Company's system is powered by the heat produced by the engine during combustion.
Twelve years ago, Aramco research scientist Esam Z. Hamad received an interesting research assignment: Design a system to capture carbon emissions from the exhaust pipe of a motor vehicle.
Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series on Aramco technologies that are being commercialized by Aramco’s licensing arm, Saudi Aramco Technologies Company.
Having knowledge of systems to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in industrial plants, Hamad had a few ideas about how to scale down those systems to fit into a pickup truck.
“The whole point is how we can best synergize a system with an engine that uses fuel efficiently, with a system that captures carbon at the exhaust pipe, and make it compact enough to fit into a moving vehicle.”
— Esam Z. Hamadd
At the heart of the automotive industry in Detroit, which later became the company’s Aramco Research Center, Hamad worked with a team of researchers, technicians, and an outside manufacturer to build a prototype. In 2011, they brought it to Dhahran to show it to senior management. Aramco’s Mobile Carbon Capture (MCC) project was born.
The Detroit-based Mobile Carbon Capture team, from left to right, Alexander Voice, Karl Kiebel, Brian Clark, Esam Hamad (seated), and Chanel Sitto, developed a system to capture carbon emissions from transport vehicles.
By Land and by Sea
Over the past decade, the Aramco Transport Technologies R&D team has developed and road-tested prototypes for passenger vehicles, pickup trucks, and long-haul trucks, and generated more than a dozen granted patents. These have the capability of capturing up to 40% of the vehicle’s carbon emissions.
Now, Hamad and his team are adapting their system for the world’s largest transport vehicles — freight ships — in an effort to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from the shipping sector.
“The transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of anthropogenic CO2 emissions globally, and our goal is to enable affordable, sustainable, and reliable technology solutions for this sector,” said Amer A. Amer, chief technologist for Transport Technologies at the Research and Development Center in Dhahran.
“Mitigating emissions from the marine shipping industry is especially challenging given their energy-intensive freight operations, often also involving many days of being at sea.”
— Amer A. Amer
Aramco’s innovative technology solution attempts to reduce carbon emissions through a two-pronged approach.
First, vehicles and engines would be reconfigured to improve fuel efficiency, using technologies such as Gasoline Compression Ignition or Turbulent Jet Ignition — the less fuel is consumed, the less carbon is emitted.
Second, the vehicles would then be outfitted with systems that capture carbon from exhaust pipes and store the carbon in tanks to be offloaded later on.
How the System Works
The workings of Aramco’s mobile carbon capture system is analogous to a human lung: as lungs breathe in air, the gaseous oxygen is dissolved in liquid when it comes into contact with hemoglobin in the bloodstream, which has an affinity to oxygen.
Similarly, the MCC process involves passing the vehicle exhaust emissions through a system of hollow fibers that are soaked in a liquid chemical that extracts the CO2. This CO2 is later released by heating, where it is then compressed and stored in tanks, for offloading during refueling.
What makes Aramco’s MCC system more appealing is that the system is powered by the heat produced by the engine during combustion, and does not require any external source of power.
In 2011, a prototype was installed on a Ford F250 pickup truck and the team was successful in demonstrating for the first time the feasibility of CO2 capture onboard a vehicle. This solid sorbent system captured only 10% of the CO2. This success was followed by an improved capture system developed and installed on a Toyota Camry passenger vehicle, which demonstrated up to 25% reduction of CO2 emitted from the tailpipe, compared to a standard Toyota Camry.
In 2022, a prototype MCC system was integrated and tested on a Volvo VNL long-haul truck with a 13-liter engine. The system captured up to 42% of the CO2 in the tailpipe. We are currently in talks with a Tier 1 exhaust gas system supplier to improve the reliability and competitiveness of the system. Also, Aramco is exploring a collaboration with a global off-road original equipment manufacturer to fit the MCC system in their vehicles.
In addition, building on the work on road-based vehicles, Aramco is exploring the possibility of applying its MCC system for carbon capture in ships. If demonstrated successfully in the maritime sector, Aramco’s MCC technology can be retrofitted in the existing fleet or installed in new vessels.
“We will use technology demonstrated in road vehicles to see whether it can be integrated into a system to capture carbon from marine vessels, in an attempt to make a significant difference,” said Hamad.
Aramco, through its subsidiary Saudi Aramco Technologies Company (SATC), licensed the MCC technology to Daphne Technology in 2022 for carbon capture in marine vessels.
Abdullah S. Dhuwaihi, CEO (A) of SATC, said: “Daphne Technology is a fast-growing European startup. It has its own proprietary technologies for removal of exhaust gas pollutants and our technology complements its portfolio. We are excited about this license agreement and are eagerly looking forward to a successful demonstration and commercialization of our MCC system in the maritime sector.”
For more information about this technology, please reach out to Subashini Asokan, head of Licensing, SATC, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— The Arabian Sun: May 01, 2023