I’ve written about Montreal-based CO2 Solution in the past — over the past 10 years, in fact — and I’ve wondered if this company is ever going to achieve commercial success with its novel carbon-capture technology. The company’s technology is based on carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme in the human body and all animals that processes carbon dioxide. CO2 Solution has genetically engineered the e.coli bacterium to reproduce the enzyme for its own purposes.
Here’s how CO2 gets processed as it travels through the body, according to WiseGeek: “Carbon dioxide is produced from aerobic respiration and the breakdown of fats. It is removed from the body by exhalation from the lungs. The carbon dioxide produced throughout the body needs to be transported through the blood to get to the lungs. It is transported in several forms, primarily as bicarbonate (HCO3) with an OH group attached. When the bicarbonate reaches the lungs, it is transformed back to carbon dioxide, so it can be exhaled from the body.”
The carbonic anhydrase enzyme is largely responsible for this conversion from CO2 to HCO3 back to CO2. CO2 Solution has adapted it as part of a solution that extracts CO2 from industrial and power plant flue gases and turns it into an inert bicarbonate, which can then be turned into other products or simply disposed. The company did have a past R&D relationship with Babcock & Wilcox but that arrangement has since fizzled, I believe. Recently, along with strategic partner Codexis, it announced a new joint-development partnership, this one with Alstom SA, the third-largest power-equipment maker in the world.
CO2 Solutions is among a group of companies, including Skyonic and Calera, that see the future of carbon capture as the mineralization of CO2 into useful products, rather than the simple capturing of gaseous CO2 that is compressed and then pumped underground for long-term storage. These companies, along with CO2 Solution/Alcoa, have received Recovery Act funding in the U.S. dedicated to “concepts for the beneficial use of CO2.”
The goal is to reduce the cost and energy-intensity of capturing CO2 and at the same time turn a “waste” into a revenue-generating product. See this recent article about Skyonic in GreentechMedia, and this article about Calera in the New York Times.