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Engineers find neat way to turn waste carbon dioxide into useful material (unsw.edu.au)
123 points by geeklord 29 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 85 comments



Every time there’s a discussion about synthetic carbon fuels, there’s the same frustrating replies. I want to reply to those with one statement: the whole point is to use excess power from solar/wind. There’s always the same replies pointing out how it’s more efficient to use the power directly in EV batteries, laws of thermodynamics, and other similar things. Those completely miss the point. Solar/wind is going exponential and we have a big problem of storing excess power. Massive really massive amounts of batteries is one option. But converting that into carbon fuels that work directly in existing infrastructure and is effectively carbon neutral is a good option too. That’s where the discussion should be, not pointless arguments about efficiency of EVs.


A problem with processes based on using excess power is that they use equipment inefficiently. If cheap power is only available for a quarter of the time then it would take 4x as long to pay for the investment in the equipment. Whatever scheme you set up to use excess power needs to be pretty cheap to make it worth running only a small part of the time, or it needs to be doing something especially valuable.

Compare to the strategy of locating somewhere that electricity is always cheap and running all the time.


Solar produces only during the day, but wind is at any hour. And these days, the idea of massive over-provisioning is being discussed to overcome the intermittent problem since solar/wind keeps getting cheaper and cheaper. The idea is simple, how to overcome the cloudy winter day issue? Simply overbuild a lot of solar/wind so it can still provide enough on a winter day. Then during summer, shutoff the excess power generation.

But what a waste of potential to do that! All that overbuilt power generation, simply turned off during summer. Batteries don't help here, it would store it, but then the question of what to do with it is still here.

If society goes the route of massive overbuilding solar/wind, then there's an opportunity to do something with effectively free power during summer. But it's ONLY during summer, so it needs to be something valuable that can also act as a energy storage.

Carbon fuel is perfect for this. Millions of ICE cars exist and are still being produced. Long distance airplanes will be carbon fuel based for a long time. And so many other uses. I think another option is water. Water can also be seen as a valuable resource that acts as energy storage. Use the excess summer power to fill up a near empty dam with desalinated water? Sounds like a perfect fit for regions like southern California or Arizona.


Oh, but look at the equipment that's shut down, doing nothing, all winter! What a waste. Sure, the electricity is a bit more expensive, but it's still fairly cheap so why not turn it on and get some use out of it?

All processes have some waste. In the end, you need estimates done with real numbers to see if it's worth doing. We aren't going to settle it with casual chit-chat.


>Use the excess summer power to fill up a near empty dam with desalinated water?

Pumped storage hydroelectricity is the biggest form of power storage at the moment, and has efficiencies around 70-80%. The losses for desalinization (pumping through media) are ruinous compared to just pumping uphill, and storing desalinized water means you can't use it without spending potential power. There might be good reasons not to mix desalinization and energy storage.


As I understand it, the main challenge with pumped storage is that you can't do it everywhere. You need fairly specific geography for it, and it's a big civil engineering project. Here's a good video on by Practical Engineering:

https://youtu.be/66YRCjkxIcg


> You need fairly specific geography for it, and it's a big civil engineering project.

You need elevation difference and fairly stable soil. Everything else is technologically solveable. It's a big civil engineering project but its a profitable one and not particularly challenging.


Good video, thanks. It briefly mentions the idea of pumped seawater storage. Is that really any different from using freshwater, other than location?


seawater is saline, you have to be careful what you do with it because you dont want to literally salt the earth where you are (soil remediation friggin sucks).

seawater is also not valuable. You don't care about the water quality in the reservoir, you just let it fall back into the sea. If it evaporates you're losing energy but you aren't losing potable water that you sell, and it doesn't require a connection to a water distribution main.


I imagine the main difference would be salt content, but I can't speak to how that would affect things.


I think the idea here was simply to use the excess energy to stock up on potable water, which people could drink later, rather than to also use it for pumped storage.


> I think the idea here was simply to use the excess energy to stock up on potable water, which people could drink later, rather than to also use it for pumped storage.

If it was a reasonable and profitable use of energy we would already be doing it, but we're not because its ruinously expensive. You also run into storage issues (how much of your excess power is being evaporated from the surface of your storage reservoir? The longer you hold your potable water the more you throw away). You also need to consider what you're going to do with the highly saline byproduct of any such process.

There's nothing wrong with purifying water but its very energy intensive and already something we do. Adding more expensive potable water from excess energy generation doesn't make much sense.


If BEVs capture even a fraction of the market then you've effectively a massive distributed battery which could help soak up the excess renewable electricity. Quick estimate - if 1% of the US passenger vehicles were BEV each with 50KWh batteries on average is 100GWh of storage.

It would require dynamic pricing to the consumer to work as off-peak prices would need to be low or very low to encourage all BEV owners to take on the excess power at particular times of the day.

By the way, unfortunately dynamic pricing seems to be a very unpopular idea as far as I can see.


One issue with carbon fuel is air pollution, we have seen during the pandemic that getting people out of cars is a big part of solving that.

Re water, in addition to filling dams with desalinated drinking water we could also refill aquifers that are being emptied by overconsumption of water (often leading to intrusion of saline water into the water table and associated problems).


Yes, you can't do your price calculations based on 24/7 utilisation. But that's true for almost every other bit of technology as well. What's the average utilisation of a theatre? Of a plough?


> the whole point is to use excess power from solar/wind.

Thank you.

> But converting that into carbon fuels that work directly in existing infrastructure and is effectively carbon neutral is a good option too.

This approach seems really underrated, at least for transportation.

Hydrocarbons still have the best energy density of the realistic options. We have a century of experience building ICEs with favorable power/weight ratios. Why throw all that away?


Too often have environmentalists let the perfect be the enemy of good. I understand why they feel that way, for so long have they fought against fossil fuel companies and other interests. They feel like if they give an inch, they will take a mile and climate change is too urgent. And so they oppose any transitional technology. They want to push for only perfect solutions like EVs and batteries.

But I want those environmentalists to sit down and think. Yes, climate change is urgent, and that urgency should make you stop asking for perfection. There are 1.4 billion cars in the world. Even a 100% ban today on ICE car production is not going to change that. Cars have an average usable span measured in decades. The projections for 2050 are catastrophic if carbon emissions don't go down.

Green tech has one big overwhelming victory right now, solar/wind. It's annihilating coal and will eventually defeat natural gas as well. We can take that victory and use it to make the existing cars and airplanes carbon neutral. If you care about climate change, why is this not more exciting than EVs?


Well, is it such a big victory for renewable? I think the big winner atm. is natural gas from fracking, which could easily be the final nail in the coffin.


What's missing is a careful differentiation between doing what you said, storing excess energy, and approaches that are popularized, e.g. by carmakers unwilling to invest in R&D, where we keep on relying on hydrocarbons for things like transportation and heating and magically replace them with carbon neutral alternatives.

The first approach of using hydrocarbons as an energy buffer makes perfect ecological and economical sense and is most likely strictly necessary for a carbon neutral energy grid (barring battery breakthroughs), once we reach 60-70% renewable energy in our grids.

The latter approach however makes no sense at all, because we simply don't have enough space for wind and solar to feed our thirst for hydrocarbons with renewable power. The energy losses, both in the step creating the fuel, and in the step turning fuel to useful work, are just too great to fuel every car or heat every home in the world like that.


> we simply don't have enough space for wind and solar to feed our thirst for hydrocarbons with renewable power.

I'm not sure if this is the case or not. To give some numbers:

Current global oil consumption is 54225 TWh, or 6.2TW [1] Current global solar panel generation capacity is 628 GW (2019) [2]. Median capacity factor maybe 25% [3] Current global wind power capacity is 650 GW [4]. Median capacity factor maybe ~37% [5]

Other renewables are unlikely to achieve the same growth as wind and solar, so can be ignored.

So we need to install 15x current renewables, times whatever the hydrocarbon creation process efficiency is, to produce all our annual oil demand.

Assuming a 50% process efficiency, we'd need to install 30x what we have now. That's a big installation, but it's not outside the realms of possibility. There's a lot of untouched desert in the world.

[1]: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/oil-consumption-by-region... [2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_by_country [3]: https://emp.lbl.gov/pv-capacity-factors [4]: https://wwindea.org/blog/category/statistics/ [5]: https://energynumbers.info/uk-offshore-wind-capacity-factors


Thanks for doing the math. On a global scale it does look better than the math I did for Germany.

However, I think 50% process efficiency is too high. High temperature electrolysis is about 60% efficient, but then you only have hot uncompressed hydrogen. There are a number more steps involved to get to a liquid fuel, each of them with considerable losses. I can't find the sources right now but I believe I remember something like 15% end-to-end efficiency for getting to something you can fuel your car with.


Yeah, it probably is. There's not really a nice process for making liquid fuel - hydrogen isn't a great fuel really. My understanding is that the biggest problem with making a practical liquid fuel is ironically getting the carbon. Hydrogen is in water, but carbon is only really in carbon dioxide - which is at very low atmospheric concentrations and so takes an incredible amount of energy to capture.

Ammonia would be easier (ubiquitous nitrogen everywhere), but isn't a particularly nice fuel either. At least it's easier to store than hydrogen.


How big are the losses to make such a big impact as to say there is not enough space for enough solar/sun farms?

99% or what?


I think you're overestimating the amount of space we have realistically available for renewable energy. At some point I did the math for Germany.

The average German needs around 144sqm of solar panels (located in Germany) to meet their primary energy demand of around 48MWh per year (taking into account average production of solar panels in Germany). Germany has a population density of around 4300sqm / person. So in the ideal case with no storage losses you need to cover more than 3% of Germany with solar panels if you want to meet primary energy demand with solar power. (Wind energy is slightly more dense in Germany, but I haven't done the math there).

Realistically you might get something like 1% of the land area without huge resistance of the local population. Probably less, which is why offshore wind is popular. 100% renewable generation is only realistic because you can safely assume that large parts of the primary energy consumption are wasted. For example internal combustion engines are at best 40% efficient. Burning things for heating also only gets you 1J of heating per Joule expended, whereas heat pumps get you 2-3J. You just can't get away with losing another factor two to generate syngas, or even more if you want liquid fuels.

Of course you can justify some inefficiencies if you're willing to transport energy from far away (say solar power from the Sahara), but that is ridiculously expensive compared to more local generation.


Bucky Fuller had the idea to just connect the world's electricity grids together. He called it "World Grid" I think.


Geography may also be a problem. Running a gigawatt cable from sun-soaked Australia anywhere in SEA is enormously expensive. Instead, packaging the energy into carbohydrates produced from waste water (cleaning it in the process) and waste CO₂ may be much more economical and convenient. You can likely produce the best quality Jet A fuel or octane 98 gasoline with little other fractions by tuning the synthesis process (unlike an oil well which gives you a mix you can't control).

Beside that, a transatlantic jet, let alone a Falcon 9, won't ever fly with battery power. You still need highly energetic fuels where power density is at a huge premium.


The need to fly commercial liquid-fuel planes beyond the near/medium future far from certain. To my understanding we could quite easily use electric ships for most trans-oceanic cargo, and supplement it with some rail tunnels/bridges crossing from the UK, over the Faroe Islands, to Iceland, Greenland, Baffin Island, and Québec. The only tectonic "issue" would be crossing the Mid-Atlantic Ridge on Iceland.

Sure, it'd be quite a large civil engineering feat, but the speeds would be hard to beat. It'd be just a 12h ride from London to NYC, assuming TGV's top speed of 575 km/h.

A potential alternative could be to use a low-flying plane and deploy a series of HVDC-fed buoys/platforms straight across the Atlantic for fast-charging.

You're right about the Falcon 9 though.


Not even power density but also the ability to get lighter as you go farther.


That’s more efficient, but difficult politically and logistically.


How would that be more efficient? The transmission loss would be outrageous between the summer and winter hemispheres. Compare that with transmission loss for LNG tankers at the moment, effectively 0 even with the occasional leak in transit.


1) The main loss for LNG wouldn’t be transit, it would be efficiency during synthesis.

2) Any inefficiency during transit of LNG isn’t leaks, it’s the fuel burnt moving it around.

3) The cost of building high efficiency LNG power plants wherever you need power is another cost that should be considered.


The article provokes these replies by prominently making this absurdly stupid statement:

This technology could be retrofitted to coal fired power plants.

No, it can't! The power plant is run precisely when you don't have excess power to store. Conversely, you don't have concentrated CO2 when the power is available. It might work for a cement kiln, but not for a power plant.

I'm sure you know that. But the idiot who put a picture of cooling towers into the article clearly doesn't. He probably doesn't know the first law of thermodynamics, either.


> The power plant is run precisely when you don't have excess power to store. Conversely, you don't have concentrated CO2 when the power is available.

Unless you have some way of buffering the CO2. Biologically, this is what CAM photosynthesis does [1], and i have a vague memory of there being an industrial equivalent. Something like dissolving the CO2 in calcium hydroxide, to make calcium carbonate, then later on sparging it with hydrogen to recover the carbon?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crassulacean_acid_metabolism


I was sort-of hoping for this comment. What it boils down to is, what is easier? Storing hydrogen, or storing both CO2 and a hydrocarbon, or is there another way? With lots of caveats, because the chemistry isn't exactly the same. (I think there is another way, and it's ammonia and/or hydrazine.)

> Something like dissolving the CO2 in calcium hydroxide

That's terrible. Calcium carbonate needs to high heat to release CO2. Unless you want to leave CaCO3 well alone (that's the enhanced weathering concept), this is approximately the last compound you want to make. Simply storing liquid CO2 under pressure (80 bar or so? not nice, but doable) sounds much more appealing. (Ammonia is better in every respect, though.)


By golly, I agree! And I would agree even if I wasn't working on technology to achieve this.

Unfortunately, the article does not say how the zinc oxide nanoparticles will help with being able to use solar/wind power to produce syngas.

In fact it is not clear how these nanoparticles could actually be used to make an industrial catalyst. Current catalysts also use nanoparticles - on a substrate with enormous surface area/volume ratio, but these nanoparticles are created on that substrate.

I am curious about what the researchers plan as the next step.


Yes, it's worth making use of the excess power. The Orkney islands, for example, are using their excess wind and tidal power to produce hydrogen:

https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2020/03/06/orkney-hy...


You don't need carbon to store energy, you can just stop at hydrogen (or use nitrogen to make ammonia).

Processes can be refitted to use pure hydrogen or it can just be added in small increments to existing gas burning plants.

Replacing anything that burns fuel with carbon in it with alternatives that dont is a better solution.


hydrogen is notoriously difficult to store. Being an atom "thick" generally means it leaks through containers regardless of what you try to do.

And I don't know if you've played the game "Oxygen Not Included", but creating liquid hydrogen is no easy task either.

A more dense energy storage substance (such as a hydrocarbon) would probalby be more efficient in terms of transportation / use / storage.


Hydrogen leaks in an oxygen atmosphere (like the one here on earth) are pretty dangerous, as they are effectively invisible in daylight, due to almost all the energy going directly to infrared. Due to that NASA test engineers used to walk with a broom in front of them in areas where hydrogen leaks could happen. If the broom suddenly caught fire, there was a burning hydrogen leak in front of the engineer! A picture of this can be seen here:

https://spinoff.nasa.gov/spinoff1997/ps1.html

Not just leaks, hydrogen can destroy the structure of many metals and make them brittle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_embrittlement

And another issue is the very low density - you van see it with hydrolox rockets, how big they are & how their liquid hydrogen tanks are compared to the LOX tanks. This adds up in tank weight, removing some of the energy/density benefits. This is one of the reasons many next gen rockets are opting for liquid methane instead of liquid hydrogen.


I didn’t expect to see ONI in a hacker news thread!

Yes, hydrogen is an absolute mess to handle in free form, while hydrocarbons... stable, energy dense, and something we’ve had experience working with for a couple of centuries now.

A nice side effect would be that synthetic hydrocarbons might possibly reduce the dependency on oil for manufacturing plastics, dyes etc. It’s incredibly exciting... I don’t see how this isn’t a huge win.


Lots of homes and buildings use natural gas for heat. It would be nice to replace that with something carbon neutral, but the infrastructure can't handle hydrogen levels above 10-20%.


I was going to ask if anyone knew what the efficiency of this process was. Obviously we can't get a perpetual motion machine out of it, so it must be taking more energy to form the syngas than gets released from the fuel in the first place, right?


Right.


The application doesn't really make sense the way they explain it: use CO2 from a power plant to produce syngas. If the power plant burns methane, you might as well produce syngas straight out of methane, and short-circuit the step where you produce CO2. From the net energy usage point of view, you are better off (otherwise, you just found a recipe for perpetual motion).

Where this could make sense is energy storage. Say you are next to a large solar power plant, and you want to store the excess energy produced during the day and release it at night. Batteries are too expensive, pumped water requires some mountains, etc. With this, you store a quantity of CO2 in some tanks. At day you generate syngas and consume electricity, and store it in some other tanks. At night, you burn the syngas, get some of the initial electricity back, and store the CO2 back in its tanks.


This makes complete sense if you replace a power plant that produces electricity with an industrial process that produces heat, e.g. a blast furnace.

Then you can grab the waste CO₂ and turn it into something useful (ultimately liquid fuel, plastics, etc) by using the cheap solar energy, of which we often have a surplus at daytime.

This has the downside of only operating efficiently during sunshine, or needing a power transmission line from somewhere under sunshine currently (e.g. during local night).


You’re correct but It still makes sense as a way to get existing power plant operators on board the green energy train. It’s probably cheaper to retrofit an existing plant to harvest the generated co2.


“We used an open flame, which burns at 2000 degrees, to create nanoparticles of zinc oxide that can then be used to convert CO2, using electricity, into syngas.”

Is this a real catalyst? (That is, it doesn't get used up in the process.) Or do they have to keep making more zinc oxide clouds to keep the process going? The paper summary is unclear about the energy inputs to this process.

Costs $10 to read the paper.


It's a real catalyst. Full paper here:

https://sci-hub.tw/10.1002/aenm.202001381

I don't think it will have industrial significance any time soon, though. Catalysts and processes for the reverse water-gas shift reaction are better developed. The hope is that electrochemical catalysts like this can combine the electrolysis process for making H2 and the syngas production step into one, with lower equipment costs. It's hard for me to believe that it will overtake better established industrial processes. It's very hard to take a maybe-better process from lab scale to industry when there's already an established pair of processes that get to the same outcome.

My prediction: electrolyzers and catalytic processes will continue to be optimized separately, and combining those modules will continue to be more predictable and affordable than all-in-one electrocatalytic approaches like this.


Do you have more resources regarding the current state of art for the separate processes?


Synfuels are very important for saving the climate. Yes, we need to eventually move all transportation to batteries, and we now have the technology to do that with cars and increasingly with trucking.

But for ocean ships and long-range airplanes we are nowhere near ready for that. And hydrogen fuel cells are not nearly good enough. So at least for many years the only way to make some important forms of transportation carbon-neutral will be synfuels



How are they converting CO2 into H2+CO? Where is the hydrogen coming from?


Water. In a conventional CO2 electrolyzer (electricity + CO2 -> CO + O2) where CO2 is dissolved in water (plus salt) H2 is the standard byproduct per H2O + electricity -> H2 + O2. The concept of CO2+H2O directly into H2 + CO is neither novel nor useful, as dedicated green-H2 production is more efficient.

This is an example of 'meh' level work being puffed up.


Slightly offtopic, what's the easiest way to scrub CO2 from air (e.g. in a house) without using up consumable materials? Some form of pressure swing absorption?


If you are concerned about indoor CO2 concentration, the answer is to ventilate the place.

No reasonable amount of plants will keep a house stable.

If it's just really curiosity, well, people have been scrubbing CO2 since space travel is a thing. Wikipedia was completely unhelpful to me, but I remember there is a mineral with high CO2 selectivity that you can simply push the air though it.


98% curiosity, 2% lack of faith in our long term ability to keep CO2 levels down to healthy levels (1000ppm is enough that we can detect minor negative effects... I have to wonder if really minor ones exist even at 400 ppm).

Wikipedia was similarly not useful for me. Scuba divers and the like apparently use a one-time-use non-regenerative mineral that absorbs CO2. The space station has something that regenerates but I haven't been able to figure out what.


I know older spacecraft didn’t have a regenerative material, this is the first I’ve heard about the space station.

You’d have to reduce the CO2 pretty far (I’m betting reducing to CO like in TFA isn’t what you’re looking for.) I think a lot of people underestimate how much energy this takes.


Re ISS, I've been clicking around on this a bit more, and

> While cabin air processing, one carbon dioxide removal bed is in the process of regeneration. Regeneration is accomplished using pressure/thermal swing methodology. First, the two-stage pump removes the free air from the adsorbent bed and returns it to the cabin, reducing oxygen ullage. Then Kapton heaters integrated within the adsorbent bed raise the zeolite temperature, and space vacuum creates a low, partial pressure driving the carbon dioxide gas overboard. Daylight and continuous day power cycle is overlapped with the operating cycle. In the daylight power cycle, the carbon dioxide adsorbent bed heaters are only allowed to be powered on during the day portion of the cycle

> [...]

> The CDRA continuously removes 6 person-equivalents of CO, when operating with both C02 removal beds (dual beds) functioning.

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/200502...

Converting CO2 into CO would be rather counterproductive (absent a reliable and efficient mechanism to remove CO), I suspect an efficient setup will involve "mechanical" filtration not chemical reactions.


Ah, and this paper contains an incredible amount of details, and zeolite 13x and 5a is really cheap on Alibaba, I'm going to have to try this

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/199700...


Just be careful during the regeneration. CO2 is toxic at high concentrations.


If you figure out some concrete setup, let me know. I am fairly certain that there are measurable cognitive effects at "just" 500 ppm, and good luck staying below that when you can't just sit at an open window outside of a city.

1000 ppm is btw. enough to feel uncomfortable. Cognitive impairment will be much more subtle.


I am fairly certain that there are measurable cognitive effects at "just" 500 ppm

Well, that would be problematic sooner or later [1].

[1] https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/webdata/ccgg/trends/co2_data_m...


Indoors that's problematic today, outdoors we have "awhile" if you make 500 your cutoff, we're only growing at ~2.4 ppm per and the yearly peak is at roughly 420 right now, we can probably count on 20 years before we hit 500 outdoors.

https://www.co2.earth/co2-acceleration


Casual technical diver here. It's lime (maybe something else sometime, not 100%).

The process of making lime from limestone actually produces CO2, so it's use in CO2 scrubbers are more or less carbone neutral.


Not really without consumables, unfortunately. But it's easy and costs about 50-200$ per human and month when you just buy the required substance, granular CaOH treated with 1~2 NaOH (by pouring a concentrated solution of it over the CaOH), from Alibaba once a year. That stuff is e.g. used for re-breathers in anesthesia. CAS 8006-28-8 is the "magic" word/number.

The potential alternative, which would not use consumables, would be to just freeze it out. It's not _that_ hard, I believe an ammonia-based single-stage chiller should still suffice. Make sure to use counter-flow heat exchangers to not loose insane amounts of power. Handling the water condensation might not be that trivial, though.


Now you have caustic soda laying around and potentially being aerosolized, I’m not sure that’s an improvement.


It's used in medical anesthetic ventilators, so not sure where you get your worries from.


Get a large amount of calcium hydroxide in a watery slurry. That absorbs CO2 to form calcium carbonate. Take the carbonate outside and heat it up sufficiently to form calcium oxide and carbon dioxide. Add water to go back to calcium hydroxide.


Be careful with alkali metal hydroxides! They tend to be caustic and mixing them with water is exothermic (it can boil if you do it fast enough.) They will also react with aluminum, potentially violently and can ruin glass.


Casual technical diver here. It's lime (maybe something else sometime, not 100%).

The process of making lime from limestone actually produces CO2, so it's use in CO2 scrubbers are more or less carbone neutral.


Probably a bunch of plants.


Just in terms of numbers, you breathe out a kg of CO2 per day, you need to be growing more than a kg of plants per day to keep up with that.

That's a lot of plants.


Under a lot of light, otherwise they would consume O2 as well.


Doesn't the net CO2 in the air increase?

So you harvest CO2 to into fuel. That fuel is burned and the CO2 is released back into the air. So net difference is zero.

But to harvest the CO2 you needed to generate a high amount of heat. That's extra CO2. So net CO2 is more.

It depends on the cost of harvesting that CO2.


I couldn't fetch the article, so I'm looking at the ScienceDaily page.

It's a process to turn:

* otherwise-waste carbon dioxide into (taking electricity)

* syngas, which can be turned into

* synthetic diesel, methanol, alcohol or plastics

Plastics could be a carbon sink I guess.


You can use Solar and other renewable energy to power the conversion process. Progress is still progress.

I would much rather to pay more for net zero carbon fuel, then not do anything.


I do not understand the concept that a property of a sum of a bunch of numbers somehow applies to those components.

Whether something is net zero depends on what you are adding it to; it's not inherent in that thing.

It's like, if you have a pile of blue things, then the pile is also blue. But other characteristics do not work that way. If you have a pile of things that each weigh 1 lb, then the pile does not weigh 1 lb.


If you make a hydrocarbon by taking CO2 from the air, and you use a carbon free energy source to do it, then burning that hydrocarbon is net zero carbon. That is, if all your hydrocarbons that you burn were made this way, then the atmospheric carbon doesn't increase because of your activity.

It acts just like a battery.


You're not telling me anything I don't know.

Look at it this way, do you believe CO2 is basically fungible in the context of global climate change?


Exactly. It's not a solution, but it's a way to stop the problem from getting worse.

It's like moving from a variable rate credit card to a 0% loan. You still have this pile of debt you need to deal with, but you more or less stop the problem from getting any worse.


It’s actually strange that no gas company is advertising something like this. I’ve seen so many industries advertise even the tiniest carbon offsets but why can’t BP or Exxon sell a net zero or at least low emissions fuel


It is really strange to you that oil company is not advertising a product that they don't have, a product which would compete with their regular product, a product which is hard to sell (more expensive and dubious value)? From the standpoint of these companies, there is plenty of oil down there, making synthetic one has no upside.


Well, maybe not synthetic, but what if they said "use this gas for 10% more, we planted a tree for every gallon" or whatever. Even if it was complete bs, I'd think about it


> But to harvest the CO2 you needed to generate a high amount of heat. That's extra CO2. So net CO2 is more.

That depends on where they get their energy from.


You can get the required high amount of heat either through concentrating solar collectors or through any renewable form of electricity that you run through electric heaters. If you want to be fancy, you can use microwaves to very selectively heat only the parts you want to heat.




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