International Parternship Announced for Maui Based Company

March 10, 2017, 1:30 PM HST · Updated March 10, 12:20 PM
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For the past 10 years, a team of scientists on Maui have been developing an innovative technology for carbon capture that would prove less costly and easier to deploy at industrial facilities.

Last week, Westec Enviromental Solutions, based in Kahului, entered into a $2.2 million technology partnership with the Norwegian-based research organization, SINTEF.

The Puunene Sugar Mill seen from Hansen Road Photo by Wendy Osher.

The Maui research team was on a mission for cleaner air and were inspired by the froth of waves, their idea started by observing how bubbles are created by watching breaking waves on Maui’s North Shore.

Now, their new technology uses an aqueous froth of bubbles to remove carbon dioxide from industrial smoke stack emissions and the atmosphere.

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The $2.2 million project was financially supported by Norway’s Gassnova through their CLIMIT Programme and will see a unique gas to liquid contactor, developed by WES, used with a new novel precipitating solvent developed by SINTEF.

“Precipitating solvents have shown great potential for reducing capture costs but process integration can be complex,” says Bill Hargrove, CEO of WES.  “Our goal is that by combining the unique features of the WES contactor and SINTEF solvent we can demonstrate a viable, cost efficient solution to CO2 capture.”

The Carbon Capture and Conversion Institute in Canada will be responsible for engineering design work to scale up the process if initial tests are promising.

“The aim of this very exciting project is to demonstrate, for the first time, a system that streamlines the capture process and eliminates several stages. This will make the overall operation significantly less capital and energy intensive,” says Goran Vlajnic, executive director of the CCCI. “If successful, the new process could play a significant role in reducing industrial emissions.”

Ugochukwu Edwin Aronu, SINTEF Scientist and Project Leader, notes that the project marks a milestone in terms of the development of capture technology.

“I believe this project offers a clear route to cost reducing innovations, thanks to its uniquely international and multidisciplinary approach,” says Aronu. “For the first time, an advanced precipitating CO2 capture technology will be demonstrated in a full height state-of-the art pilot plant facility, integrating two unique solvent and contactor technologies. Successful demonstration will take this technology a step closer to commercialization.”

Contactors, the vessels in which carbon dioxide is captured by a solvent, are usually large and expensive to build and operate. WES’s innovative design is compact and can tolerate solids formed by precipitates without clogging.

The WES contactor also uses the new precipitating solvent designed and developed by SINTEF. The SINTEF product is more efficient than most solvents currently in use. It reacts with and absorbs CO2 more rapidly than other solvents, the regeneration process takes place at a lower temperature, uses less energy, and can have a lower environmental footprint.

The contactor and solvent will be brought together for testing and validation in Trondheim, Norway next year. If the results are positive, CCCI experts will engineer and design a system to scale up the process. In the third stage of development, CCCI will design a modular unit that can be tested at the Institute’s technology development centre or in an industrial setting.


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