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Three Problems Existing in Supercritical Fluid Extraction Technology

Supercritical CO2 fluid extraction technology has made considerable progress, and there have been many successful examples of CO2 extraction in industry, but it has not yet achieved the large-scale application that was originally expected.
This is mainly because the supercritical CO2 extraction technology is still in the growth stage, far from perfect, and there are still three major problems as follows.

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Problem 1#: Insufficient research on phase equilibrium and transport

Currently, there is still little data on the physical properties of supercritical CO2 fluid extraction, and there is also a lack of a basic thermodynamic model that can correctly calculate the supercritical CO2 extraction process. Because people don’t know much about the behavior of compressed fluid near the critical point, some of the current calculations are mostly semi-quantitative, and studies on transport properties are even fewer.
Without these basic data and theories, process design and economic estimation are very difficult, which seriously hinders the development of the supercritical CO2 fluid extraction process.

Problem 2#: High requirements for CO2 high-pressure equipment and CO2 extraction pumps

In industrial CO2 extraction production, the high-pressure operation is inevitable. How to solve some unfavorable factors caused by high pressure, so that CO2 extraction technology can be produced reliably and safely is very important. Supercritical CO2 extraction needs to be carried out under relatively high-pressure Operation, the investment of compression equipment is relatively large, and operation under high pressure will also cause additional costs. Some supercritical CO2 extraction processes require simultaneous high temperature and high-pressure conditions, and the material requirements for equipment and pipelines are higher.

The processing cost is also greater, and it is also difficult to transport the high-pressure fluid with a pressure gradient near the critical zone with a CO2 extraction pump. If the selected extraction agent is corrosive, high-grade steel must be selected, which further increases the investment cost. In addition, there are still difficulties in processing equipment in continuous supercritical fluid extraction, and batch production is far less economical than continuous production.

Problem 3#: Need the medium test is required

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Due to the general lack of knowledge about the process mechanism of supercritical fluid extraction and the influence of equipment size and geometry on the mechanism, it is difficult to directly convert experimental data into industrial devices, and pilot tests must be carried out. Therefore, the industrialization of supercritical CO2 extraction requires a long period. development time and higher research costs.

Three solutions

To make a breakthrough in the industrialization of supercritical fluid extraction, the following three tasks must be carried out.

  • Conduct studies on complex phase equilibria and fluid transport properties under high pressure.
  • Reduce energy consumption from the perspective of process equipment, such as combining heating and cooling processes, and recovering energy when reducing pressure.
  • Strengthen research on high-pressure continuous CO2 extraction devices.