I wrote this cavalcade in Iceland, area I afresh catholic on a alive vacation. While in Iceland I met with an avant-garde activity producer whose technology could advice abate carbon dioxide emissions.
Iceland is different amid countries in that it obtains about all its electricity from renewable energy. Iceland’s arctic rivers accord about 70% of its electricity via hydropower, and the country’s ~200 volcanoes accredit geothermal to accomplish up best of the rest.
The Tragedy of the Commons
But, as I abstruse on my visit, Iceland wasn’t consistently a archetypal of sustainability. When the aboriginal settlers arrived, they promptly began to deforest the country. They ter the abundant auk to extinction. So now Iceland has about no trees, and of advance no added abundant auks.
Of course, this bearings is all-too-common. Throughout history, individuals acting in their own arrogance accept collectively depleted assets and baby environments. This abstraction is accepted as the tragedy of the commons, and it plays out repeatedly.
Today, bodies are annihilative deposit ammunition resources, and in about-face pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Anniversary of us alone contributes a little, but calm we are accidental a lot.
That was actual abundant on my apperception in Iceland, because while I was there the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) address was released. It’s a abstaining appraisal of area things are headed.
In a nutshell, the address says that “Limiting all-around abating to 1.5°C would crave rapid, extensive and aberrant changes in all aspects of society.” The anticipation of that accident — again, because of the tragedy of the aliment — is aing to zero.
One affair that would advice is if we had added technologies that can absolutely either stop carbon dioxide from actuality emitted into the atmosphere, or technologies that can aish carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
My contempo adventure — Fuel From Thin Air — highlights efforts to do the latter. These efforts are mostly at an beginning stage.
Recycling Carbon Dioxide
But some companies are application carbon dioxide that would contrarily be emitted to the atmosphere. That is the case with the aggregation I met with in Iceland. Carbon Recycling International (CRI) utilizes electricity and carbon dioxide emissions from the country’s geothermal plants to aftermath methanol, which they aftermath and advertise into the European ammunition market. Their artefact is trademarked as Vulcanol.
I met with Benedikt Stefánsson and Ómar Sigurbjörnsson from CRI to apprentice added about the company’s technology. Here is how it works.
Geothermal beef is acclimated to aftermath electricity, and as it does so the baptize breath condenses into aqueous water. The beef contains about 2% carbon dioxide, but afterwards the baptize has been removed the actual gases are about 90% carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide ability contrarily be vented into the atmosphere.
To be clear, the carbon brand of geothermal ability is acutely low, but would be alike lower if that carbon dioxide aperture could be avoided.
Carbon dioxide can be adapted into a advanced array of products, but that requires two things. One is energy. Carbon dioxide is a stable, low-energy molecule, and the carbon-oxygen bonds crave activity to break.
But hydrogen is additionally needed. Best of the world’s hydrogen is produced from accustomed gas, but it can be produced by passing electricity through water. This action is alleged electrolysis, and it break baptize bottomward into its basic elements — hydrogen and oxygen.
The laws of thermodynamics necessarily crave that added activity is ascribe into the action than is acquired in the anatomy of hydrogen, but there are affairs that accredit this to economically work.
Some may agenda that if the booze is activity into the ammunition market, that carbon dioxide will still eventually be produced. That is true, but because the carbon dioxide is recycled above-mentioned to actuality vented it would lower the net emissions from afire the fuel.
However, if the booze is instead acclimated in the plastics industry, again the carbon dioxide could be cloistral for a abundant best period.
The key to the action is bargain power. I was told that about 70% of the amount of assembly in a bartering bulb would be bent by the amount of power. We can do a quick bit of algebraic to actuate what the amount of ability would charge to be to accomplish this action work.
One megawatt-hour (MWh) is agnate to 3.4 actor British thermal units (Btu). The ability of the action of electricity to ammunition is about 50%. One gallon of booze contains 56,800 Btu, so 1 MWh is according to about 30 gallons of methanol.
According to Methanex — the world’s better ambassador of booze and an broker in CRI — the accepted amount of booze is about $1.50/gallon. Thus, 1 MWh could aftermath about $45 account of methanol. If energy is 70% of the all-embracing cost, again the break-even amount for ability would charge to be less than about 70% of $45, or $31.50/MWh (in the absence of incentives).
The levelized amount of activity (LCOE) for geothermal is about $50/MWh, according to the Activity Information Administration. Solar photovoltaic (PV) ability is projected to access that akin in a few years, and wind ability costs are projected to abatement to $23/MWh in some locations by 2025.
However, alike today there are times that countries like Germany and states like California aftermath so abundant balance ability that the amount drops beneath zero. In such cases, that balance ability could be dumped into hydrogen assembly and accumulator — the primary activity customer in such a plant.
Further, this places no amount at all on the externalities (greenhouse gas emissions). If we abode a value on the lower net emissions of this ammunition — which is why we accommodate best analysis in the U.S. to biofuels — again the economics improve. If, for example, booze was provided agnate analysis to cellulosic booze for its greenhouse gas discharge abatement, it would added than bifold the amount of the booze produced from anniversary MWh of power.
A Bulb in Operation
An important agenda actuality about this action is that it isn’t aloof theoretical, and it doesn’t alone abide at the class scale. CRI has an operating demonstration bulb with a accommodation of about 4,000 metric bags of booze per year. It is amid aing to the Svartsengi Ability Station, which produces 150 MW of thermal activity for the commune heating and up to 75 MW for electricity power. I visited both the CRI booze bulb and the Svartsengi Ability Station during my trip. The ability bulb provides both electricity and a carbon dioxide antecedent for CRI’s booze plant.
The CRI action could assignment in any area with bargain ability and a antecedent of carbon dioxide. If there are accessible incentives for bearing renewable ammunition (as is the case in abounding countries), the action would be applicable in alike added locations.
This is absolutely the affectionate of technology that the world needs to help action the ascent course of carbon dioxide emissions.
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