New technology makes it possible to convert Co2 into biofuel
It is no longer in the distant future. The technology has been developed, and results have already been produced. One day you might fill up your car with carbon dioxide instead of petrol. But what will this mean for global warming? How it works, and what we can expect from this new energy source.
Environmental researchers have determined that the temperature will continue to rise. Still, if global warming increases above 2 ° C, it will pose a significant danger to the public. Today, global warming is around 0.9 °. According to a report from Earth Dynamic Systems, there is a risk that a so-called point of no return may occur as early as 2035 – unless the Paris Agreement is fulfilled as agreed. It means that after 2035 – if emissions have not decreased until then, it will be more or less impossible to prevent a global catastrophe.
Capture Co2 from the atmosphere
It is positive that we can start absorbing carbon dioxide in the air and convert it into new energy. It means that we do not add new carbon dioxide to the atmosphere; instead, we reuse it. With carbon-neutral energy, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere will vastly reduce. Imagine if you could drive your car without adding more carbon dioxide than previously absorbed. Hence it is called carbon neutral.
To avoid exceeding global warming of 2°C, more than 10 Gigatons of carbon dioxide must be extracted from the atmosphere yearly. Climeworks founded by Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher has built the world’s first commercial plant in Hinwill, Switzerland, to remove Co2 from the atmosphere and store it underground. This way, they pave the way for negative Co2 development.
But developments also show us we can capitalize this technology into new energy. Co2 extraction can, for example, be sold commercially to the food and beverage industry and synthetic production of renewable fuel for cars. This technology’s advantage is that we no longer depend on fossil fuels that increase emissions of toxic substances and Co2 into the atmosphere. Instead, the same amount of Co2 recovered from the atmosphere is recycled, which leads to nature-neutral Co2.
Large-scale carbon dioxide retrieval
These plants can be built on a small commercial scale with recycling of up to 50,000 tonnes Co2/year to 1,000,000 Co2/year.
We would just need a smaller number of plants to create a negative carbon dioxide emission than power plants worldwide.
The location of these power plants does not matter much either. If you place a plant in central Beijing or in the middle of the Sahara, the same amount of Co2 will be captured and filtered.
The importance of clean biofuels for the transport sector
There are over 1 billion cars in the world that contribute to Co2 emissions. If this massive car pole is to be converted into electric vehicles, it means a considerable cost.
In Sweden, 4.7 million passenger cars were measured in 2015. Suppose we imagine that an electric car costs an average of €50 000, and all of these would be replaced with electric cars overnight. The cost will amount to over €2 billion in such a case. Besides, cars must be refuelled with renewable electricity instead of fossil fuel-driven plants, releasing Co2 emissions. This means a massive change.
The fuel that can be produced by extracting Co2 from the atmosphere and combining it with hydrogen results in a fuel that contains more energy than regular gasoline. It is completely clean of harmful substances and adds only the same amount of Co2 previously recovered. We can use it in all motor vehicles available today, perhaps even aircraft. In other words, the possibility of driving a car utterly neutral in nature will soon be entirely feasible.
How does this affect global warming?
The greenhouse effect is here to stay. Many scientists believe that sea levels will rise. The polarizations are melting, and reports show that a populated shoreline in Sweden may be permanently below sea level until 2100. So it is probably not enough to only recycle Co2.
However, technology can likely slow this development. What’s needed is a negative Co2 emission. If there is an international interest in filtering Co2 and converting it into new energy instead of using fossil fuels, we have come a long way. However, suppose each country also refrains from selling some of the collected Co2 and instead stores it underground. In that case, every tonne of filtered Co2 becomes a negative emission.
Want to know more about carbon dioxide recycling?
Climeworks is a company that has made a carbon dioxide extraction commercial. But research on this has been going on for many years, and there are research projects on Co2 recycling worldwide. The conversion to fuel stems from a research project in Canada linked to Harvard University. In Scandinavia, there is also advanced research on recycling Co2 emissions. Could it be that Co2 could be our next oil?