Zeton and Air Company develop novel CO2 to Ethanol Pilot Plant
May 28, 2019
Chris Brown, recently retired VP of Engineering at Zeton, worked collaboratively with Dr. Stafford Sheehan, CTO of Air Company and author of over 35 scientific publications and patents, to design and build a CO2 to Ethanol Pilot Plant. Dr. Sheehan, who is recognized internationally for his research converting carbon dioxide to alcohol that landed him a spot on Forbes’ 30 under 30, has developed a high yield catalyst that efficiently produces ethanol from CO2 for use in the food and beverage, flavours and fragrances, and cosmetics industries. A net user of CO2, Dr. Sheehan’s process has marketing appeal to companies that use this high purity intermediate in their consumer products. The evolution of Air Company from a small start-up laboratory, through to the completion of this milestone pilot plant, was achieved on a shoestring budget made possible through visionary investors, matching funds from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) for engineering development and Zeton’s creative approach to value engineering and fabrication.
As is often the case with start-ups pursuing catalyst technology development, scaling the process from the laboratory to the pilot plant, and fundraising, are the main challenges Air Company faced on its way to commercialization. Kenneth Agee and the team at Emerging Fuels Technology (EFT) worked closely with Staff to understand his technology, completing contract R&D work that characterized catalyst performance and yields on EFT’s fixed bed reactor equipment. Following successful completion of this test work, Zeton completed a full process design, translating catalyst yield information, the process model and conceptual reactor design into a practical pilot plant design. Taking advantage of Zeton’s Basic Engineering project execution methodology, Dr. Sheehan worked closely with Chris Brown to distill the core objectives of the pilot plant, minimizing the scope and cost while meeting the program objectives. The completed 1 L/h pilot plant, photographed during factory testing in Zeton’s shop, will be operated at a location in Brooklyn, NY. It will be a central instrument for collecting process data, and will take Air Company one step closer to technology commercialization.