Abstract

This study examines the use of ion-exchange fibers (IX fibers) to permanently sequester carbon dioxide present in flue gas into an aqueous phase as calcium or magnesium alkalinity while concurrently softening hard water. The only process inputs besides carbon dioxide (or flue gas) are snowmelt (or rainwater); no other chemicals are required for the regeneration of the IX fibers. Importantly, the process is not energy intensive and carbon dioxide does not need to be compressed to excessive pressures (>150psi) for efficient use. Sources of carbon dioxide do not require concentration and, therefore, the use of raw flue gas (∼17%CO2) is feasible with the rate of sequestration governed only by the partial pressure of carbon dioxide. While valid for flue gas obtained from any combustion process (e.g., coal, oil, natural gas, etc.), emissions from oil or gas combustion may be more appropriate for use in the described process due to the absence of mercury and particulates. It should also be noted that the presence of sulfur dioxide in flue gas would not adversely affect the process and may even enhance regeneration efficiency. The only product of the proposed process is an environmentally benign regenerant stream containing calcium and/or magnesium alkalinity. The unique property of IX fibers that makes the proposed process both environmentally sustainable and economically feasible is amenability to efficient regeneration with carbon dioxide and harvested snowmelt. Low intraparticle diffusional resistance is the underlying reason why IX fibers are amenable to efficient regeneration using snowmelt sparged with carbon dioxide; 95% calcium recovery was attained at a CO2 partial pressure of 6.8atm. On the contrary, commercial weak-acid ion-exchange resins in spherical bead forms are ineffective for regeneration with carbon-dioxide-sparged snowmelt due to extremely slow ion-exchange kinetics involving counter-transport of Ca2+ (or Mg2+) and H+. The energy balance for a typical electric utility shows that up to 1% of carbon dioxide emitted during combustion would be sequestered in the softening process.

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