Recycling highly-concentrated streams of CO2 from large-scale emitters sounds like a fantastic way to slow down climate change. So does finding a new, abundant source of fuel that doesn’t require drilling. Why not tackle both of these issues at the same time? It’s certainly intriguing, but more importantly, it’s possible. This week ClimatePULSE will take a look at such a technology and discuss the possible impacts it can have both nationally and globally.
A recent CNN article has brought Carbon Sciences, a California-based company, into the news with its technology to capture CO2 from highly-concentrated streams at factories and power plants and begin the process of converting the gas into high-grade fuels for stationary and mobile applications. The Carbon Sciences process initiates a reaction to remove oxygen atoms from CO2 while adding hydrogen atoms to produce methane, ethane, or propane at relatively low temperatures and pressures, allowing for huge energy savings compared to many conventional chemical processes for capturing and converting CO2 into fuel. As stated in the article, this process can “[set] up shop next door to large CO2 emitters — coal, gas-fired plants and oil refineries” for a virtually unlimited supply of concentrated CO2. As the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has already imposed mandatory GHG emission reductions for power producers in participating states, technologies such as this could be in huge demand in the near future.
A common point of criticism may be that CO2 and other GHGs are still being emitted by both the process and the combustion of the fuels produced from the recycled CO2. While this is true, net GHGs emitted can be significantly reduced from two key aspects:
* GHG emissions from large emitters, which otherwise would have been released to the atmosphere or, best case, sequestered, are now being gathered and used to produce fuel.
* The Carbon Sciences process to produce fuel decreases the quantity of fossil fuel which must be produced from conventional sources such as oil or natural gas drilling and refining.
So if we can recycle existing CO2 to make fuel, why not run this process everywhere? A process such as this would require highly-concentrated volumes of CO2 to be able to run efficiently and prevent the release of additional GHG emissions. Although a similar process may be able to filter CO2 from the air somewhere far from a CO¬¨2 emission source, the energy required to run the process would likely eliminate any GHG savings and, in fact, become a major GHG source itself.
When the monetization of the GHG reductions are factored in, two-for-one returns from a clean technology can speed up the development and commercialization of the innovation. A portion of the risk may be offset by the fact that two problems are tackled at once, investors may see more attractive returns and much sooner.
The successful implementation of the Carbon Sciences technology would create another, non-GHG benefit – decreasing dependence on foreign oil. Even this has a GHG advantage, as GHG emissions from the transportation of fossil fuels from abroad could be decreased. The Carbon Sciences process isn’t quite ready for commercial deployment, but it is certainly an interesting step in the right direction for clean tech.
ClimateCHECK is a greenhouse gas (GHG) management services and solutions company. The firm’s solutions support all facets of the carbon commodities market, including the verification, validation and consultation of GHG inventories and program portfolios, as well as quantification protocols for emissions reduction projects and clean technologies. ClimateCHECK is a sponsor and co-founded, with World Resources Institute and Carbon Disclosure Project, the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (www.ghginstitute.org). Founded in March 2007, the company has locations throughout North America. For more information visit www.climate-check.com