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SIMTECHE CO2 Capture Process Wins R&D 100 Award

Each year, R&D Magazine picks the 100 most significant technological advances in research and industry and honors them with awards that The Chicago Tribune has called, “The Oscars or Invention.” A 2009 entry led by Chemistry Division staff member Robert Currier and collaborator Dwain F. Spencer (SIMTECHE) has won an R&D 100 Award for an innovative method of capturing CO2.

The SIMTECHE CO2 Capture Process captures and compresses the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by advanced fossil fuel power plants and other industrial operations. Based on the reversible reaction of CO2 and cold water, our process pulls CO2 out of flowing mixtures of gases and traps individual CO2 molecules within tiny molecular cages made of water. Once separated from the gas stream, the CO2 hydrate can be decomposed to regenerate CO2 gas at elevated pressures for sequestration or sale on the emerging CO2 market. Informed control of thermodynamic conditions throughout the process and efficient reactor design reduce parasitic power losses and minimize incremental costs.


  • CO2 capture in integrated gasifier combined-cycle (IGCC) power plants burning coal, petroleum coke, natural gas, or biomass
  • CO2 capture in coal-fired power plants using high-purity oxygen for combustion
  • Compressed CO2 for use in enhanced oil recovery or sequestration in underground geological formations
  • Purification of high-pressure hydrogen for use in hydrotreating, petrochemical synthesis, and refinery operations


  • Addresses climate-change concerns by providing large-scale, low cost CO2 capture and compression
  • Provides flexible CO2 capture levels of 65%–90% or more to be set by the customer in response to markets and government mandates
  • Energy efficient to reduce the costs of capturing and compressing CO2
  • Clean—uses no noxious chemicals and produces no hazardous byproducts
  • Can simultaneously capture and compress H2S and other sulfur compounds

The SIMTECHE CO2 Capture Process is proven and now poised to reduce CO2 emissions at industrial scales. Efforts to find a commercialization partner are underway. The technology was developed as a joint Los Alamos/SIMTECHE effort with engineering support from Bechtel National and Nexant, Inc. The team completing the project included Robert Currier (C-PCS), Dali Yang (MST-7), Ron Martinez (C-PCS), Loan Le (C-PCS), and Steve Obrey (C-IIAC). Additional staff at Los Alamos who participated in the development of this technology include ex-employee Michael Sedillo (C-PCS),Graydon Anderson (C-PCS), Jennifer Young (X-2), Bob Barbero (PMT-2), and Gary Baca (C-PCS).

The SIMTECHE CO2 Capture Process uses a new low-temperature approach to controlling CO2emissions from fossil-fuel power plants and other sources. It pulls CO2 out of flowing mixtures of gases and traps individual CO2 molecules within tiny molecular cages made of water. The molecular structure above illustrates the resulting ice-like compound, a crystalline solid called CO2 hydrate.

The engineering test-scale flow equipment has been fully tested and is ready for scale-up to industrial uses.

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