Thursday, June 07, 2018

Good News for the Environment = Bad Tidings for Prime Minister Pipeline

If it's as good as they say it is - and, with these "breakthroughs" that's always a very big "if" -  the fossil energy industry could be kaput. Sorry, Justin. Sorry, Rachel. Sorry, Jason. Sorry, Andrew. Sorry, Big Oil. WooHoo, British Columbia.

An article in Financial Post claims a BC company has come up with a breakthrough technology to capture and transform atmospheric carbon, carbon dioxide, into fuel for cars, trucks and jets.

In an article published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Joule, Carbon Engineering outlines what it calls direct air capture in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere through a chemical process, then combined with hydrogen and oxygen to create fuel.

“If these aren’t renewable fuels, what are?” said David Keith, professor of applied physics at Harvard University, lead author of the paper and principal in Carbon Engineering.

At least seven companies worldwide are working on the idea. Swiss-based Climeworks has already built a commercial-scale plant. 
It costs Climeworks about US$600 a tonne to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon Engineering says it can do the job for between US$94 and US$232 a tonne because it uses technology and components that are well understood and commercially available.
Winning the cost war.
Carbon Engineering’s fuel costs about 25 per cent more than gasoline made from oil. Oldham said work is being done to reduce that. 
Because the plant currently uses some natural gas, by the time the fuel it produces has been burned it has released a half-tonne of carbon dioxide for every tonne removed from the air. That gives it a carbon footprint 70 per cent lower than a fossil fuel, he said. 
That footprint would shrink further if the plant were all-electric. And if it ran on wind- or solar-generated electricity, the fuel would be almost carbon neutral.

Playing into BC's hand.
“What you need is a way to make a fuel in a place where you’ve got really cheap low-carbon power, and that will power the airplane. That’s the core idea here.” 
Putting a price on carbon has been crucial to Carbon Engineering’s development, said Oldham. 
“We would not be in business if carbon pricing did not exist.”
If the key is to find really cheap, low-carbon power for the extraction/processing operation that means solar, wind, hydro-electric and/or thermal-electric. British Columbia has vast untapped supplies of thermal-energy. It's what you get in mountainous terrain. And, as for hydro-electricity, we've also got that in abundance. That's also what you get from mountainous terrain along the west coast of any continent.

So, let's say this Carbon Engineering outfit is legit and they manage to produce renewable, i.e. "clean" hydrocarbon transport fuels at or below current fossil fuel prices, there goes the market for the sort of fossil fuels we're dependent upon today. Places that can produce the least costly, low-carbon power for recycling atmospheric carbon will have energy independence from the fossil fuel industry.

The logical extension of this is that nations that don't have an abundance of fossil fuel reserves but have the ability to produce renewable energy at competitive cost would be able to harvest atmospheric carbon to produce their own transport fuels. That would throw a huge wrench into OPEC and its parasite producers such as Canada.

Carry that one step further and you come to the Athabasca Tar Sands and Trudeau's Trans Mountain pipeline, both essentially DOA. If Carbon Engineering's technology pans out, Canada's days as a petro-state are finished -except for the aftermath.

Wouldn't that be ironic if a British Columbia company brought down the very jurisdictions that have been pressuring, even threatening, the province to bow to the petro-state?


Toby said...

Having seen many energy schemes disappear into the miasma (cold fusion, Sterling cycle, a very strange furnace that ran on quartz much like a primitive radio) I won't hold my breath. However, Mr Trudeau and MS Notley should be very worried. There is a great deal of R & D looking for alternatives to digging up sludge. Some of the options look promising (maybe this one) and it is likely that there will be a few winners. My real worry is that such technical breakthroughs and productions may not come soon enough.

rumleyfips said...

Has anyone seen any figures on the amount of C)2 needed to produce a gallon of fuel by this process. Any article I've found omits this information.

Anonymous said...

To produce fuel out of CO2 one needs hydrogen.
It would be much more economical to produce just hydrogen and plant trees to soak up the existing CO2.
The whole scheme proposed by Carbon Engineering is an utopia.