Production of magnesium carbonates from serpentinites for CO₂ mineral sequestration : optimisation towards industrial application

Ines Romão

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


    Global warming is one of the most alarming problems of this century. Initial scepticism concerning its validity is currently dwarfed by the intensification of extreme weather events whilst the gradual arising level of anthropogenic CO2 is pointed out as its main driver. Most of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from large point sources (heat and power production and industrial processes) and the continued use of fossil fuels requires quick and effective measures to meet the world’s energy demand whilst (at least) stabilizing CO2 atmospheric levels. The framework known as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – or Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) – comprises a portfolio of technologies applicable to large‐scale GHG sources for preventing CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Amongst them, CO2 capture and mineralisation (CCM) presents the highest potential for CO2 sequestration as the predicted carbon storage capacity (as mineral carbonates) far exceeds the estimated levels of the worldwide identified fossil fuel reserves. The work presented in this thesis aims at taking a step forward to the deployment of an energy/cost effective process for simultaneous capture and storage of CO2 in the form of thermodynamically stable and environmentally friendly solid carbonates. R&D work on the process considered here began in 2007 at Åbo Akademi University in Finland. It involves the processing of magnesium silicate minerals with recyclable ammonium salts for extraction of magnesium at ambient pressure and 400‐440⁰C, followed by aqueous precipitation of magnesium in the form of hydroxide, Mg(OH)2, and finally Mg(OH)2 carbonation in a pressurised fluidized bed reactor at ~510⁰C and ~20 bar PCO2 to produce high purity MgCO3. Rock material taken from the Hitura nickel mine, Finland, and serpentinite collected from Bragança, Portugal, were tested for magnesium extraction with both ammonium sulphate and bisulphate (AS and ABS) for determination of optimal operation parameters, primarily: reaction time, reactor type and presence of moisture. Typical efficiencies range from 50 to 80% of magnesium extraction at 350‐450⁰C. In general ABS performs better than AS showing comparable efficiencies at lower temperature and reaction times. The best experimental results so far obtained include 80% magnesium extraction with ABS at 450⁰C in a laboratory scale rotary kiln and 70% Mg(OH)2 carbonation in the PFB at 500⁰C, 20 bar CO2 pressure for 15 minutes. The extraction reaction with ammonium salts is not at all selective towards magnesium. Other elements like iron, nickel, chromium, copper, etc., are also co‐extracted. Their separation, recovery and valorisation are addressed as well and found to be of great importance. The assessment of the exergetic performance of the process was carried out using Aspen Plus® software and pinch analysis technology. The choice of fluxing agent and its recovery method have a decisive sway in the performance of the process: AS is recovered by crystallisation and in general the whole process requires more exergy (2.48–5.09 GJ/tCO2sequestered) than ABS (2.48–4.47 GJ/tCO2sequestered) when ABS is recovered by thermal decomposition. However, the corrosive nature of molten ABS and operational problems inherent to thermal regeneration of ABS prohibit this route. Regeneration of ABS through addition of H2SO4 to AS (followed by crystallisation) results in an overall negative exergy balance (mainly at the expense of low grade heat) but will flood the system with sulphates. Although the ÅA route is still energy intensive, its performance is comparable to conventional CO2 capture methods using alkanolamine solvents. An energy‐neutral process is dependent on the availability and quality of nearby waste heat and economic viability might be achieved with: magnesium extraction and carbonation levels ≥ 90%, the processing of CO2‐containing flue gases (eliminating the expensive capture step) and production of marketable products.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Print ISBNs978‐952‐12‐3328-9
    Electronic ISBNs978‐952‐12‐3329-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

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