An RD&I project to investigate the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then store the CO2 permanently in basalt.
An unprecedented and innovative partnership between PUCRS, led by the Institute of Petroleum and Natural Resources (IPR), and the company Repsol Sinopec Brasil (RSB), is going to work on a new Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I) project to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and, therefore, reduce the amount of CO2 that has been emitted. The initial investment is estimated to be R$60 million and this will be the first project to evaluate the use of an experimental scale Direct Air Capture (DAC) plant in South America.
The project, known as DAC.SI (Direct Air Capture System Integration), was an idea conceived by IPR, together with RSB. It will assess the process for removing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, fully, and storing the CO₂ subsequently in geological reservoirs, in this case basalt, as a way to mitigate the effect on the climate.
The IPR has a reputation for cutting-edge research into CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage). It will be responsible for assessing the performance of the Direct Air Capture (DAC) system, in Brazilian temperatures and humidity conditions, evaluating how the CO₂ reacts to the basalt, as well as the potential for mining and identifying areas in Brazil where this process would be suitable to be used as a Negative Emission Technology (NET).
The new project, agreed last week, is intended to make an important environmental contribution, since it provides a tool that can neutralize the CO2 already released, which would help decarbonize certain industries for which this is difficult. “We currently have conventional technology and tools that are designed to reduce emissions, especially in relation to CCS and social changes. However, conventional methods for mitigating climate change have not been enough to combat the impact of human activity on the environment, and we need to develop some complementary technologies for carbon dioxide removal (CDR),” explained Felipe Dalla Vecchia, the Director of IPR.
The great difference, therefore, that this project can make, according to Dalla Vecchia, is to analyze the potential of a Negative Emission Technology, i.e. one that actively removes previous emissions. Therefore, by reducing CO₂ in the atmosphere, the DAC.SI project will help to reduce environmental impact by assessing the value of an NET option, which may be able to complement other methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
As well as the RD&I project, there is also going to be a project to develop infrastructure on the PUCRS campus. The director of IPR stated that three works were being planned, specifically: 1) The development of an area to house an experimental Direct Air Capture (DAC) plant, with the nominal capacity to remove 300 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year; 2) the installation of a solar power system to supply 10,000 kWh of power per month, to provide the DAC system with a renewable source of power, and therefore ensuring the CO2 removal process did not generate any extra emissions and 3) the installation of a new laboratory to examine and analyze the material from the Direct Air Capture (DAC) process to capture CO₂. The DAC plant should be up and running in three years.
Carlos Eduardo Lobo e Silva, the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies believes the new project is something to be proud of and vindication for the quality of work being done by IPR. “This is a great example of PUCRS’s excellent research into making things better for society. Our expertise, recognized at home and abroad, should not be treated as an end in itself, but as common wealth in the best sense of the word, that can be drawn on by society and by all levels of education at PUCRS, making a difference to people’s lives.” he added.
“This is the most ambitious research and development project that Repsol Sinopec Brasil has ever initiated on the energy transition process, both financially and in terms of expected impact,” stressed José Javier Salinero, R&D manager for Repsol Sinopec.
“We believe that it is vital to work together on innovation, and technological innovation is an essential part of energy transition. We have joined up with PUCRS, who have a long history of RD&I projects on CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage). They have subject matter experts and an excellent infrastructure, and they also have an open and flexible innovation model that suits a project of this size”, added Cassiane Nunes, a researcher for Repsol Sinopec and coordinator of the DAC.SI project.
Repsol Sinopec have been operating in Brazil since 1997. They have been a pioneer in opening up the E&P market and exploring the Brazilian pre-salt layer. Today, they are the fourth largest producer of oil and gas in the country, producing an average of around 80,000 barrels a day, from the Sapinhoá, Lapa and Albacora Leste fields.
RSB is also responsible for discovering the BM-C-33 field, which has the potential to be one of the main sources of natural gas in the country. Since 2010, the company has been a joint venture between the Spanish Repsol Group (60%) and the Chinese Sinopec Group (40%). It is therefore a subsidiary company that operates under the operating standards of the Repsol Group, which has business throughout the energy value chain.