Just Recycle the Carbon Dioxide

Nov. 28, 2018

The White House Administration recently released part two of its US Climate Assessment in which it details how climate change is affecting our nation more than ever and warns of future catastrophes from coastal flooding to crop failures in the Midwest.

Heavy equipment manufacturers have been in the struggle for some time, investing a great deal of resources in order to achieve Tier 4 emission standards. I can’t imagine the amount of engineering it took to reach their final goals.

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But what if someone could “use technology to ‘geoengineer’ the Earth’s atmosphere and reduce the impacts of climate change?”

Earlier this year, Popular Mechanics reported on a project in which scientists from a company funded by Bill Gates, called Carbon Engineering that turns carbon dioxide (CO2) into fuel.

The article says in part:

“In 2011, experts estimated that it would cost at least $600 to remove a metric ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The new approach could remove the same amount for as little as $94. And it mostly relies on pre-existing processes and techniques, like what are already being used cooling towers and paper mills.

The technique involves three major steps: first, outside air gets sucked into a factory ‘contactor’ and exposed to an alkaline liquid. When the air meets the strong base, it turns into water liquid containing carbon dioxide. In a factory, it undergoes a number of chemical reactions that then separates the base from the acid—a technique commonly performed in paper mills. Lastly, carbon dioxide gets combined with hydrogen, and converted into liquid fuels, including ones that can be used to power cars and planes (meaning that someday, the company could produce truly carbon-neutral fuels for vehicles). Researchers are optimistic and hopeful about the technique.”

Vice.com recently looked into the same company.

Forbes investigated a similar technology being offered by a Cornell University startup, Dimensional Energy. It’s come up with a way to add sunlight to CO2 and turn it into an environmentally friendly fuel that can be used for transportation and energy.

“Cornell officials say Dimensional Energy has joined a university business incubator, McGovern Family Center for Venture Development, to bring the idea to the commercial level. Company leaders hope to produce larger scale reactor prototypes and deploy a pilot with an already identified partner in 2020.

The CO2-to-fuel process happens in a photoreactor where the key ingredient is sunlight. ‘In industrial uses, we can capture carbon dioxide from commercial entities before it leaks into the atmosphere,’ according to David Erickson, a mechanical engineering professor and co-founder and partner in the company. ‘We put it into our reactor, add hydrogen and sunlight. All of this goes into our machine and comes out as a useful fuel.’

Erickson adds that since the resulting methanol was formed from a process that removed carbon from the atmosphere, it’s neutral and ‘we can use it guilt free.’”

They call it, “HI-LIGHT – Solar Thermal Chemical Reactor Technology for Converting CO2 to Hydrocarbons.”

Clean burning fuel that actually takes CO2 out of the atmosphere. The scientists also say that the cost of the fuel would be about the same as what we’re paying now.

What are your thoughts on this?