CCUS: Carbon harvest

By Michael Rogers

Putting captured carbon dioxide to use – industrial-scale AIR-TO-FUELS™ plant
Putting captured carbon dioxide to use – industrial-scale AIR-TO-FUELS™ plant (illustration: Carbon Engineering)

Captured carbon dioxide’s potential worth in manufacturing or as a fuel feed stock of the will be a benefit as well – something to keep an eye on.

Last week’s post – quick look into carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an important tool to lower greenhouse gas emissions – described how innovative actors have been working to develop technologies to capture carbon dioxide and help to enable the transition to cleaner energy sources. This week, technology to utilise the captured COmerits a look as well.

Utilisation is the “U” in CCUS, and captured COinjection into wells has long been used to increase oil recovery (IOR). Supplying industries that use COin their processes is another market.

Global Thermostat, which is now working with ExxonMobil to scale up its carbon dioxide capture process, lists a number of markets for CO2, including IOR and industrial gases, as well as greenhouses. Need CO2? A visit to the Global Thermostat website reveals a form to request CO2– in tonnes per year.

But the Global Thermostat list also includes markets that would make use of chemically altering carbon dioxide, including supplying the chemical building blocks for plastics, biofertilizers, construction materials and, perhaps most interesting of all, synthetic fuels.

Research over the last decade has led to the development of technologies that make use of captured COas a feed stock for fuels. One challenge has been to lower the energy costs associated with chemically altering the carbon dioxide and performing the synthesis.

Fuel from air
In addition to its Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology, Carbon Engineering (CE) has developed AIR TO FUELS™ that uses the captured COto synthesise transportation fuels.

The CE process employs water electrolysis to release hydrogen that is then, via fuel synthesis, used to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel and Jet-A.

To meet the energy cost challenge, CE foresees the use of renewables such as wind or solar to provide the power for water electrolysis and synthesis. Moreover, the AIR TO FUELS™ technology would produce low-carbon fuels using only a fraction of the power produced by a full-scale solar or wind farm.

According to CE, the resulting fuel is compatible with existing engines and fuelling infrastructure – and it can be blended with traditional fuels – easing the way towards reducing transportation emissions.

As Carbon Engineering puts it, “…DAC and AIR TO FUELS™ technology can do within hours what took man and the Earth millions of years to do.”