By Paul Homewood
Will someone please wake me up and tell me I’m dreaming?
From New Atlas:
Researchers at MIT have developed a new membrane-based system that can convert carbon dioxide emissions into useful alternate fuels. The process has been effectively demonstrated on a small-scale and the researchers hope to ultimately adapt the system to conventional fossil fuel-based power plants.
Made of lanthanum, calcium, and iron oxide, the membrane is designed to separate out oxygen from carbon dioxide, leaving behind carbon monoxide that can then be turned into a variety of useful fuels.
The process requires a significant energy input to produce the up to 990° C (1,814° F) temperatures needed to separate the carbon dioxide input into oxygen and carbon monoxide. But the researchers suggest this heat energy could be provided by either, “solar energy or by waste heat, some of which could come from the power plant itself.”
A pragmatic hypothetical outcome would be to incorporate the process into a natural gas power plant by adding an entirely new fuel output stream to the plant. The carbon dioxide produced by generating electricity from the burning gas would then be fed through the membrane system, which itself would be powered by a small stream of the original natural gas.
The carbon monoxide output could then be mixed with hydrogen to produce syngas, which can be used to generate electricity, as a fuel in internal combustion engines, or fed into the existing gas distribution network. This process would create a new commercial output for the power plant while also reducing greenhouse emissions.
It is worth noting that this research is co-funded by Shell Oil, which hopefully points to the process finding a real, practical outcome. After all, if the big fossil fuel companies can find a way to turn their carbon dioxide emissions into a positive revenue source then its a real win-win scenario for everyone.
The research was published in the journal ChemSusChem.
So, let me get this right.
1) You have to use an enormous amount of energy to heat the gases up to 990C, in order to trigger the process.
2) This new energy presumably won’t grow on trees, which will therefore mean more fossil fuel burning. (CCGT plants already use waste heat, which rather destroys the argument that waste heat will work).
3) The process produces carbon monoxide, which if released to the atmosphere is simply oxidized to carbon dioxide again. (Which is just as well as we would all be dead otherwise!)
4) Therefore the carbon monoxide has to be either stored or mixed with hydrogen to produce syngas.
5) Unfortunately the only way to produce large amounts of hydrogen is steam reforming, which in turn produces large amounts of carbon dioxide.
One of the arguments of anti fossil fuel campaigners is that the supply of oil, gas and coal is finite, and that we should therefore limit the use.
Yet this dotty proposal, if it ever worked, would simply lead to large amounts of energy being wasted for no good reason at all.