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CO2 Recycling Offers Alternative to Carbon Capture and Sequestration

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 30th, 2010 | 4 Comments

By Byron Elton, CEO, Carbon Sciences, Inc.

While the current administration has undoubtedly taken an aggressive stance toward advancing conversation on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, many of options being considered to address this issue are on a slow timeline. This has prompted the private industry to tackle this complex, but potentially lucrative problem to reduce emissions with an industry of new mitigation technologies.

Convention says that carbon dioxide (CO2) will be captured and sequestered underground using a technology called Carbon Capture and Sequestration, or CSS. But the questions sequestration raises are just as numerous as the number of companies emerging to potentially provide this service: Whose land will it be buried in? Is it safe? Is it cost-efficient? And, when will the technology be available? Many experts say not for decades.

In response to these challenges, an alternative measure is gaining in popularity that works within the industrial waste stream of places like coal-fired plants to convert CO2 to fuel. This emerging sector is appropriately named Carbon Capture and Recycling (CCR), or CO2 recycling, and it’s quickly advancing to become a viable alternative to burying CO2 emissions underground.

Looking at Carbon With the 3 R’s

Companies like Carbon Sciences, Mantra Venture Group and Morphic Technologies are all developing methods to repurpose carbon into fuel.  If successful, such initiatives could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil; allow large carbon emitters to use their waste steams as a source of income; displace the mining of new oil and stop unnecessary exploration; produce infrastructure-ready fuels, like diesel, gasoline and jet fuel, that could be used without engine conversions or adaptations; and substantially reduce carbon emissions.

Most of the renewable technology alternatives to gasoline and other fuels today are based on the same fundamental concept of recycling CO2 into fuels. However, they are done through intermediaries such as terrestrial crops or microorganisms, where CO2 and water are transformed into complex energy molecules. CO2 recycling eliminates many of the steps involved in these other processes.

One technique is based on the direct molecular transformation of CO2 and water into fuel molecules. This low energy approach to recycle large quantities of CO2 into liquid fuels requires a multi-step biocatalytic process. Instead of using expensive inorganic catalysts, such as zinc, gold or zeolite, the technique uses inexpensive, renewable biomolecules to catalyze certain chemical reactions required to transform CO2 and water (H2O) into fuel molecules. Of greatest significance, the process occurs at low temperature and low pressure, thereby requiring far less energy than other approaches.

Graphic courtesy of Carbon Sciences

Making Gas from Carbon

A new technique just announced uses a chemical-based process technology that will allow for the production of gasoline from CO2.  The key features of this breakthrough include:

  1. The of use flue emissions directly from coal-fired power plants or industrial factories, eliminating the need for “clean” CO2
  2. The use of brackish water, eliminating the need for distilled freshwater as the source of hydrogen and reaction medium
  3. Mild operating conditions, eliminating the need for capital intensive stainless steel equipment
  4. A highly scalable system to transform large quantities of CO2 into gasoline for use in the existing transportation infrastructure.

With a forecast of over 43 billion tons of annual CO2 emissions by 2030, there is an abundant supply of raw material available to produce renewable liquid fuels for global consumption.  Not only does CO2 recycling mitigate CO2 emissions and curb demand for imported oil, enabling energy independence, but it also provides the an efficient approach to produce renewable fuels while utilizing the existing infrastructure to ensure cost-effective and non-disruptive deployment.

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Byron Elton brings a unique blend of business experience and personal commitment to environmental ideals to his role as Chief Executive Officer at Carbon Sciences. A veteran media and marketing executive, Elton has a proven track record of pioneering new business development strategies and building top-flight marketing teams.  Most recently serving as Senior Vice President of Sales for Univision Online, Elton knows a strong marketing presence is vital in any organization and is spearheading efforts to raise public awareness of Carbon Sciences’ breakthrough CO2 to fuel technology. Prior to Univision, Mr. Elton served for eight years as an executive at AOL Media Networks, led ABC and CBS affiliates in California, and served as President of the Alaskan Television Network.


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  • Greener

    I think Carbon is soon to be recycled commercially. Mantra Venture Group (MVTG), mentioned in the article, seems to be furthest along in commercialization with their ERC technology. Also seems to be quickest about getting developed by Large corporations (3M has shown interest, also Swiss and Arabian companies) and is supported by Governmental Groups (Canadian and korean for example) and was able to benefit fro the 2010 Olympics being in their backyard of Vancouver BC. Keep an eye on this one: http://www.mantraenergy.com

  • jemcooper

    Lead into Gold
    The energy required to convert carbon dioxide and water into gasoline is at least as much as that released when it is burned whatever route is used. That's not an opinion it is basic thermodynamics. Plants get their energy from sunshine. This process would use the entire energy output from the power station and then some, so no reduction of CO2 emissions here.

    Why not use the well established Fischer–Tropsch process to convert coal into gasoline like the Germans during world war 2 or the South Africans under sanctions, if that is what you want to do.

  • jemcooper

    Lead into Gold
    The energy required to convert carbon dioxide and water into gasoline is at least as much as that released when it is burned whatever route is used. That's not an opinion it is basic thermodynamics. Plants get their energy from sunshine. This process would use the entire energy output from the power station and then some, so no reduction of CO2 emissions here.

    Why not use the well established Fischer–Tropsch process to convert coal into gasoline like the Germans during world war 2 or the South Africans under sanctions, if that is what you want to do?

  • alish

    well done

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