By December 27, 2017 Read More →

Carbon Engineering turns CO2, water into a synthetic mixture of gasoline and diesel

CE turns CO2 and water into a synthetic mixture of gasoline and diesel

Carbon Engineering claims their technology is best option for large scale commercialization of technology

Last week, the Carbon Engineering team demonstrated “Air to Fuels” by directly synthesizing a mixture of gasoline and diesel using only CO2 captured from the air and hydrogen split from water with clean electricity, according to a press release.

The last few years they have working on a concept called “Air to Fuels”, or A2F for short. A2F uses a proprietary direct air capture technology to extract and purify CO2 from the air, and employs electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water using renewable electricity.

The CO2 and hydrogen are then combined in a process called “thermo-catalysis”, where they are directly synthesized into liquid fuels such as gasoline and diesel (and in the future, jet fuel also).

A2F is a potentially game-changing technology, which if successfully scaled up, will allow Carbon Engineering to harness cheap intermittent renewable electricity to drive synthesis of liquid fuels that are compatible with modern infrastructure and engines.

This offers an alternative to biofuels and a complement to electric vehicles in the effort to displace fossil fuels from transportation.

Carbon Engineering has been developing direct air capture technology since inception in 2009, and in Oct. 2015, they commissioned a DAC pilot plant in Squamish B.C. which captures and purifies 1 tonne of CO2 per day from the atmosphere.

For the past year, the Carbon Engineering engineering and operations teams have been building on this by installing water electrolysis and fuel synthesis modules, which once combined with a DAC pilot, gives the capability to synthesize roughly 1 barrel of fuel per day.

This month Carbon Engineering successfully integrated and started up the equipment, and produced the first small quantities of liquid fuels.

The internal data and work show that A2F will be able supply fuels into leading markets that place premium value on their low life-cycle carbon intensity with viable economics, according to Carbon Engineering.

This milestone is important, but in fact, it’s not the first time that fuels have been made from CO2 and H2.

That has been done in small-scale demos before, but they think the pilot plant is the first instance of “Air to Fuels” where all the equipment has large-scale industrial precedent, and gives real indication of commercial performance and viability which could lead directly to scale-up and deployment.

While A2F fuels are at best carbon neutral, the progress also has relevance to the concept of “carbon dioxide removal”.

CDR – or sometimes referred to as “negative emissions” – is the concept of removing and permanently storing industrial-scale quantities of CO2 from the air to help avoid climate risk.

Recent articles in Wired (here) and the Economist (here and here) have highlighted the growing recognition that negative emissions are baked into many climate mitigation scenarios, but that precious few projects are actually being deployed and tested.

While A2F fuels do not themselves qualify as CDR, the Carbon Engineering team has an opportunity to deploy A2F – based around their core direct air capture technology – as a means to scale up and commercialize, and in so doing, prepare to deploy direct air capture in a CDR role once markets are ready.

The overall mission according to Carbon Engineering, is for A2F to contribute towards the on-going emissions mitigation efforts in the transportation sector, and that DAC can also play a CDR role to augment aggressive mitigation efforts across all sectors, to accelerate us towards net zero GHG emissions as soon as possible.

While there is still plenty of work to do to get A2F into market, for the moment, we simply wish to highlight the hard work and smarts that it took our team to get to this milestone.

Posted in: Innovation

Comments are closed.