Technology

Removing carbon from the air

 By Amanda Saint

A cleantech company in the UK has developed an innovative process that uses natural gas to generate electricity in a way that takes carbon dioxide out of the air. At the end of the process there is less CO2 in the air than there was at the beginning. The more gas you use, the cleaner the air. This essentially means that rather than being a part of the climate change problem, burning natural gas becomes a part of the solution

Cogent Heat Energy Storage Systems (CHESS), a startup cleantech company based in the UK, is developing a technology that uses natural gas to generate electricity in a way that removes carbon dioxide from the air. CHESS is headed by Tim Kruger, the James Martin Fellow on the Oxford Geoengineering Program, at the Oxford Martin School in the University of Oxford. The process that Kruger and his team are working on involves integrating three existing technologies that are already routinely practiced in different industries and combining them in a novel way to generate electricity from fossil fuels while reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

It works by putting natural gas into a fuel cell, which generates electricity and heat. The generated heat is then used to break down limestone into lime and carbon dioxide. All of the carbon dioxide generated from the fuel cell and the broken down limestone is pure and can be sequestered cheaply and easily, and the lime that is left at the end of the process absorbs the carbon in the atmosphere.

Cooling the climate

This essentially means that rather than being a part of the climate change problem, burning natural gas becomes a part of the solution. The more gas you burn, the more CO2 is removed from the air. Unlike most cleantech solutions that focus on ways to reduce emissions and slow down the effects of carbon on our atmosphere , the CHESS solution can potentially stop it and, it’s claimed, even start to turn the clock back on the effects of climate change that we are already experiencing.

The potential for the solution is being recognized far and wide. CHESS is one of the startups included in Climate-KIC, which is one of three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) created in 2010 by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) as part of it’s goal to create sustainable growth. Kruger also travelled to San Francisco in February 2015 as part of the Clean and Cool Mission, which is an entrepreneur mission helping 16 of the UK’s most promising early stage and innovative cleantech SMEs do business in the US. The initiative helps the companies develop quality contacts with investors and partners in order to take their ideas to the next level and eventually bring their developments to market.

Thanks to its innovative technology, CHESS has become one to watch in the cleantech world.

about the author
Amanda Saint
Journalist and content writer, specialised in engineering and technology with a focus on environmental sustainability, urbanisation and biotechnology.