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National Cheng Kung University establishes Taiwan's first carbon negative plant

Proof-of-concept factory captures and purifies carbon dioxide for reuse in chemical products

Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te (9th from right), Tainan City Mayor Huang Wei-che (8th from left), and NCKU President Su Huey-jen (9th from left) a...

Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te (9th from right), Tainan City Mayor Huang Wei-che (8th from left), and NCKU President Su Huey-jen (9th from left) a... (Taiwan News photo)

TAINAN (Taiwan News) — National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) has founded Taiwan’s first carbon-negative factory, which opened on Friday (Sept. 24) and will promote carbon removal technology across various industries in Taiwan, including some of Taiwan’s largest corporations.

NCKU said the factory turns carbon dioxide (CO2) into a resource for petrochemical materials and is divided into two sections: CO2 capture and purification, and purified CO2 alkylation for reuse. The factory can transform carbon pollutants, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide into ethane and propane, methane, urea, and fixed-carbon products.

As ethane and propane are high-value petrochemical materials, by producing them at the carbon negative factory, Taiwan would be able to lower its reliance on imported crude oil and key chemicals. Methane, on the other hand, is fuel for natural gas, and the carbon negative factory could advance Taiwan’s goal of natural gas self-sufficiency.

The opening ceremony for the factory saw nearly 200 representatives from more than 60 companies in attendance, including Taiwan Power Company Chair Yang Wei-fuu (楊偉甫), CPC Corporation Chair Lee Shun-chin (李順欽), Formosa Petrochemical Corporation Chair Chen Pao-lang (陳寶郎), Delta Electronics Senior Vice Chair Chin Shou-feng (金壽豐), and Microsoft Taiwan General Manager Ken Sun (孫基康).

Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德), Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Tseng Wen-sheng (曾文生), Tainan City Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲), and Academia Sinica President James Liao (廖俊智) also attended the ceremony.

At the ceremony, Vice President Lai said, “Countries around the world have dedicated efforts to resolve the imminent (climate) crisis, and carbon neutrality is the solution upon which the world has agreed.” He added that people must learn to respect the natural environment as they develop their economies, and advanced countries have set their eyes on innovative carbon-neutral technologies, facilities, and materials as crucial parts of their strategies.

NCKU President Su Huey-jen (蘇慧貞) said that historically the university has played an important part in contributing to Taiwan’s socioeconomic infrastructure. By leading the establishment of Taiwan’s first carbon-negative proof-of-concept factory, NCKU has done its part to help resolve global warming and advance environmental sustainability.

As the international community works toward the “Net Zero by 2050” goal, carbon neutrality has become a key goal for many countries and businesses. The concept consists of “zero emission” and “carbon negativity,” while the latter is much needed because there will continue to be industrial CO2 emissions, said Chen Chih-yung (陳志勇), head of NCKU’s factory.

National Cheng Kung University establishes Taiwan's first carbon negative plant
Taiwan’s first carbon-negative factory at NCKU's An-nan campus. (Taiwan News photo)

Thus, carbon removal technology and facilities are being developed in advanced countries around the world.

There are currently 15 direct air capture plants in Europe, the U.S., and Canada that capture more than 9,000 tons of CO2 annually and mostly sell the CO2 for various uses (such as carbonated drinks), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). New facilities in development, however, eye the possibility of storing CO2 products underground, according to the BBC and the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service.

NCKU said its factory is meant to be a small-scale proof-of-concept factory for low-rate initial production and is designed to capture around 20 tons of CO2 yearly. However, once the technology expands to corporations and large-scale factories, the amount of CO2 captured may be immeasurable.

Additionally, NCKU’s factory uses CO2 captured directly from its source of emission, efficiently reducing the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. This is different from direct air capture technologies, which IEA said “extract CO2 directly from the atmosphere” through an expensive process.

As NCKU’s factory is located across from the Tainan Technology Industrial Area and just 30 minutes away from the Southern Taiwan Science Park, it has the advantage of being able to recruit corporations and factories to join its carbon negative program. Currently, Delta Electronics and Solar Applied Materials Technology Corporation, both located within the Tainan Technology Industrial Area, are already on board, per NCKU.