A Life Cycle Assessment Case Study of Coal-Fired Electricity Generation with Humidity Swing Direct Air Capture of CO2 versus MEA-Based Postcombustion Capture

Coen van der Giesen, Christoph J. Meinrenken, René Kleijn, Benjamin Sprecher, Klaus Lackner, Gert Jan Kramer

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10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Most carbon capture and storage (CCS) envisions capturing CO2 from flue gas. Direct air capture (DAC) of CO2 has hitherto been deemed unviable because of the higher energy associated with capture at low atmospheric concentrations. We present a Life Cycle Assessment of coal-fired electricity generation that compares monoethanolamine (MEA)-based postcombustion capture (PCC) of CO2 with distributed, humidity-swing-based direct air capture (HS-DAC). Given suitable temperature, humidity, wind, and water availability, HS-DAC can be largely passive. Comparing energy requirements of HS-DAC and MEA-PCC, we find that the parasitic load of HS-DAC is less than twice that of MEA-PCC (60-72 kJ/mol versus 33-46 kJ/mol, respectively). We also compare other environmental impacts as a function of net greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation: To achieve the same 73% mitigation as MEA-PCC, HS-DAC would increase nine other environmental impacts by on average 38%, whereas MEA-PCC would increase them by 31%. Powering distributed HS-DAC with photovoltaics (instead of coal) while including recapture of all background GHG, reduces this increase to 18%, hypothetically enabling coal-based electricity with net-zero life-cycle GHG. We conclude that, in suitable geographies, HS-DAC can complement MEA-PCC to enable CO2 capture independent of time and location of emissions and recapture background GHG from fossil-based electricity beyond flue stack emissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1024-1034
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Volume51
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 17 2017

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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