Gateway Gazette

Synthesizing Hydrocarbons

Why not consume CO2 for producing energy?  Various programs has been put forward to research and commercialize technologies for reducing carbon emisions and introducing alternative energy sources. Dr. Craig Eastman in the following two articles makes the case for an entirely different approach: reducing the emission of greenhouse gases by synthesizing carbon neutral hydrocarbons from CO2 and water for energy. – Editor, ABC Tech

Synthesized Carbon Neutral Hydrocarbons – A Solution to a Finite Energy Supply and to Carbon Dioxide Green-House Gases

By Craig Eastman, EFC-CORP.

Our addiction to fossil fuels[i] runs at around 95 million barrels of oil per day[ii] and involves everything that we do in our daily lives. Presently, the global community is attempting to limit global warming due to CO2 emissions from fossil fuels to a 2 oC increase by 2100[iii].  Proposed scenarios[iv] for limiting the atmospheric CO2 concentration, presently at 401 parts per million (ppm)[v] to between 450-500 ppm[vi] will be difficult to implement. All green house reduction pathways indicate that our present energy sources need to undergo  transformation to CO2neutral sources without delay, gain momentum rapidly, and be sustained for decades. There is also the looming question of security in supply due to a finite supply and the geographical locations of major reserves of oil and gas.

There is a way to synthesize carbon neutral hydrocarbons using sustainable sources of electricity from wind turbines, solar cells, hydroelectric, etc. Unlike batteries which are limited due to material resource requirements, the synthesis of hydrocarbons from water and CO2 is automatically recycled when the resulting hydrocarbon is combusted and then recaptured again as CO2 and water. This process mimics nature’s carbon cycle, the difference being that sustainable sources of electricity are stored as chemical energy in synthesized hydrocarbons. These synthesized hydrocarbons can be used as fuel in existing internal combustion engines or as a feed stock for the petrochemical industry. This would solve the world’s energy and petrochemical feedstock issues with carbon neutral hydrocarbon production distributed around the world.

Canadians should be world leaders in this technology!

Why NOT use hydrogen for energy? 

By Craig Eastman, EFC-CORP

The problem with hydrogen has and always will be in it’s production, distribution and storage. Hydrogen is also not an energy source, but is an energy carrier and requires a significant energy input to remove hydrogen from the compounds which it exists in. Hydrogen forms compounds with most elements, for example, H2O, NH3, H2S, HCl, H2SO4, metal hydrides, and literally millions of types of hydrocarbons.  Therefore, hydrogen is not typically found on earth as free molecular hydrogen or bonded H2. If hydrogen is present in free form, it can readily diffuse upwards into the earth’s atmosphere and escape, therefore effectively evaporating our water supply into space. Due to this evaporative process, cautious consideration should be given to utilizing hydrogen as a global energy carrier.

Unfortunately, it is the fundamental physical properties of pure hydrogen that make it very difficult to utilize as a cost effective energy carrier or in storage. When storing hydrogen you have two main choices, either under very high pressure or via cryogenic storage. High pressure containment vessels are expensive and dangerous due to the high pressures involved – they have not been well received. Storage cryogenically is problematic, as no containment vessel can prevent heat flow inwards (liquid hydrogen is stored at 20K or -253oC), as there is ultimately a pressure build up within the vessel which must be released whether the hydrogen is utilized or not. In approx. thirty days without use, a cryogenic storage vessel will lose all its hydrogen to the atmosphere – is this a good idea to convert water to hydrogen, resulting in escape of hydrogen from the earth and resulting in evaporation of our lakes and oceans? And since hydrogen readily forms metal hydrides, which result in metal failure, to distribute hydrogen via pipelines and storage tanks will require the use of expensive specialty metals resistant to the formation of metal hydrides.

What is needed is a liquid fuel that contains hydrogen already, these are already available in nature as hydrocarbons. This is why synthesized hydrocarbons produced from recycled CO2 and water along with sustainable electrical energy are an excellent energy carrier and storage solution. Synthesis of hydrocarbons provides an infinite, sustainable supply of hydrocarbons which can be used in existing internal combustion engines or fuel cells.  Recently, a hybrid F-1 racing engine operating at 50% efficiency was developed which rivals fuel cell technology, an indication that internal combustion engines and hybrid systems will continue to improve in efficiency. You don’t have to change all the engines in the world, just where the fuel comes from, to a carbon neutral liquid hydrocarbon.

So why bother with hydrogen – the lack of market acceptance for hydrogen is due to the reasons cited above. A liquid fuel such as methanol, ethanol, butanol (gasoline substitute) carries 30 times by weight the energy of the highest performance lithium battery.  Batteries are inefficient, heavy, poor performers in cold temperatures, difficult to recycle, and the battery materials are limited in supply. The cost of lithium will eventually increase even higher as the majority of lithium salts are located in South America and are limited in quantity. There is lithium dissolved in our oceans, but it is very dilute and will be expensive to extract.

Pure hydrogen as a fuel is not practical for most applications. An excellent alternative is the synthesis of universally acceptable hydrocarbon liquid fuels that are also carbon neutral. Synthesized carbon neutral hydrocarbons effectively store electricity/electrons obtained from solar, wind, tidal geothermal, fusion/fission energy sources and are easily adapted to existing internal combustion technology used in automobiles, buses, transport trucks, ships, airplanes and space heating. Think of carbon neutral synthesized hydrocarbons as an efficient chemical energy carrier that stores electricity in an extremely convenient high energy density liquid.

References

  • [i]   Suranovic, S., Fossil Fuel Addiction and the Implications for Climate Change Policy, Global Environmental change, vol. 23, 2013, p. 598-608
  • [ii]   U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Petroleum and Other Liquids Production, Consumption, and Inventories, Short-Term Energy Outlook – October 2016
  • [iii]   Dessens, O., Anandarajah, G. and Gambhir, A., Limiting global warming to 2 oC: What do the latest mitigation     studies tell us about costs, technologies and other impacts?,  Energy Stratgey Reviews, vol. 13-14, 2016, p. 67-76
  • [iv]   Dessens, O., Anandarajah, G. and Gambhir, A., Limiting global warming to 2 oC: What do the latest mitigation   studies tell us about costs, technologies and other impacts?,  Energy Stratgey Reviews, vol. 13-14, 2016, p. 67-76
  • [v]   Mauna Loa Station, HI, USA, Earth Systems Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric   Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Sept. 16th, 2016
  • [vi]   Clarke,L., Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth     Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,     United Kingdom and new York, NY, USA, 2014

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