Monday 7 September 2015

Could Diesel Made From Air Help Tackle Climate Change?


Small Companies Capturing CO2 for e-Diesel

Making diesel would seem to sound like something from science fiction but small companies in Canada and Germany have come with an amazing way of capturing carbon dioxide in the making of diesel. German company, Sunfire has developed its first batch of the so called e-diesel in April.

Johanna Wanka, Federal Minister of Education and Research had put a few litres in her car by way of a celebration. The Canadian company, Carbon Engineering has built up a pilot plant to suck one to two tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air on daily basis, turning it into 500 litres of diesel.

The requirement of electricity is usedfor the process, though if the start-ups tend to use renewable electricity, it could produce diesel that is carbon neutral which means that burning it in the car would return to the atmosphere the carbon dioxide removed in the first place.

On the other hand, the fossil fuels are carbon positive meaning that the burning of it could add to the total amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Halting growth of carbon dioxide together with the other greenhouse gases is of vital importance, considering the several threats faced by climate changes.

The Fischer-Tropsch Process

Awareness of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million in 2012-2013, which was the highest since the scientific measurements had started while the year July 2014-June 2015seemed to be the warmest on record according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.Chemistry to develop the fuel from carbon dioxide is not particularly difficult.

Water needs to be split into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis and hydrogen added to carbon dioxide in order to make carbon monoxide and water and then plug in more hydrogen to build up hydrocarbon chains. The last process is known as the Fischer-Tropsch process which dates back to 1920s. However, the technologies are capturing the carbon dioxide directly from the air which is new and presently becoming cheap to be feasible.

The greatest challenges in technology have been focused on the high temperature furnaces according to chief executive of Carbon Engineering, Adrian Corless. He states that there is yet a month of hard work, to get these to function, as the company would want it.

Cars Running on Fuel Made From Thin Air

However, he commented that it has also been the company’s main innovation, precipitating captured carbon dioxide into solid calcium carbonate pellets which can be washed and dried with ease.Thereafter, the pellets are heated to 800-900 C, wherein they release a pure carbon dioxide stream. As a filtrate, they tend to leave calcium oxide which can be fed back to the first air capture stage.

There are also other alternatives for selling carbon dioxide, besides fuel. Climeworks, a Swiss company which rolled off from a local university is now gearing for its first commercial scale plant in selling captured carbon dioxide to a nearby greenhouse. The Swiss company foresees a long term market in the supply of fizzy drinks bottlers in Africa, Japan and difficult to reach island by putting up locally and overcoming the transport expenses.

Expenses of compressing, liquefying and shipping carbon CO2 seems to be ten times more in these places, stated the firm’s chief operating officer, Dominique Kroneberg. Climbeworks and Carbon Engineering state that their modular technology would make it easy to scale up to larger projects.

 In the meanwhile, the US Naval Research Laboratory has informed its interest in using e-diesel to fuel it ships and one could marvel on having their car running on fuel made from thin air very soon.

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