Revcoo: a technology based on cold to recover CO₂ of industrial origin

Thanks to its CO₂ capture technology called CarbonCloud, the cleantech company Revcoo aims to tackle one of the major sources of greenhouse gases: fumes from industrial activities. Thanks to the cold, the Revcoo solution makes it possible to extract the CO₂ from it by transforming it into flakes. After being returned to the liquid state, the CO₂ can thus be stored for later recovery.

Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) is one of the approaches put forward by the IPCC to limit global warming to well below 2°C, as provided for in the Paris Agreement. With its CarbonCloud technology, Revcoo intends to contribute to “take up this vital challenge”. This patented technology uses extreme cold to isolate CO₂ from other gases contained in industrial smoke. The innovation lies above all in bringing these effluents into direct contact with liquid nitrogen produced directly from the nitrogen present in these same fumes. Thanks to its technology, Revcoo thus claims some of the lowest operating costs on the market.

While it currently has a first pilot unit with a capacity to capture 2 tonnes of CO₂ per day, the company founded in 2019 announced last July a fundraising of 3.5 million euros which should enable the installation by the first half of 2023 of a second facility capable of capturing 20 tonnes of CO₂ daily. The first step towards large-scale industrial deployment, as explained by Hugo Lucas, co-founder and CEO of Revcoo.

Engineering Techniques: Before coming to the specific technology you have developed, can you present Revcoo to us in a few key points?

Hugo Lucas, co-founder and CEO of Revcoo. ©Revcoo

Hugo Lucas: Revcoo was founded in 2019 by Paul Taton and myself. The company started its activities around the sole theme of CO₂. But then, little by little, we started to turn to the capture of CO₂ on industrial sites, with the aim of decarbonizing industrial effluents. In 2020, we filed the first patent for our cryogenic CO₂ capture technology. We called it CarbonCloud. Still in 2020, we continued our R&D work in the lab, in order to produce a prototype. In mid-2021, we installed a first pilot on a site of the major construction group Eiffage. Since then, we have continued to improve the technology and conduct real-world tests. We are now five, and we should reach ten people in the team by the end of the year.

You mentioned the name of the technology for which you filed the patent, CarbonCloud. What is hidden behind this designation…?

Our technology is based on cryogenics: we use cold to freeze and isolate CO₂. To achieve this, we separate the nitrogen present in the fumes, which we liquefy at -196°C. This nitrogen is used as a refrigerant, in order to freeze the CO₂. This CO₂ will thus turn into snowflakes, hence the name of the technology, CarbonCloud. These CO₂ flakes are then returned to the liquid state, in order to be able to store them in tanks.

What are the capabilities of this technology?

It is for the moment still complicated to give precise figures, because they will depend on the type of installation. The pilot that we have set up at Eiffage is in any case capable of capturing 2 tonnes of CO₂ per day, for a footprint of 70 m². In terms of energy, the technology requires electrical power: 60% of electricity consumption is linked to the extraction and liquefaction of nitrogen. The energy balance will thus depend on two parameters: the energy cost and the CO₂ concentration in the fumes from the industry. These two parameters will vary the total operating cost of our solution. For 20% CO₂ concentration and eight cents per kWh of electricity, we expect a cost of €30 to €35 per ton of CO₂ captured.

In terms of carbon impact, in scope 2[1] and for the French electricity mix, the balance is 49 kg of CO₂ emitted for one ton captured. The results are therefore largely positive. In scope 3, we are at 100 kg of CO₂ emitted for one ton captured if we recycle the carbon dioxide 300 km from its production site, via transport by heavy goods vehicle.

We would also like to offer, within our offer, support for manufacturers to help them recover the CO₂ captured in their facilities. Today, even before considering the deployment of a capture system, large groups are already thinking about ways to recover their CO₂. Small companies, on the other hand, do not necessarily have precise ideas of the CO₂ recovery solutions that would be relevant for them.

We have also integrated a cold recycling system: the CO₂ ice which is generated and then ironed in liquid form does not lead to a loss of cold directly in nature. The cold is recycled throughout the process using heat exchangers.

First Revcoo pilot unit at a major player in the construction industry
Installed in 2021 at a major player in the construction industry, Revcoo’s first pilot unit is capable of capturing 2 tonnes of CO₂ per day, for a footprint of 70 m². ©Revcoo

What types of industries is your solution aimed at?

We are ready to respond to any industrial project. From an economic point of view, on the other hand, the technology proves advantageous from a concentration of 8% of CO₂ in the fumes of the industrialist. We can go up to 25, 30 or even 40%, but the higher we go in the concentrations, the more competition we have… Where we are very efficient is above all on the low concentrations, from 8 to 25- 30 %. This is linked to our cryogenic technology and the use of liquid nitrogen.

We therefore mainly target the cement industry, lime production, iron and steel, metallurgy, refining, etc. But also gas boilers for all industries. This ranges from glassware to stationery through the food industry.

What place do you think your technology could occupy, compared to the other innovations that are emerging in this same niche of CO₂ capture?

We are complementary on certain axes. If we take the example of amine capture technology, this requires hot fumes, which is not typically the case with cement plants, for example. Unlike this technology based on the use of amines, our CarbonCloud solution does not require consumables. Amine technology, on the other hand, is not sensitive to the concentration of CO₂ in the flue gases. It can therefore be implemented below 8%, for example in the context of electricity production facilities, a sector in which we will not intervene. Hence our complementarity.

If we take another example, that of the technology developed by Air Liquide, it is intended, on the contrary, for high concentrations, as is the case for the production of hydrogen or methanization. Areas where our technology is therefore not necessarily the most relevant.

As I mentioned, we therefore set ourselves a precise scope of industrial areas in which we can implement our technology.

Another parameter must also be taken into account: the flow of fumes. We can, for our part, respond to small smoke flows, unlike other technologies which are only profitable from several hundred thousand tonnes of CO₂ captured per year.

You carry out R&D work as well as real environment tests. What is the degree of maturity of your technology today?

We are currently at a maturity level between 6 and 7 on the TRL scale[2]. We now only need to adapt the technology to continuous operation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We hope to be able to complete this work in less than a year.

You announced last July a fundraising of 3.5 million euros. What is the objective of what you describe as a “turning point” for Revcoo?

We plan to install a second unit by the first half of 2023. It will still be a pilot, but ten times larger than the current unit deployed at Eiffage. This scaling is expected to capture 20 tonnes of CO₂ per day.

We are also starting to have requests for small units comparable to the one we have today… This did not necessarily seem relevant to us, at the start, in terms of order of magnitude, but the emergence of these requests will certainly lead to the industrialization of this type of small unit, as soon as we have adapted the technology for continuous operation. We are thus going to develop a test offer, which will enable manufacturers to prove, thanks to this small installation, that our technology works very well on their own fumes, which are all very specific, before moving on to larger units by after.

What are your industrial deployment objectives for the coming years?

We aim to deploy 40 units by 2025, in France, but also more broadly, in Europe. In France, the market we are ultimately targeting represents a maximum of 100 million tonnes of CO₂. In Europe, this figure is expected to be around 900 million.

[1] There are three main categories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: direct emissions produced by the company (Scope 1), indirect emissions related to energy consumption (Scope 2) and other indirect emissions (Scope 3).

[2] Technology readiness level: A nine-level measurement system for assessing the readiness of a technology.

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