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The CO2-absorbing tank car concept is unveiled in the USA

1 September 2022
Reading time ~ 3 min
The concept of a tank car for capturing carbon dioxide
The concept of a tank car for capturing carbon dioxide. Source: CO2Rail
Litvintsova Olga, Editor of International Projects, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency
Reading time ~ 3 min
Stolchnev Alexey, Russian Projects Editor, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency

USA: The CO2Rail startup is working with experts from the University of Sheffield, the University of Toronto and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop Rail Direct Air Capture technology to capture CO2 from the air. The technology is planned to be applied on a tank car modernized for this purpose. The developers want to present the first prototypes in 2023.

The railcar for capturing CO2 is supposed to be equipped with two air collectors installed on the roof in front and behind, and batteries located below which will accumulate regenerative braking energy. Its interior will consist of 85% air collection chamber and 15% CO2 storage tank with a capacity of 15 t.

The process of CO2 capturing should occur as follows. The air collector located at the front will absorb air along with CO2 and store it in the chamber. Depending on the speed of the train, the process of filling the chamber can take from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. After the chamber is filled, it is closed with hatches and the process of desorption begins, as a result of which CO2 becomes liquid and is accumulated in the tank while clean air leaves the rear air collector. The desorption cycle is planned to take 5 to 10 minutes. It is expected that one railcar will be able to reduce CO2 emissions by 10-20 t a day. In the future, this parameter may increase as technology develops. The developers suggest that the accumulated CO2 can be used as a raw material for the production of chemicals, polymers, synthetic fuels, refrigerants or carbonated drinks.

A proposed operation scheme of Rail Direct Air Capture technology (enlarge) A proposed operation scheme of Rail Direct Air Capture technology (enlarge). Source: CO2 Rail

Eric Bachman, Director of CO2Rail, told RailTech that the company has held meetings with representatives from some of the largest freight operators who are enthusiastic about the concept. He estimates that in North America or Australia, where long freight trains run, one train should be equipped with 4 to 5 cars to capture CO2, while in Europe 2 of such cars will be enough. According to Bachman, several tank cars will be modernized for the purposes of the project in 2023, after which their certification will begin. As soon as this process is completed, mass production of such rolling stock may begin by 2024. Such railcars can run as part of both freight and passenger trains.

The CO2Rail concept is presented against the backdrop of a large-scale program to promote the development of railways, adopted in the United States in 2021. Then, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocated $66 bln USD of state support to develop railway passenger and freight transport over 5 years. In 2021, as to this trend the major freight car producer of the US, the Greenbrier Companies, unveiled a gondola car made of “green” steel and with an increased carrying capacity.