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Luleå University of Technology initiate BECCS project with BillerudKorsnäs

Luleå University of Technology has announced that it has been awarded a SEK 10 million (≈ EUR 986 000) grant by the Swedish Energy Agency from the governmental climate initiative, Industry Step (Industriklivet). In collaboration with pulp and packaging company BillerudKorsnäs AB, the aim is to develop a technique that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial processes for future storage in the Swedish bedrock.

BillerudKornäs’ Karlsborg’s production unit, just outside Kalix in Norrbotten County, is a leading manufacturer of sack paper, formable paper (FibreForm), and kraft paper intended for users with very high demands on efficient, creative, and functional packaging solutions. In Karlsborg, bleached pulp is also produced for delivery in bundled form. The sack paper is used for industrial packagings such as cement bags or consumer products as animal food. The kraft paper is used as a packaging paper for its own products and dry foods such as flour and sugar. Annual production capacity is around 350 000 tonnes (photo courtesy BillerudKorsnäs).

The idea is to capture so-called biogenic CO2 that is generated from the combustion of biomass at the packaging company BillerudKorsnäs’ kraft pulp and paper mill in Karlsborg, northern Sweden so that the gas does not reach the atmosphere – bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECSS).

The novelty is that we use industry’s internal by-products to capture the carbon dioxide and that we for the first time investigate on a national scale the potential for geological storage of carbon dioxide in Sweden, says the project leader Glenn Bark, senior lecturer in ore geology at Luleå University of Technology.

Enzymatic carbon capture

With an enzyme-based technique, developed at Luleå University of Technology, and the industry’s internal by-products the researchers in biochemical process engineering will more effectively capture the biogenic CO2. Thereafter, the gas is converted to bicarbonates, which is a water-soluble form of carbon dioxide and thus safer to pump down into the bedrock.

We work continuously with reducing our climate footprint. Our production in Karlsborg is 99 percent fossil-free and sustainability is important in our operation. The challenges that the world is facing require collaboration and we look forward to being part of finding solutions to further improve our climate, said Eva Ekholm Stenberg, Technical Manager at BillerudKorsnäs Karlsborg.

When the CO2 from BillerudKorsnäs or equivalent industry has been captured and converted to bicarbonates/carbonates it is necessary to store these in a safe way so that the CO2  does not leak to the atmosphere.

Basaltic bedrock of interest

One way is to inject the material into the bedrock and that possibility is what the researchers now will investigate on a national level. In Iceland, this method has been tested by CarbFix during the past decade and the results from injecting the CO2 into the volcanic bedrock look very promising.

There, they have shown that almost all the CO2 that has been injected has converted to the safer mineral, carbonate within two years. Thereafter, the carbon dioxide is not liberated until the bedrock has eroded down to the same level that the carbon dioxide was injected to, and this will take millions of years.

In Norway, where storage takes place in sedimentary rocks at sea, which is the storage method that is mainly discussed today, it is estimated to take thousands of years for CO2 to convert into the safer form, carbonate mineral.

Ulrika Rova, a professor in biochemical process engineering at Luleå University of Technology, together with her research team, is developing an enzyme-based technique for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2)  and converting it into bicarbonate (photo courtesy LUT).

The geological sites that the researchers from Luleå University of Technology will investigate within the project have a bedrock that is relatively reactive, a bedrock that readily reacts with CO2, to form carbonate minerals. For instance, a bedrock of basaltic character – a form of volcanic rock –  is suitable.

As in Iceland, there are large amounts of basaltic rocks in Sweden but the main difference between Iceland and Sweden is that the bedrock in Sweden is much older. In this project, the researchers will study whether that age difference has an impact on the efficiency of geological CO2 storage.

The researchers will use a number of advanced microanalytical techniques to see if the bedrock is suitable for storage with respect to chemistry, mineralogy, texture, and structure.

Unique opportunity

This project on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a collaboration between the research subjects ore geology and biochemical process engineering at Luleå University of Technology and the forest products company BillerudKorsnäs, within the governmental Industry Step programme.

This is a unique opportunity to merge expert competences in different scientific fields to, together with the industry partner BillerudKorsnäs, find solutions to reduce emissions of biogenic carbon dioxide. I believe that this type of collaboration is necessary to achieve cutting edge research results, said Ulrika Rova, Professor in Biochemical Process Engineering at Luleå University of Technology.

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