Novozymes’ carbon capture project selected for U.S. Department of Energy Funding

Team to research enzyme’s role in enabling cleaner emissions from coal-fired power plants

7. September 2011

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected Novozymes’ carbon capture project as one of 16 technologies chosen for research funding.   Novozymes, together with Doosan Power Systems, University of Kentucky, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will carry out the three-year project with total budget for all parties of approximately USD 2 million, of which DOE will fund 80 percent.

Entitled “Low-Energy Solvents for CO2 Capture Enabled by a Combination of Enzymes and Ultrasonics,” the project brings together expertise in enzyme technology, power generation, gas separations, and ultrasonic technology development.  The team will develop and evaluate the performance of an integrated laboratory system that uses an experimental enzyme, together with ultrasonics in a low temperature process to separate carbon dioxide from flue gas Novozymes will provide the enzymes to carry out the testing.

“Enzyme technology has enabled many industrial processes to operate with lower energy requirements and better sustainability than can be achieved by conventional approaches, which is also our goal for this project,” said Steen Skjold-Jorgensen, Novozymes vice president, research and development. “However, this project is not just about an enzyme. Innovation across disciplines and integration of processes is essential to bring new technologies forward in the CO2 capture field. We are very happy to participate together with our skilled collaborators on the project and appreciate DOE’s support in bringing such projects together.”

Project details

The overall DOE funding objectives are to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of advanced carbon-capture systems at coal-fired power plants, thereby moving capture technologies closer to widespread use.  According to DOE, CO2 capture processes can be described as a “filter” that helps isolate the CO2 from the other gases before it leaves the plant’s chimney. 

The DOE goal for the funded projects is to achieve at least 90% CO2 removal and limit the added electricity cost of applying the technology to no more than a 35% increase.  For comparison, current solvent-based carbon capture technologies consume a lot of energy, which translates into about an 80% increase in the cost of electricity.  If current technology was used widely today, this could have a significant negative economic impact considering the fact that about half of America’s electricity is generated from coal and many developing countries rely heavily on coal for energy.

Government support

The Obama administration has made a goal of developing cost-effective deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies within 10 years, with an objective of bringing 5-10 commercial demonstration plants online by 2016. The scope of this program illustrates the importance of filling the technology pipeline with developmental projects, such as these bench-scale projects, as well as moving forward with the larger projects in the DOE’s portfolio.

Novozymes is the global leader in industrial enzymes.  The company has a long history of researching, developing and commercializing enzyme applications for more than 40 industries with the goal of continually reducing CO2 emissions and use of raw materials and water. The company’s products helped enable a reduction of 40 million tons of CO2 in 2010 alone.

The DOE announcement can be found here: http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/press/2011/110825_department_of_energy_announces.html