WATERTODAY reached out to Claude Letourneau to learn more about Svante’s carbon capture technology.
WT: Congratulations on making the Global Clean Tech 100 list for the 5th consecutive year – as well as being ranked by Knights 50 Future Fastest Growing Sustainable Companies in Canada!
Briefly describe the journey.
Letourneau: Brett Henkel, Svante’s co-founder, founded the company in his garage in Burnaby, B.C. in 2007, along with three other professionals in the gas separation field.
The Company started as Inventys and then rebranded to Svante in 2019.
WT: Is there a significance to the new name?
Letourneau: Svante is named after Nobel Laureate, Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist who was, in the 1930s, one of the first to identify the link between increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the warming of the Earth’s surface.
WT: Svante has grown from a garage start-up of 4 individuals to a Company of over 200 employees with world-class partners, customers and inventors – that's a very impressive history. What are you most proud of?
Letourneau: It’s remarkable to be leading a company that can and will truly make an impact on climate change. Before the end of 2023, we will be adding an additional 100+ employees as we gear up to commercialize our solution for carbon capture and removal.
WT: Let’s talk about how you are making that impact.
Letourneau: We offer companies in emissions-intensive industries a commercially viable way to capture large-scale carbon dioxide emissions from existing infrastructure and prevent it from entering the atmosphere.
Our technology can be applied to both direct air capture (where we take CO2 out of the atmosphere that’s already contributing to the greenhouse effect) and point-source carbon capture where we avoid CO2 emissions by removing them from industrial processes, so they don’t reach the atmosphere in the first place.
For direct air capture, also known as “DAC”, we provide filters to DAC solutions providers.
In the case of point-source carbon capture, we use our filters and rotary contractor machine to take CO2 out of heavy-emitting, hard-to-decarbonize industrial processes.
This technology is adaptable across industries including cement, pulp and paper, aluminum, oil and gas, hydrogen, steel, fertilizer, petrochemicals and more.
WT: Svante has published research that is the basis of your technology.
Please describe that technology.
Letourneau: Svante technology is built on a new class of solid sorbent nanomaterials --MOFs or metal-organic frameworks-- which are relatively new for carbon capture. We are the leaders in pioneering this technology.
MOFs have been shown to be beneficial for multiple reasons, including their high selectivity for CO2 over water, low cost of ownership, and resistance to degradation when exposed to post-combustion flue gas impurities, such as SOx and NOx.
MOFs are also efficient at capturing CO2 – 95% of total CO2 emissions from industrial sources.
WT: How are your MOF filters constructed?
Letourneau: We mix MOFs (super-adsorbent nanomaterial) in powder form into a water-based slurry which we then coat onto thin sheets of laminate. The sheets get stacked to form our nanoengineered filters, which we call “structured adsorbent beds.”
WT: You referred to point-source carbon capture machines. How do they work?
Letourneau: In point-source industrial carbon capture applications, we place our modular Rotary Adsorption Machines (RAMs) on site along with other required balance of plant equipment, such as contact coolers and conditioning air blowers.
We then hook up and take a slipstream of the flue gas, which is the source of the emission. This could be the flue gas from a steam methane reformer at a hydrogen plant or a fluidized catalytic cracking unit at a refinery for instance.
Our machine contains our filters, and as it rotates, flue gas passes through and our solid sorbent-coated filters, separates the CO2 from nitrogen and other gases and then adsorbs it.
From there, the diluted CO2 gets concentrated to pipeline grade, at which point we introduce steam to regenerate the filters.
The steam releases the concentrated CO2 (95% purity) so that it can be safely transported to a sequestration site where it can be permanently stored deep underground.
Or it can be used for other industrial purposes--such as making sustainable aviation fuel or cured/green cement.
WT: How does your carbon capture technology differ from other methods?
Letourneau: We have a 15-year first-mover advantage – we've been testing our technology and use of solid sorbents in the lab and in the field since 2007, and we’re ready for scale-up and commercialization now.
Aside from our experience and expertise in the field, our technology is different on several fronts. Our use of novel solid sorbents and MOFs has been proven to be efficient and effective in carbon capture applications.
Further, our filters and machines are modular and repeatable, making them efficient on capital costs at all scales. We don’t require a 200-300 ft tall chemical plant on site, so our technological solutions are simpler and less complicated for operators.
Additionally, we can use different solid sorbent materials for various diluted concentrations of CO2 in the air and in industrial flue gas, which enables us to offer carbon capture solutions to a wide array of hard-to-abate industries
WT: Our questions at WT always cycle back to “water”. What role does water play in the Svante Carbon Capture Ecosystem Technology?
Letourneau: At the beginning of our carbon capture process, we use cooling water to cool down the filters inside our machines. Later, once our filters have captured the CO2 and concentrated it, water is used to generate steam, which enables our filters to release the CO2 that can be used to make other products or transported and stored.
It is a moisture swing adsorption process where we recycle the water through a wastewater treatment plant to minimize net water consumption.
WT: Tell us about your pilot projects.
Letourneau: We currently have three pilot projects across different regions in North America, including Lafarge Canada’s Richmond Cement Plant in Richmond, B.C.
Pikes Peak South Thermal Project near Lloydminster, SK
(Carbon capture technology shows potential for commercial application (cenovus.com) )
And a DOE-Chevron project in the San Joaquin Valley, California.
Svante DOE Pilot
WT: In June 2022, the ground was broken for Svante’s new world headquarters in Burnaby. Quite a leap from a garage startup in 2007!
Moving forward...what’s next?
Letourneau: Yes, it has been quite a journey.
We’re building our commercial filter manufacturing facility, The Centre ofExcellence for Carbon Capture and Removal in B.C., Canada. This is our new 141,000 sq ft world headquarters, which will house our R&D, manufacturing, and corporate services all under one roof.
Once that building is complete, we’ll have the capacity to manufacture enough filters to capture millions of Tonnes of carbon dioxide across hundreds of carbon capture plants worldwide.
I’m thrilled at where we are today. It’s an honour to be leading a company that is helping the world reach net zero.