Converting waste into energy
‘Refuel’ - Photo credit, Andreas & Free Images - Pixabay
Welcome to the twenty-ninth edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
This week I take a look at how advances in carbon capture and utilization technologies are being exploited to convert carbon into liquid fuels. I will also feature companies such as Innovator Energy, EE-AGG, Breathe, and C4X, all NRG COSIA Xprize semi-finalists, and how they are utilising captured carbon in the liquid fuels industry.
Converting Carbon into Liquid Fuels
Carbon can be converted into liquid fuels such as methanol and formic acid. In the case of methanol, the conversion occurs when CO2 and hydrogen are mixed together under intense pressure. Formic acid is produced when CO2 is electro-reduced in water. Both methanol and formic acid can be used as an energy carrier in the transport sector. Critics of this CCUS conversion process say that it is inefficient and expensive. However, we will take a closer look at the four companies mentioned above to see what progress they have made to date in this area.
Innovator Energy is based out of Yale University and was founded by a self-taught teenager called Ethan Novek. Novek is a member of Professor Elimelech’s Research Group in the Department of Engineering at Yale University. Innovator Energy has developed and patented a CCUS process that uses 96% less energy and can capture CO2 at a cost of $8 per ton, this is a highly impressive achievement. Innovator Energy is constructing a demonstration prototype in San Antonio, Texas where they can develop this technology further.
EE-AGG is located in Boone, Iowa. EE-AGG combines CO2 with power generation steam, gas, coal, and biomass to create Syngas. EE-AGG technology can be used by gas and coal-fueled power plants to create a carbon negative methanol. An additional benefit of EE-AGG’s process to produce methanol is the co-production of power through heat integration.
Breathe is a team of scientists, students, engineers and entrepreneurs, based in Bangalore, India. Breathe uses machine-learning algorithms to identify the most efficient way of converting CO2 to methanol using data gathered from previous experimentation and first-principles calculations. The problem that Breathe is looking to solve is how to reduce CO2 using H2. Breathe tests its algorithms and approaches further in a laboratory setting using flue gas.
C4X is located in Suzhou, China and their team is led by Dr. Wayne Song who studied Engineering at McMaster University and the University of Toronto in the Canadian province of Ontario. C4X converts Co2 from coal power plants into methanol and bio-composite board. Dr. Song is also a director at the Ontario-Jiangsu Nanotech Innovation Centre, a joint Canadian-Chinese research venture.
Converting CO2 to liquid fuels such as methanol and formic acid is no easy task as the goal is to reduce the CO2 with H2 as efficiently and economically as possible. From looking at NRG COSIA Xprize semi-finalists who are developing technologies to convert CO2 to liquid fuels, it would appear that these companies have achieved some positve early results but it will take further development through the investment of time, money and intellect to determine how great the potential opportunities are. Innovative solutions are being applied such as machine-learning algorithms and Innovator Energy has already realised some impressive results.
Next week’s blog will profile Malta and their efforts to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets.
How restoring bogs is helping to reduce emissions
Luhasoo, Estonia - Photo credit, Kaisa Äärmaa
Welcome to the twenty-eighth edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
Estonia ranks eight highest under Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and ranks highest under the ‘agriculture’ and ‘biodiversity and habitat’ indicators within the index. Their ‘agriculture’ ranking is based on their efficient use of nitrogen and the ‘biodiversity and habitat’ score is reflected in their conservation efforts. ‘Climate and energy’ is an indicator where improvement can be found and in particular CO2 emissions per KWH, a measurement where Estonia is well above the OECD average.
Paris Agreement Targets
As part of the EU’s 2020 emissions reduction pledge to the UNFCCC, Estonia has agreed to a CO2 emissions reduction target of 15% compared with 2005 levels by 2020. Estonia also has agreed to reduce emissions by 13% by 2030 and will sign up to a target reduction of 80% by 2050, both reductions are against 1990 levels.
Estonia ranks 10th in Carbon Market Watch’s ‘EU Climate Leaderboard’. Estonia loses ranking marks for not supporting the limititation of land use and ETS loopholes when calculating CO2 emissions.
According to Statistics Estonia energy data, electricity generated from renewable sources grew from 12% of the overall portion in 2011 to 17% in 2015. In 2011, Estonia achieved its 2020 EU target of having 25% of final energy consumption being derived from renewable sources, this has been maintained in the subsequent years.
However, according to the report entitled ‘Environmental Performance Review of Estonia’, Estonia has the most carbon-intensive economy in the OECD. Estonia is over-reliant on shale oil, shale oil represented 70% of the Estonian energy supply in 2014, resulting in the production of 533 kg per USD 1,000 of GDP, significantly above the OECD average of 226 kg.
Estonia is making efforts to restore its bogs and reduce CO2 emissions in the process. The restored bogs will naturally sequester carbon. This is a two-fold benefit as the bogs that were dried out during Soviet rule, leak up to 8 million tonnes of CO2 per year. The knock-on effect of the draining of the bogs was that dead sphagnum moss emitted CO2. Prior to this, the wet conditions preserved the dead sphagnum and helped suppress its decomposition. Through the LIFE Mires project Estonia has received in excess of EUR 6m in EU funding towards the restoration of its bogs to their natural state through the raising water levels. If successful this project will be rolled out across other EU countries with bogs in the need of repair such as Germany and Poland.
As part of Estonia’s commitment to meeting its CO2 emissions targets, the country should take advantage of being a member of the EU’s electricity and gas markets in order to source cleaner energy and thus reduce its reliance on shale oil while it continues to grow its renewable energy sector. The restoration of its bogs offers multiple opportunities to Estonia such as the further reduction of CO2 emissions, carbon sequestration, and tourism.
Next week’s blog will take a look at how companies are capturing CO2 and converting it into liquid fuels.
How Portugal will become carbon nuetral by 2050
Lisbon, Portugal - Photo credit, Granito & Free Images - Pixabay
Welcome to the twenty-seventh edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
Having examined the role of bauxite treatment in reducing CO2 emissions last week, I’m returning to my country-by-country analysis and this week I’m focusing on Portugal.
Portugal ranks seventh highest under Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI), the country’s highest ranking since the index’s inception in January 2006, a 4.32% score increase over the ten year period.
Paris Agreement Targets
Portugal is fully committed to meeting its Paris Agreement targets and was one of 28 countries who developed a ‘Roadmap to US$100 Billion’ by 2020 with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The roadmap will see $100Bn per year spent in tackling climate change in developing countries. Portugal has already achieved 87% of its 2020 Paris Agreement goal. The installation of 12,300 MW of renewable technology has aided this rate of progression. At the recent COP22 conference in Marrakesh, Morroco, Mr. António Costa, Portugal’s Prime Minister reiterated the nation’s support of climate change policy, stating that Portugal’s long-term goal is to be carbon neutral by 2050.
48% of electricity generation in Portugal in 2015 came from renewables sources, with wind energy accounting for 22% of overall electricity generation. In May 2016, Portugal powered its economy using renewable energy sources for four consecutive days. This is a very positive development and helps vindicate the nation’s recent investment in renewable technology.
In 2015, a reported called ‘CO2 Capture and Storage in Portugal, a bridge to a low carbon economy’ was published. The report was partly financed by the Global CCS Institute. The authors of the report represented research, educational and government bodies such as Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Universidade de Évora, Laboratório Nacional de Energia e Geologia (LNEG), Rede Eléctrica Nacional, S.A. (REN), and Bellona Foundation. The report considered the potential for CCUS projects in Portugal in support of EU commitment towards reducing CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 relative to 1990 levels.
The cement and power industries were identified as the industries where the best opportunities for the implementation of CCUS technologies resided. The report found that under high socio-economic development and an 80% GhG emissions reduction target, CCS technologies would be cost effective from 2030 onwards. Portugal has a strong renewable energy industry and for that reason, the potential for CCS deployment in the cement industry is greater than the power sector.
The report also noted that without the deployment of CCS technology over the coming years and decades, electricity prices could be as much as three times that of a scenario where CCS technologies are used in the energy sector.
Portugal has ambitious plans to become a carbon neutral economy by 2050 and has invested in both CCUS research and renewable technology in a bid to achieve this target. The CCUS research identified the scope for CCUS technology in the concrete and power industries. The country has already proved that it can consume electricity generated solely from renewable sources for four days and therefore proves that its 2050 goal is a realistic one given the time horizon.
Next week’s blog will profile Estonia and their efforts to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets.
How CO2 is being used to treat bauxite
Gladstone Port - Photo credit, JooJoo41 & Free Images - Pixabay
Welcome to the twenty-sixth edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
This week I take a look at how advances in carbon capture and utilization technologies are being used in the treatment of bauxite, a by-product of the production of aluminium.
Aluminum Production Process
Before we look at how CO2 is used to treat bauxite, a good starting pointing is to explain the steps taken to produce aluminum as simply as possible. Bauxite ore is a red mud that is found in abundance in certain parts of the World such as Western Australia, Ghana, and the Caribbean. The starting point is to extract this red mud out of the ground and load a truck with 4 tonnes worth of bauxite ore. The bauxite ore is transported to an Aluminium refinery where it is refined. For every 4 tonnes of bauxite, 2 tonnes of aluminium oxide (alumina) is yielded. Alumina is a white powder substance (sand-like). The 2 tonnes of alumina is then smelted in large pots and 1 ton of aluminium is produced.
Bauxite Residue Carbonation
Bauxite residue is a byproduct of the refining process, it is also known as ‘red mud’ due to the high concentration of iron. The bauxite residue is stored in an area called Bauxite Residue Disposal Area (BRDA) where it must meet with environmental regulations. Bauxite residue carbonation is a process where CO2 is added to the bauxite residue which helps reduce the alkalinity of the slurry and help with regulatory compliance. An additional benefit of this is it can reduce closure and reclamation costs at aluminium mines.
Alcoa is the largest producer of aluminium in the world, satisfying 80% of the global market through its refineries in Brazil, USA, Spain and Australia. Alcoa also holds a 25% stake in a joint venture at a Saudi Arabian refinery. Alcoa developed a bauxite residue carbonation technology at its centre of excellence located at the Kwinana refinery in Western Australia. The technology created treats the high alkaline by-product in the slurry and reduces the PH levels from 13 to a less hazardous level. Research conducted by Alcoa has highlighted the potential of this technology to reduce the costs of managing tailing ponds. Waste by-product is stored in such ponds.
As demonstrated over the previous weeks and months of this blog, CO2 can be put to multiple positive uses across a variety of heavy industries. Bauxite treatment during the production of aluminium is another use for CO2 and is already operating on a commercial scale at industry leaders such as Alcoa. The challenge now is to find more innovative ways of using CO2 as we look to mitigate the impact of CO2 emissions overall.
Next week’s blog will profile Portugal and their efforts to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets.