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.