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Climate Change

Mini carbon-capture plants to slash costs, Mitsubishi Heavy says

Japanese engineering company aims to offer green facilities by 2023

Mitsubishi Heavy now commands a 70% global share in carbon-capture plant equipment. (Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Heavy)

TOKYO -- Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is preparing to offer small carbon-capture plants that will slash the costs of cleaning the exhaust of global warming gases by roughly half.

Mitsubishi Heavy is conducting trials of a small-scale facility that can capture 100 tons of carbon dioxide a day. The company plans a commercial model in 2023 that will capture up to 500 tons. The facilities will use common components to keep manufacturing costs down.

Currently, large facilities that remove 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide a day, mainly from power plants, are the norm. The CO2-capturing equipment is also costly, since it is custom-made to match the facilities it serves.

Carbon dioxide is normally captured through a process that chills the emissions, then adsorbs the greenhouse gas using a liquid containing ammonia compounds. The resulting mixture is then reheated to separate and strip out the carbon dioxide.

It currently takes between $60 and $70 to capture one ton of carbon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Mitsubishi Heavy aims to bring that cost down to around $30 by 2035.

Mitsubishi Heavy commands a 70% global share in carbon-capture plant equipment.

But demand for carbon-capturing equipment at large power plants and steel mills is expected to wane within the next decade. To prepare for that, Mitsubishi will offer smaller facilities to serve a broader range of customers.

CO2 that is captured for environment reasons is beginning to be reused to make such chemicals such as methanol, urea and other raw materials, but cost has been an issue. In the supply chain that includes transport and storage of carbon, capturing alone accounts for nearly 60% of expenses, according to estimates.

For the world to achieve carbon neutrality in 2070, carbon capture, utilization and storage would need to account for 19% CO2 reduction, according to the International Energy Agency. Innovations such as Mitsubishi Heavy's mini plants will play a key role in attaining that goal.

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