Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Liquid Chimney: A Potentially Killer Weapon in the Battle Against CO2

We did a post on the liquid chimney about a month ago on Treehugger, and I do remember seeing a couple of emails pass through our editorial list. I never really got around to checking out the concept, though, until I received the latest issue of Seventh Generation's Non-Toxic Times, which has an article on the technology. Though in experimental stages at this point (with a working version coming soon), the liquid chimney sounds like it could play a substantial role in lowering industrial carbon dioxide emissions. According to TNTT,
Invented by Fremont, Ohio resident Tom Kiser, a heating and ventilation engineer turned entrepreneur whose biggest claim to fame is his work with William McDonough on the Ford Motor Company'’s famed ecologically designed Rouge River Complex, the liquid chimney could be one of the key solutions in the effort to halt climate change. If it works on a commercial scale, it could lead to a dramatic reduction in global CO2 emissions.

Based on a relatively basic decades-old technology, the operation of the liquid chimney is fairly simple. As exhaust from coal or natural gas boilers rises in a smokestack, it passes through a layer of plastic or stainless steel rings where it mixes with treated water. (The exact make-up of the water is a closely guarded secret.). This water pulls out most of the CO2 from the boilerĂ‚’s emissions and converts it to harmless calcium carbonate. The waste heat extracted during the process is recycled back into the plant to save energy, and the calcium carbonate is recovered for use in everything from construction materials to rebuilding coral reefs.

If you think that sounds too good to be true, you'’re not the only skeptic. But Kiser, a scientist whose unique heating system is now saving the Ford Motor Company $50 million a year while keeping 257,000 tons of CO2 out of the air, says it's no pipe dream.
The working model mentioned above will be installed at a new plant of California-based juice company POM Wonderful. I've got to admit: anyone who's worked with William McDonough certainly earns some credibility in my eyes. Add that to the figures mentioned above, and Kiser is certainly someone to keep an eye on.

OK, engineers.... whaddaya think?

Photo credit: Scott Stewart, CNN

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