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Ricardo innovative carbon negative technology could hold the key to future national energy security

06 Sep 2022

Soaring natural gas prices have created a perfect storm for manufacturers who now not only face exponentially rising energy costs but also reduced or no supply of industrial grade carbon dioxide which has left the food and drink sector in particular in crisis. Businesses and communities across Europe are also being impacted by the lack of security of gas supply, leading governments to consider fast tracking nuclear power options or even having to revert to fossil fuels just to guarantee sovereign energy security.

Could there be another solution to these issues? In this blog, Josh Dalby, Chief Engineer – Technical Authorities argues that Ricardo’s innovative carbon capture demonstrator plant which will use sustainably-sourced forestry waste to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, will provide local communities with renewable heat and electricity, deliver national energy security and produce industrial-grade carbon dioxide which can either be used for making low-carbon concrete or in the food and drinks industry.

"Ricardo is leading a consortium project, which has been funded through the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP) under the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to design, install and operate a combined heat and power demonstrator plant with a carbon negative footprint which will showcase climate repairing technology. The plant will demonstrate the effectiveness of community scale greenhouse gas removal and clean energy using sustainably-sourced forestry waste."

"The consortium combines an innovative carbon capture system developed by Ricardo with the hot air turbine technology from Bluebox Energy and pyrolysis technology from Woodtek Engineering. The quarter-sized demonstrator plant will be located at Holmsted Farm in West Sussex in the UK. It will demonstrate not only a highly innovative greenhouse gas removal technology, that in the full-size system can generate renewable heat and electricity for up to 300 local homes and businesses, but also a realistic carbon negative technology that can significantly contribute to net zero targets."

"The technology works by taking sustainably sourced waste wood from domestic timber production and then processing it in three ways: producing biochar (a product similar to charcoal); generating heat and power; and capturing carbon dioxide from the exhaust. The technology, therefore, captures around 95% of the carbon content in the wood. It also produces commercially marketable carbon products: the biochar can be used by farmers to enrich soil and add to animal feed to reduce ruminant emissions. The industrial-grade carbon dioxide can either be used for making low-carbon concrete or in the food and drinks industry to replace carbon dioxide derived from industrial processes which rely on imported natural gas. A full-size system will remove 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere."

"The rising wholesale price of natural gas and uncertainty over the security of supply of both energy and industrial grade carbon dioxide mean that globally-renowned food and drinks manufacturers in particular are craving a solution that can give them reassurance about supply and cost control to ensure that they can keep on making their products. Our combined heat and power plant could be located at a food manufacturing site, be fed by sustainable wood waste from local, indigenous sources at a lower cost than natural gas, and securely and continuously supply clean energy, heat, industrial-grade carbon dioxide and biochar – which could be sold to the farmers who might well be producing ingredients for the manufacturers. Industry therefore benefits from security of supply and a virtuous circle of production."

"Across the UK, almost all existing combined heat and power plants are gas powered, so given the price hikes in natural gas, wouldn’t it be better to have a combined heat and power plant that is run on sustainably sourced waste wood? Moreover, manufacturers seeking to decarbonise their operations will also be using carbon negative technology which is going to have a positive impact on their greenhouse gas emissions by removing and storing carbon."

"We are currently in the process of completing the design of our demonstrator combined heat and power plant, and we are expecting finalisation by the end of this year. We have also started procuring hardware for the demonstrator. The plant will be commissioned and operational around the middle of 2023."

"Ricardo is a trusted advisor to governments around the world on climate change policy and the transition to clean energy, and we support global customers on their decarbonisation journey. In partnership with Bluebox Energy and Woodtek Engineering, our ambition is to demonstrate that our innovative and integrated carbon capture system can be used to benefit local communities, bolster the UK’s reputation as a pioneer in negative emission technologies, and provide a sustainable and commercially viable pathway to net-zero while also delivering national energy security."

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