New nickel catalyst turns CO2 into fuel

Published on 10 May 2019 | By Janice Heng | Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

Process especially useful for power utilities companies- which generate lots of CO2.

New nickel catalyst turns CO2 into fuel

A demonstration unit of the new technology by IHI and ICES is set for launch on Jurong Island on May 10. The development makes economic and environmental sense for Jurong Island's energy-intensive industries- amid Singapore's new carbon tax that kicks in this year. PHOTO: A*STAR

FIRMS can cut emissions by efficiently converting unwanted carbon dioxide into a potential money-spinner- using a new system developed by Japanese engineering firm IHI Corporation and the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES)- a unit of the Agency for Science- Technology and Research (A*STAR).

The reactor system, which uses a specially-developed catalyst- allows for efficient conversion of carbon dioxide and hydrogen to methane. Methane is the main component of liquefied natural gas- used for most of Singapore’s electricity generation.

A demonstration unit is being launched today at ICES on Jurong Island to show the process to potential customers. IHI is now scaling up the technology- which might hit the market as soon as next year.

IHI Corporation senior researcher Hiroyuki Kamata said the company is in talks with potential customers in Singapore and Japan- with a larger demonstration unit to be set up in Japan. IHI has its own well-established technology to capture waste carbon dioxide from flue gas. Now- instead of storing the captured carbon dioxide to keep it from harming the environment- firms can convert it to fuel.

New nickel catalyst turns CO2 into fuel

This makes environmental and economic sense for Jurong Island’s energy-intensive industries- with Singapore’s new carbon tax that applies to emissions from this year- said Tang Shuquan- IHI Asia Pacific general manager for regional marketing and business development.

It would be particularly useful for power utilities companies- which generate large amounts of carbon dioxide- he added. Some power-generating firms on Jurong Island are existing IHI customers for other solutions.

More broadly- an effective catalyst increases yields- cuts waste and reduces energy needs.

At the end of the day- catalyst development is a part of driving sustainability.

ICES Executive Director Peter Nagler.

The collaboration began in late 2011 when IHI approached A*STAR for help in developing catalysts. Though IHI has been in Singapore since the 1960s- this was its first collaboration with a Singapore research institute.

Nickel is the best catalyst for this process- but there are challenges in using it: the build-up of carbon deposits which “choke the reaction”; impurities such as sulphur which “poison” the catalyst; and temperature rises resulting from the reaction.

New nickel catalyst turns CO2 into fuel

To tackle these- ICES developed a catalyst of nano-nickel particles within the shell of a porous silica matrix. This keeps the particles from becoming less efficient due to sintering or clumping together- and allows the catalyst to stay effective for longer- said ICES senior scientist Chen Luwei.

The new catalyst can last twice as long as usual catalysts without being affected by impurities. It can also perform for at least 3-000 hours without any deactivation- which is not possible with usual catalysts- said ICES principal scientist Armando Borgna.

The collaboration combines each partner’s competencies.

ICES’ chemical know-how and IHI’s engineering expertise in building an ideal reactor. It is also in line with A*STAR’s aim of translating scientific knowledge “to something applicable to industry”.

Dr Nagler said.

Mr Tang said the partnership has paved the way for IHI to explore collaborations with other A*STAR units in IHI’s other business areas such as aerospace and transportation.


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