The debate on how to deal with greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions and its impacts (some yet to be seen) continues to dominate in environmental law, policy and business practices. A problem area, usually the main target for GHG emission reduction, is the transportation sector. Solutions in the form of biofuels, diesel replacements and vehicle efficiency measures have all been employed to curb such emissions.
BUT, what if instead of trying to simply reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, we could use them to power the very source of those emissions?
Companies around the world are starting to take on this challenge by using CO2, a greenhouse gas, as a feedstock for producing renewable methanol fuel.
For instance, Carbon Recycling International (CRI) of Iceland captures carbon dioxide from industrial emissions and converts it into Renewable Methanol. Its process allows for an economical conversion of renewable energy to liquid fuel by using any renewable resources such as geothermal, hydro, wind, or solar to produce hydrogen through the electrolysis of water, then combining that hydrogen with captured CO2 to make GHG emission-free methanol.
In Canada, another company, Blue Fuel Energy, proposes a similar endeavor by taking renewable electricity from hydropower or wind turbines and combining it with CO2 emissions to create “liquid electricity” in the form of methanol as a renewable fuel.
Also, recently, Qatar Fuel Additives Company (Qafac) signed a pact with Mistubishi Heavy Industries Company for a new project that will capture carbon dioxide from the combustion process resulting from the manufacture of methanol to be used as feedstock for increasing the production of methanol. This type of carbon recycling will ensure greater efficiency in the plant and will also prevent GHG emissions.
Carbon recycling can help with the two biggest environmental and energy challenges facing the globe: stabilize concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and produce new supplies of renewable fuels that help reduce the dependence on petroleum. Studies have shown that carbon recycling can fill in for nearly 30 percent of the world’s liquid fuel supply and eliminate over 10 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions.
The fuels produced from carbon recycling technology will potentially create new CO2 emissions, but the net process is carbon neutral or carbon negative – it does not contribute additional CO2 to the atmosphere and in many cases decreases the total amount of emissions. Scientists often refer to carbon recycling as a “carbon negative” technology because it has the ability to go beyond achieving carbon neutrality by actively pulling more CO2 out of the air than is being put in.
Carbon recycling is a legitimate way to help counteract the rise in GHG emissions. Not only does it help remove harmful emissions, but now those emissions, as described above, can be turned into renewable fuel sources with a significant economic value.