C-Capture was founded in 2009 as a spin-out company from the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds.
It was established, with support from IP Group, to develop work from Prof. Rayner’s research group, where they had been building upon his nearly twenty years’ experience working with CO2 to find new solutions to the carbon capture problem. In late 2011, we appointed an experienced chemist, Douglas Barnes, and process engineer, Caspar Schoolderman, who worked together to develop our first-generation technology up to pre-pilot scale.
Independent validation of the technology demonstrated it to be as good as the then state-of-the-art in terms of energy penalty. This close collaboration between chemists and engineers has been a defining strength and feature of the company from the very beginning.
A New Concept
“Chance favors only the prepared mind” – Louis Pasteur
Our first-generation solvent was based on a combination of an amine and non-amine component and provided both a benchmark for future developments and the experience to bring new ideas to fruition. However, we were also aware that many of the limitations of existing amine-based technologies, including our own, are inherent to all such systems. We knew we needed something completely different for our next generation of technology. It was whilst playing around with some non-intuitive chemistry, a so-called ‘Friday afternoon experiment’, that Douglas discovered the basis of our unique solvent chemistry. We quickly realised it was something incredibly special.
The experience we’d gained and the suite of equipment we had put together developing the first generation solvent allowed us to rapidly optimise the new solvent concept and demonstrate it up to pre-pilot scale. Patents covering the core concepts were submitted in 2013 and 2017.
In low oxygen conditions, bacterial digestion of biomass produces a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane called biogas.
Although this can be used directly as a fuel to generate electricity, if the CO2 is removed, i.e. the biogas is upgraded, then biomethane is produced which can be used as a replacement for natural gas as a source of energy.
To demonstrate the suitability of our technology for biogas upgrading, we designed and built a pilot-scale plant and operated it at a UK farm. Different biomass feedstocks produce biogases with slightly different compositions, particularly with respect to the trace impurities present, and our trial sought to upgrade as wide a range of compositions as possible. The data gathered from the demonstration allowed us to design an improved version of the apparatus and we are actively seeking opportunities to deploy the technology at a commercially useful scale.
As the biogas trials were winding down, C-Capture was approached by the UK’s largest power station, Drax near Selby, North Yorkshire, to understand if our technology could be applied to their biomass derived flue gas.
We designed, built, and installed a pilot plant and have been operating it on site, with real flue gas, since early 2019. The data gathered from this trial is feeding directly into the design process for a full-scale plant, with a target of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 per day captured from one of Drax’s four biomass fired boilers. A recent development has been the installation of equipment to bottle the captured CO2 to allow other organisations to test their own developing technologies with genuine Drax derived CO2.
Based on the initial data from the Drax pilot, in 2019 C-Capture and Drax were jointly awarded a multimillion-pound grant by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to further develop the process technology and understand the feasibility of applying it to Drax’s specific situation.
Today C-Capture continues to go from strength to strength.
Since the summer of 2018, we have expanded the team from five to eighteen, including a crop of extremely talented recent chemistry and engineering graduates who have quickly established themselves as key members of the technical team. The business systems support team is also expanding as we transition from a mostly R&D based organisation to one on a firmly commercial footing.
Finally, in January 2020 we appointed our new CEO to lead the company into our next phase of growth as we work to deploy our unique technology across a broad range of industrial sectors. Our technology can help deliver the carbon emission reductions which are essential if we are to avoid the worst impacts of the currently unfolding climate crisis.
C-Capture has, since its foundation in 2009, seen engineers and chemists work closely in tandem to develop a completely new, innovative technology with minimal environmental impact.
Our solvent has many unique properties and has the potential to be transformational for the carbon capture industry as a whole. With successful demonstrations of the technology in key market areas, we are now poised to deploy the technology across industry and help deliver the carbon emissions cuts so desperately required.
TIMELINE OF KEY MILESTONES
C-Capture founded by Prof. Chris Rayner as a spin out company from the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds to commercialise work from his research group
Douglas Barnes and Caspar Schoolderman appointed
Awarded £800K by Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) under Energy Entrepreneurs Fund (EEF) phase 1 to develop first generation technology up to pre-pilot scale trial
Discovery of C-Capture’s unique carbon capture chemistry
Awarded £600K by DECC under EEF phase 4 to develop pilot scale apparatus for second generation technology demonstration
National winners of Shell Springboard competition for innovation in low-carbon technologies
Awarded £800K by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) under EEF phase 5 with co-funding from the Carbon Capture Project (CCP) to further develop the technology in conjunction with SINTEF (Norway)
Awarded £150K by Innovate UK to test compatibility of C-Capture solvents with various low cost materials of construction, particularly plastics
£3.5M equity investment round by Drax, BP Ventures, and IP Group
BECCS pilot plant commissioned and operational at Drax
Awarded £5M by BEIS under CCUS Innovation Programme with Drax as co-applicant to study the feasibility of deploying C-Capture’s unique technology for BECCS at Drax
C-Capture wins Breakthrough of the Year at the BusinessGreen Technology Awards
Independent trials of C-Capture’s transformational solvent technology by SINTEF at their pilot scale plant at Tiller, Norway