Carbon Capture producing carbon fuel


#1

I’ve heard of Carbon Capture before, saw it as a useful counter to leftist cries that were “damaging” the earth by upping carbon emissions.

What I didn’t know, is that carbon capture tech apparently can not only pull carbon out of the atmosphere, but create a hydrocarbon liquid fuel, that seems to be at least somewhat comparable to gasoline in terms of cost & performance.

You could argue with this fuel, there’d never be a reason to abandon hydrocarbons, even if Climate Change is dangerous, as we could control carbon content on a whim.


#2

Not quite a whim, but on demand, with enough demand. It’s just chemistry, after all.


#3

This article mixes a little interesting news with a load of hokem.

The low-cost direct air capture (DAC) of CO2 is interesting, especially if you’ve been duped into thinking CO2 is pollution. It uses electrical energy to produce a “stream of pure, compressed CO2” extracted from the air. That’s the interesting news part.

The hokem is to imply that you could use CO2 as fuel. Sure, you can separate the C from the O2 and use the C as fuel, but you have to put all the energy back in that burning it released.

Gasoline and diesel fuel are useful as fuels because when an engine burns them, their hydrogen and carbon components are combined with oxygen which releases energy. The output is H20 and CO2. If you take that output and separate it to reuse as fuel, you have to put back all the energy you took out plus some for process inefficiencies. You need new energy from somewhere. The article skipped over that and made it sound like you get a free energy lunch.

The article also says the produced carbon fuel would be “very low carbon.” But in reality it’s not “low carbon” at all. They didn’t actually say what the chemical makeup of “its trademarked AIR TO FUELS process” would be. The extracted pure carbon would probably have to be combined with hydrogen to form a hydro-carbon just like fuels from oil.

Perhaps they’re using the political definition of “carbon”, not the every-day scientific definition. That is, since the carbon atoms were extracted from the air, you get carbon credit so that the CO2 which your engine emits doesn’t count against you in the political sense. Dumb! Deceit! Hokem! Boring.

There is a minor interesting aspect to this though. If you believe as I do that the earth’s supply of oil is limited, and in fact each new barrel of oil is costing more and more energy to retrieve, then we should be looking for a new source of vehicle fuel. This could possibly be such a source. Though of course, it’s not really a source–it’s a means of storing electric energy as liquid fuel for engines to burn. Though we’ll need a lot more electrical energy to use it.


#4

It’s actually mentioned in the caption of the picture:

Direct air capture (DAC) works using a closed loop technology with water and clean electricity the only major inputs.”

That’s precisely what they’re doing:

This is a fair point.

One of the technical hurdles of “green” sources has been the limitations of their storage medium; typically today its lithium ion batteries. Hydrocarbons have about 80x the energy density, are easier to store and transport than batteries storing the same amount of energy, and the engines that use them require less technical skill to maintain.

Think of the Tesla roadster; it’s entire base is its battery and it weighs 2,000 lbs, but it only stores the equivalent of the energy found in a 11-gallon gas can. If that battery breaks, that’s $40,000 out of your pocket, and you need to hire a highly specialized mechanic to do the switch out.

Clearly this is something that can exist, but it can’t realistically compete with fossil fuels in broader economic terms.

But if green sources can instead store their energy as hydrocarbons, the contest now moves to whether the windmills and solar panels are cheaper to operate than the wells digging up more oil & gas.

Equally, which can scale best to meet demand.


#5

Unless and until we can design a fuel source that doesn’t require government subsidies to be cost-effective, this is all pie-in-the-sky BS. It takes more energy to MAKE ethanol than it will produce when used as a fuel. It takes more energy to build, transport, erect and service windmills than they will produce in their entire useful life expectancy.