By lowering the heat requirement of traditional amine installations major performance and efficiency benefits are achieved. Additionally; CarbonOrO’s solution requires a lower operating temperature, allowing ‘waste’ heat to be used in combination with a simple water circuit; replacing the -energy and maintenance intensive- externally heated steam circuit of the installation. This development enables the amine scrubber to function on a stand-alone basis; requiring no energy from the outside!
Although there are many technological alternatives such as: water scrubbing, pressure swing absorption, membranes and cryogene techniques, amine scrubbers offer clear advantages; Operating at increased reliability, allowing major scalability options and most importantly capturing carbon at normal atmospheric pressures with no need for compressors! – This again saves significantly on equipment and energy costs. A typical disadvantage of amine scrubbing is the high temperature (above 120°C) requirement to separate the CO2 from the amines in the desorber. CarbonOrO’s low-temperature solution (~70°C) consisting of amines, polymers and a number of solvents make it the go-to alternative in the carbon capture industry.
Two markets: Biogas and CSS
Two market segments prove to be ideal for CarbonOrO’s scrubbing technology: biogas upgrading and the industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which both require CO2 capture from gasses. Depending on local circumstances, operational costs can be lowered with 50%. Lower temperatures also translate in reduced capital requirements opening up the use of ‘cheaper’ plastic components as a low cost alternative for typical (stainless) steel components.
In the biogas industry CarbonOrO allows producers to enhance their product by upgrading ‘raw’ biogas; a mixture of methane and CO2, into ‘green’ gas; consisting of nearly pure methane. This allows biogas producers to sell their product with higher caloric and financial value, and at the same time produce up to 15% more green gas from the same amount of biomass. CarbonOrO is working on fitting its entire solution in a standard (sea) container. Making it possible to offer a standardized solution to its customers and significantly increasing the ease of distribution, installation and maintenance of the biogas enhancer.
For industrial CCS, the business case is quite different. Energy intensive installations need to compensate CO2‐emissions by buying allowances. Current prices range from 5 €/ton in the EU to 12 €/ton in the US, and as of yet offer no trigger to switch to capturing and storage of CO2 with traditional costs remaining above 50 €/ton. CarbonOrO’s solution cuts this in half offering CO2 capture at ~25€/ton. Although countries are increasing emission taxes, political pressure is needed to change the environment and raise the cost of CO2 emission above the cost of CarbonOrO’s CCS solution. At that tipping point, CarbonOrO has an excellent business case for providing large-scale CCS at e.g. power plants, steel mills, cement factories and chemical installations. Before that tipping point, the high cost of CCS unfortunately deters major players from entering the market.
Back to the Beginning
CarbonOrO was founded in 2013 by Pieter Verberne; former general manager of energy at AkzoNobel and COO at energy exchange APX. Together with Dirk van Asseldonk and Jos Keurentjes; co-founders of Afira (water softening) and Dolphys (medical technology), this start-up had an excellent founding team to tackle the problems that lay ahead. Shortly after Immanuel Jurg; Mechanical engineer and biogas expert, joined the team, expanding this team of experts with knowledge of the Biogas field.
Pieter first came across the technology as part of a consultancy project exploring the impact potential of CCS technologies. Soon after working with the technology Pieter was ‘captured’ by its potential and convinced his clients, now co-founders, to further explore its possibilities by starting a business. The teams’ initial focus was at application in industrial CCS, and found trouble finding a working business case due to the relative high costs of CCS in comparison to buying allowances. It was until the team came into contact with Immanuel before they realized the technologies potential in the biogas market.
“The most important aspect of developing the business has been going out there and talk, Speak and Converse with industry experts, players and potential customers” – Pieter Verberne
Shortly after the team changed its course and switched over to the biogas market; which offered a better initial market potential due to the reduction in size, costs and proximity. It was possible for CarbonOrO to start testing and implementing their technology at the scale of biogas installations. This made it possible to further develop and optimize the technology before taking on industry sized players. This proved to be a good strategy and secured Arie van de Groep as CarbonOrO’s launching customer. Arie van de Groep operates the biggest Dutch biogas installation in Spakenburg, producing 800 m3/hr at natural gas quality and is currently implementing CarbonOrO’s solution to further upgrade the raw biogas.
CarbonOrO and Climate-KIC
As with most start-ups securing the first customer is essential for business. Upon entry of the Climate-KIC Accelerator, the business plan still focused on CCS. With the help of the expert coach assigned from Climate-KIC the plan changed into the two-staged approach. With current focus being on biogas upgrading and the second CCS. CarbonOrO received its much needed seed capital requirements to cover the initial costs of R&D and testing. Furthermore the programme made the team realize that it needed to develop a scalable technology, which was delivered in the form of a standard container for biogas upgrading. This development allows a repeatable sales- and manufacturing-process which is essential for approaching potential customers providing a standardized professional solution for biogas upgrading. In addition, the container offers a clear sales benefit by offering potential customers a tangible product; “as products are easier to sell then technologies” – CEO P. Verberne.
Stage 2 of Climate-KIC has validated strong demand for CarbonOrO’s capture technology (and related patents/licenses) with both potential customers and investors. CarbonOrO has requested two patents to protect its technology and together cover the use of the special amine/polymer combination and special solvent used in the carbon capture process. CarbonOrO plans to add two more patents to the portfolio in direct relation to capture technology.
The Future of CarbonOrO’s Carbon Capture Technology
The current focus of CarbonOrO is on biogas upgrading, a worldwide and steadily growing market. Just now the team is finishing up the basic engineering plans for the standardized container and are looking for and interviewing experts in mechanical engineering that can help in the design, manufacturing and maintenance process of the container.
In the medium and long term, CarbonOrO plans to address CO2 emissions reduction in energy intensive industries, where emitters will increasingly be confronted with emission costs and/or limits. CO2 CCS is a solution to these emission problems and according to the IEA, CCS will take off on a major scale from 2020 due to rising prices of CO2 allowances and taxes. To conclude; having a gas upgrade installation scheduled for full-time operation by the end of the summer at Holland’s biggest supplier of biogas, CarbonOrO’s future is looking good. With a solid business case and an experienced management team CarbonOrO has the potential to become one of the biggest players in the biogas upgrading and CCS markets.
Phone: +31 6 2907 4823
Source: CarbonOrO, press release, 2014-06-25.
Author: Pieter Verberne