An new method of capturing carbon dioxide from power station exhaust, described as cheaper and more environmentally friendly, has been developed by a team of researchers at the University of Melbourne.

’The capture process is the most expensive part of carbon capture and storage so reducing costs in capture can make a major difference to the overall cost of CCS. This process can reduce those costs by 15 to 20 per cent, potentially saving an operator millions of dollars a year,’ said Dr Peter Cook, chief executive of the Australian Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies.

The system, developed by the CO2CRC solvent team at the university, would employ potassium carbonate – an environmentally benign compound – to capture CO2 from large industrial sources for storage.

’Apart from the energy-saving potential of this technology, which is considerable, the solvent used is non-volatile and oxygen tolerant,’ said Cook.

Another important benefit is that the system is able to deal with SOx and NOx, converting them to solids that can be used in fertiliser manufacture.

The solvent has been trialled and the process refined under industrial conditions at a coal-fired power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. The research has been supported by the Victorian Government and a worldwide provisional patent on the new technique is pending.