZ) are going to be doing and are doing presently.

Paul Sanger: And you kind of touched on this already. In your assessment, which of the current technologies demonstrates the most progress or potential for success?

Glenn Kelly: Well, that's, I'd say, a different answer to each part of your question. The one that has shown the most progress is definitely the amines or the absorption technologies. We call them amines. It's a liquid system, and it's very, very efficient, but very, very cost non-effective. It's extremely costly. It leads to carcinogenic emissions. And the amines themselves degenerate or degrade when they're in service, so you have to replace them quite often. They're very mature. They've been tested inside out and backwards. So, they're the best technology out there now.

Do they have the most promise? Not at all. The most promise is with the solid sorbents. And the interesting thing is, a lot of interest went into amines 10, 15, 20 years ago, and not much interest into solid sorbents. And the solid sorbents are the ones that have or is the technology, I should say, that has the most promise over the medium to the long term.

Paul Sanger: So now let's focus on Dotz Nano's role in this field. Where does Dotz stand in the advancement of CCS technology, and what unique contributions does it bring to the table?

Glenn Kelly: Okay. Now, once again I'm going to throw you another curve ball. In the solid sorbent field, there are three or four different types of sorbents, and I'll mention three, probably the three most well known and most developed. Zeolites, a naturally occurring substance which is very good to capture CO2. Just tends to capture a lot of water with it, which renders the whole process at uneconomical.

Then we have what are called MOFs, or metal organic frameworks, which are like designer molecules that are made specifically to capture CO2. They work great, but they're like gold or diamonds. They're extremely expensive to build, to own. They're not very robust. And the whole capture process when you use them is not economical.

Then we get to what are called activated carbons. So, carbon, of which we have a lot in our atmosphere and around us. Developed at Dotz Technologies, we have an activated carbon that we developed using or synthesising or working with waste plastics. And basically what we do differently or what we've done differently is we can tailor the pore size or the size of the holes in the sponge to match the size of the CO2 molecule and, compared to all other activated carbons, we have a much greater CO2 capture capacity than the other carbons. And add to that the benefit that we're upscaling an industrial waste, which is plastic, which in another case would not be used or not be reused. So, that's basically the difference of the Dotz technology -- tailored activated carbon using an industrial waste.

Paul Sanger: Fantastic. So, we've covered why we capture CO2. You've talked about some of the technologies that you can use to do that. Now, this question: what industries stand to benefit the most from this technology? And what are the underlying reasons for this potential?

Glenn Kelly: I'd say our biggest culprits or emitters, the first one is coal-fired power generation, which is by far the largest source of CO2 emissions on a planetary basis. And other fossil fuels also that we use for power and energy. So, coal, natural gas and oil. On the industrial side, there's cement manufacturing. And cement is definitely a staple of all industrial economies. And the cement production process itself, not the energy that we use in it but just making cement, emits a lot of CO2, and there's no way to bypass that. So, the cement industry and the power generation industry and large industrials, such as steel and others, will benefit from this technology.

Paul Sanger: So even if it's globally renowned that people are trying to wind up coal power generation, but that's not going to impact the need for carbon capture based on what you just said there, yeah?

Glenn Kelly: Not really. And what's happening with coal-fired power generation, it's being replaced by natural gas. So, we are reducing our emissions per thermal unit, but we're still emitting CO2. We're replacing one fossil fuel with another. So, as I was saying earlier, we have to reduce our emissions. That's one way. You just touched upon it. But, fundamentally, we're going to have to capture 6 billion tonnes of CO2 per year 25 years from now. That's going to be a $600 to $800 billion market in 2040 to 2050. It's mind-boggling.

Paul Sanger: Yeah. That number is absolutely mind-blowing. And do you think... Obviously the technology's still got a long way to go. The industries that will seek to benefit from it, will they help fund the progression of the technology?

Glenn Kelly: Definitely. And that's where we see… Most of the innovation comes from small startups like Dotz. And the path to scaling up is partnering with some of the larger emitters that will help fund your pilots, your industrial pilots, at their locations. So, they're actively… And it's been my experience also because I've built some capture units in the past, where you work with an emitter as a partner while you're developing your technology.

Paul Sanger: Glenn, to finish off, lastly, can you just elaborate on the significance of Dotz Nano’s collaboration with SINTEF? What advantage does this partnership provide Dotz in the development of CCS technology?

Glenn Kelly: Well, SINTEF, just to describe them a bit, is a large or one of the largest research organisations in Europe, based in Norway. They sprung out a little bit of Norway's oil and gas background and energy background. Over 2,000 employees, specialists in all that is CCS, whether it be the absorption technologies, whether it be membranes, whether it be the solid sorbents. So, on testing and scaling up all of these technologies.

They've also developed in-house different processes for using different capture mediums or technologies. For example, they have two processes that they will be licensing to us for the use of our nanoporous carbon sorbent to augment the efficiency of our capture scenario.

So, they're fundamentally, I'd say, one of the leaders in the world on CO2 capture and a very, very valuable partner for Dotz.

Paul Sanger: Glenn Kelly, it's been an absolute pleasure. Really appreciate your insights. I, for one, have a much better understanding of CO2 carbon capture and the technologies that hopefully will come to fruition to reduce those emissions. Thank you.

Glenn Kelly: Well, thanks for having me once again. Have a good day.



Name Paul Sanger