As scientists around the World race to develop carbon capture techniques and companies find ways to cash in on carbon credits, a Canadian company is set to bring a new technology to market that removes carbon from natural gas before it’s burned. Using a plasma charge, the device breaks the bond between the carbon and hydrogen atoms found in methane, allowing some of the carbon to fall as a solid into a collection bin. The resulting combination is a cleaner, hydrogen-enriched natural gas, or HENG. No carbon dioxide is produced during the process.
Technology Earns Companies Carbon Credits
Called “CarbonSaver,” the device was developed by Atlantic Hydrogen in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, where they recently passed the tests they needed to go online with natural gas giant EnCana [NYSE: ECA]. Since natural gas travels through pipelines under pressure, Atlantic Hydrogen had to prove that their device could operate safely without having to slow down the gas. CarbonSaver can be scaled large enough to be installed at the city gate of any major natural gas pipeline, taking out the excess carbon electric generators and home appliances don’t need before they’re burned. Since the technology can be made small enough to install in manufacturing plants, companies can earn carbon credits at the same time doing what they can to reduce the effects of global warming.
“Within the next few months, Atlantic Hydrogen expects to announce demonstration projects in electricity generating micro-turbines and compressors,” says CEO David Wagner, “we will show the environmental benefits of operating them with a CarbonSaver.”
Italian oil and gas platform makers Rosetti Marino SpA is working with the company to manufacture CarbonSaver on a large scale.
“I believe that this company will make history,” says Joachim Wilhelm, technology development director of Rosetti Marino, “There are many companies trying to bring green technologies to market but the management of Atlantic Hydrogen will be the deciding factor for this company.”
Byproduct Makes Cars Lighter And More Efficient
Even though the company’s primary focus is greening gas, there’s the question of what to do with the carbon that’s left over. According to company founder Bill Stanley, the carbon is so pure, it could be used for making carbon fiber, which in turn could have a positive effect on the climate crisis by making vehicles stronger and less heavy. The company has recently engaged U.S. based National Grid PLC [NYSE: NGG] and Columbian Chemicals, two of the world’s largest suppliers of carbon black, to sit on an advisory board to decide the best use for the byproduct.
“When we tell people about the CarbonSaver, invariably the first question we get asked involves uses for the carbon,” Wagner says, “That’s understandable. A CarbonSaver that processes 1,500 cubic meters of natural gas per hour could generate more than a tonne of pure carbon in a week. In order for us to ascertain the full value of our technology to our customers, we need to know exactly what sort of carbon we are producing and its potential applications.” Gasses are measured by volume, in cubic meters, and solids, like carbon, in tonnes.
Atlantic Hydrogen’s research and development facility currently uses a Tecogen natural gas generator that produces electricity for its own use, selling any excess electricity to its local power utility.
Innovation Needed For Natural Gas Appliances
Removing some of the carbon from fossil fuels before they’re burned and released as carbon dioxide is only one step towards turning down the effects of global warming. Even though Atlantic Hydrogen’s technology can remove more carbon than it currently does, industry needs to catch up first by making engines and appliances that require less to make them work. Still, since it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, earn carbon credits, and produce a byproduct that can make vehicles burn less fuel, it’s a win-win-win situation.