New technologies can transform carbon dioxide into countless products we need for modern life. The process is called Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU), and it applies a tried and true philosophy to the fight against climate change: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Carbon dioxide can be made into fuels, chemicals, nutritional oils and countless other products.
Carbon recycling can lead to real emissions reductions, economic growth and greener products.
Carbon recycling works
The idea of transforming carbon emissions into something useful has been around for a long time, but today's new technologies are setting the stage for a big impact on the fight against climate change and our economy.
Countless products we need can be made from the carbon-containing gases that are emitted from power plants and other industrial sources. Recycling carbon reduces greenhouse gas emissions and displaces the need for fossil fuels.
Algae technologies have a unique potential to use the CO2 from fossil fuel power plants as they grow, transforming what is now considered a harmful waste gas into a valuable feedstock for countless products.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Fossil Energy is seeking information from industry, academia, research laboratories, and others to learn about specific beneficial carbon use and reuse technology opportunities for the U.S. power generation sector. The Bioenergy Technologies Office is also interested in employing bioenergy feedstocks as carbon utilization technologies.
To complement existing efforts to develop, demonstrate, and deploy carbon capture technologies, DOE is interested in supporting new and innovative approaches to beneficially utilize CO2 from fossil fuel power plants. These technologies include biological utilization technologies, such as algae cultivation.
In collaboration with NRG and Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, the nonprofit XPRIZE is accepting applications from individuals and teams with projects that will help turn carbon from a liability into an asset.
In a series of rounds, teams will be whittled down as they attempt to use new technologies to convert CO2 from an actual coal-fired or natural gas plant into valuable products.
Instead of a silver bullet approach, XPRIZE believes in developing an ecosystem of technologies that will work together to mitigate and convert carbon. XPRIZE sees this competition as a chance to prove that carbon technologies can work, be economically viable and, in turn, stimulate further investment into similar innovations.
Click here to learn more and then register here. Registration closes in April.
This week U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced legislation proposing an economy-wide carbon fee. While it is difficult to see a path forward for comprehensive climate legislation in the next Congress, this latest proposal includes a very significant policy milestone: The bill provides a refund of the carbon fee to any facility that implements carbon capture and utilization.
This is just the latest example of growing support for those that are developing technologies that can use carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to make things.
By making fuels from CO2 that would have otherwise been sent into the atmosphere, Algenol have a large impact on the overall carbon footprint of our economy.
A peer reviewed analysis of Algenol’s technology found reductions of up to 87 percent in the carbon footprint for their ethanol fuel on a energy equivalent basis when compared to gasoline. That’s an enormous improvement over the fossil fuels we use today, and one that we should absolutely pursue if we want to be serious about cutting greenhouse gas emission.
Algenol is looking to quickly expand into commercial production, and wants to partner with power producers and other industrial sources for waste carbon dioxide.
Regulations that support this kind of carbon recycling would provide states and sources of private capital with the confidence to invest in highly promising CO2 solutions like this, while helping to create a market for CO2 that reduces the cost of complying with greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Check out Algenol’s CEO Paul Woods describe the impact that using waste CO2 to create fuels could have on our economy and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Algae-derived biofuel can reduce life cycle CO2emissions by 50 to 70 percent compared to petroleum fuels, and is approaching a similar Energy Return on Investment (EROI) as conventional petroleum according to a new peer-reviewed paper published in Bioresource Technology. The study, which is the first to analyze real-world data from an existing algae-to-energy demonstration scale farm, shows that the environmental and energy benefits of algae biofuel are at least on par, and likely better, than first generation biofuels.
The study, “Pilot-scale data provide enhanced estimates of the life cycle energy and emissions profile of algae biofuels produced via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL),” is a life cycle analysis of an algae cultivation and fuel production process currently employed at pre-commercial scales. The authors examined field data from two facilities operated by Sapphire Energy in Las Cruces and Columbus, New Mexico that grow and process algae into Green Crude oil. Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude can be refined into drop-in fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
The study concluded that algae technologies at commercial scale are projected to produce biofuels with lower greenhouse gas emissions and EROI values that are comparable to first generation biofuels. Additionally, algae based biofuels produced through this pathway at commercial scale will have a significant energy return on investment (EROI), close to petroleum and three times higher than cellulosic ethanol. The system that was evaluated recycles nutrients, can accept an algae feed that is up to 90 percent water in the processing phase, and the final product can be blended with refinery intermediates for refining into finished gasoline or diesel product, resulting in significant energy savings throughout the process.
Last month Skyonic Corporation opened Capitol SkyMine in San Antonio, a $125 million facility that will capture carbon emissions from a cement plant and transform them into products like baking soda, bleach and hydrochloric acid.
Skyonic’s technology can capture up to 90 percent of the CO2 in flue gases for processing into valuable products. At Capitol SkyMine 75,000 tons of CO2 will be captured, generating $48 million in revenue.
This example of capturing greenhouse gases and generating revenue is a classic illustration of how carbon capture and utilization technologies can flip the challenge of reducing emissions into an opportunity.
UPDATE: The deadline for signing the White House petition has passed. Thanks to all those that signed! Keep your eyes open for other opportunities to support carbon utilization technology!
Sign the White House We the People petition and tell the EPA that carbon utilization technologies must be included in the approved approaches that the states can use to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.