MemfoACT, a spin-off from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), has secured NOK25m (£3m) to turn its membrane technology into a commercial product.
The technology will first be used to upgrade units that produce biomethane from biogas. In turn, this biomethane can be used as engine fuel that can be used in cars, buses and trucks.
The company currently has three lab-scale demonstration test rigs in operation, where the carbon membrane is being tested and verified on real biogas streams.
The test rigs, all of which are in Norway, are located at FBAS (Fredrikstad biogass) in Fredrikstad and GLØR (Gausdal, Lillehammer og Øyer Renholdsverk) in Lillehammer, in addition to the Høvringen sewage biogas plant in Trondheim.
The NOK25m will be used to build a full-scale pilot unit to produce the MemfoACT membranes.
The MemfoACT carbon membrane enables the separation of gases without the use of chemicals or other contaminants, by imitating a separation method found in nature, such as in kidneys and lungs where urea and oxygen are separated from blood. The special feature of the carbon membrane is its ability to combine high selectivity with high productivity, which results in low gas-separation costs.
MemfoACT claims that a key advantage of its technology is that it can be retrofitted to existing small- to medium-scale biogas plants, as well as built into new biogas plants.
Other biogas purification technologies, such as pressure swing adsorption (PSA), physical absorption, chemical absorption and cryogenic separation, are highly energy demanding and have waste issues. In contrast, MemfoACT’s membrane separation technology is said to be an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly method for biogas upgrading.
The potential biowaste energy available in Europe is estimated at approximately 400TWh a year, or about 13 per cent of the region’s 3042TWh total electric energy consumption.
Some estimates say that the EU could replace its natural gas imports from Russia if the total energy potential in biowaste was used as biomethane. The total biowaste potential in Norway is calculated to 6TWh a year.