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Chevron’s Fig Leaf Part 7: Carbon Engineering’s Fuel Is At Best 25x The Cost, 35x The CO2 Emissions Compared To An EV

Chevron's Fig Leaf Part 7: Carbon Engineering's Fuel Is At Best 25x The Cost, 35x The CO2 Emissions Compared To An EV

Automobiles

Revealed on April 27th, 2019 |
by Michael Barnard

April 27th, 2019 by Michael Barnard 


Carbon Engineering just lately garnered $68 million in funding in its air-carbon seize know-how from three fossil gasoline majors. This is part 7 of the 5 article collection assessing the know-how and the value of the funding. Sure, a 6th and 7th have been tagged on because the story simply gets worse.

Carbon Engineering will produce transportation fuels that value 18-25 occasions extra and have 22-35 the CO2e emissions as just using electrical energy in an EV.

The first piece summarized the know-how and the challenges, and did a bottoms-up assessment to provide context for what Carbon Engineering is actually doing. The second piece stepped via Carbon Engineering’s actual answer intimately. The third piece returned to the insurmountable drawback of scale and dealt with the sheer quantity of air that have to be moved and the size of machinery they have designed for the purpose. The fourth article checked out the marketplace for air carbon seize CO2 and assessed why three fossil gasoline majors could be . The fifth article seemed on the key individual behind this know-how and the professional opinions of third parties.

Partially 6, wanting specifically at air-to-fuel, we worked by way of Carbon Engineering’s public statements and settled on methanol as a better chance liquid hydrocarbon for it to be synthesizing. We seemed at the decrease power consumption and using electricity for a portion of it to align the CO2 debt. We established that we’d do power comparisons in MWh because the widespread terms.

On this piece, we’ll work via the meaty set of chemical processes to figure out how far more power and CO2 they will emit even with BC’s very low CO2.


How much hydrogen do we’d like?

Let’s start with what number of molecules of CO2 there are in a ton. In accordance with this supply, it’s 22,700 mol CO2. As a reminder for individuals like me who don’t do this every single day, mol is short for mole which is 6.022×1023 molecules of CO2. It’s simpler to work in mols than in the results of moles occasions 6.022×1023. However the weight of the C specifically is so much lower. Carbon is simply 12 grams of the 44 gram weight of a mole of CO2. So the carbon is just about 272 kilograms of the ton of the CO2.

Assuming a 100% environment friendly course of (they never are), that signifies that we’d like 4 occasions as many hydrogen atoms as carbon atoms. That’s 90,800 mol H, but hydrogen solely comes in molecules, principally H2. We’d like 45,400 mol H2 to mix with the 22,700 mol CO2. Hydrogen is basically mild stuff with a molecular weight for H2 of 2. Every atom is one-sixth the load of carbon and one-44th of the mass of a single CO2 molecule.

The straightforward method to determine how much this weighs is to multiply 45,400 mol by 2 g/mol.. Turns out you want 91 kilograms of hydrogen to add to the ton of CO2. There’s a process-efficiency catch in creating methanol, which is that you simply convert H2 at comparatively low efficiencies so you must take a number of passes in most processes, resulting in a few 95% last efficiency. So that you really need a bit extra hydrogen, about 96 kg.

There are couple of major paths to get hydrogen out of water, and the company is obscure on the precise electrolysis process it is utilizing, but all are power intensive. High-efficiency, high-volume PEM electrolysis sees about 80% effectivity and it takes about 50 kWh of electricity per kilogram of hydrogen. We’d like 96 kilograms of hydrogen, so that’s four.8 MWh of electrical energy. And at BC’s very low 15.1 grams of CO2e per kWh, that’s another zero.07 tons of CO2 emissions as debt for the hydrogen. In Alberta next door, as was pointed out partially 1, the 820 grams of CO2e would imply that hydrogen from electrolysis would have a 3.9 ton CO2e debt.

A 2014 PEM electrolytic hydrogen financial research clustered possible production costs — not retail worth — round $5 USD / kg H2 for larger-scale amenities. That means that the hydrogen value is about $475 for the 95 kg.

How a lot oxygen do we’d like?

How much oxygen do they need to bond with 272 kilograms of carbon to make methanol? CH3OH is one carbon and one oxygen, so principally half of the remainder of the ton is the quantity of wanted oxygen. That’s 364 kilograms.

Oxygen ought to be straightforward. There’s loads of oxygen already bonded to CO2. The drawback is that the carbon-to-oxygen ratio for CH3OH is the totally different than CO2.  You must break the bonds of an oxygen atom from every CO2 molecule to get considered one of every for a methanol. Nevertheless, its course of assertion is that it receives pure O2 from the hydrogen electrolysis process and can use that as its supply. So over on the electrolysis aspect the company spends a bunch of power to create hydrogen and oxygen, then within the CO2 course of it spends a variety of power to bond it to carbon, then spend more power to interrupt the bonds depart CO2, after which in the gasoline synthesis cycle it spends a bunch of power to break another chemical bond.

Guess what, breaking up is tough to do. It requires power to peel atoms off of secure molecules. Keep in mind that creating CO2 is generally exothermic, which signifies that you get it by burning carbon within the presence of oxygen, resulting in warmth. Primary bodily legal guidelines say it takes as much power to break the bonds as you get once you type them, less just a little bit for entropy. Does this appear to be it is perhaps adding up to an odd power stability?

It’s possible value wanting in additional element at its course of cycle to see if the corporate might use some intermediate molecule to get carbon without a whole lot of oxygen hooked up.

Properly, no. The CO2 is the result of stripping stuff off of CaCO3 to go away CO2 and CaO which is added again to the method. Going additional back we see K2CO3. Its course of is already spending numerous power binding additional oxygen and then breaking it again out as part of the process of capturing it. There’s no easier feedstock from its model that I can see for methanol synthesis than the CO2 output, and a lot of the literature on processes is CO2 to methanol in any event.

The diagram above is just one of many chemical processes in fact. The company also has a hydrogen electrolysis process, then you must bind them collectively in fact, and making liquid hydrocarbon fuels is creating exploitable chemical bonds by pumping power into them.

How much power to make methanol?

That’s additionally well-known, as individuals work on CO2 to methanol processes all the time. There’s a superb 2016 research in Utilized Power, titled Methanol synthesis utilizing captured CO2 as raw material: Techno-economic and environmental evaluation, taking a look at a number of crops producing hundreds of tons a yr, then an financial buildup. We’ll pluck this out.

Course of power needs for low-energy CO2 + H2 > methanol

So we have to turn our H2 and CO2 into methanol. The numbers above add up to 1.47 MWh, but we are only creating 0.73 tons of methanol, so that’s one other 1.1 MWh and has another CO2 debt assuming BC electrical energy only, of 0.02 tons. Given the choice for heating utilizing natural fuel, the company may be using that as an alternative, during which case the CO2 debt would go up.

272 kilograms of carbon, 91 kilograms of hydrogen, and 364 kilograms of oxygen creates 727 kilograms of liquid gasoline give or take a bit. In the long run, its ton of CO2 turns into about zero.73 tons of methanol.

What does power & CO2 seem like up to now?

Yeah, that’s close to $1,000 USD per for the zero.73 tons of methanol, about $1,250 per ton. What’s the market value of methanol? As a reminder, I discussed that Methanex sets the worldwide market for methanol. It’s the 800-lb gorilla globally in this 20 million ton a yr market. I occur to know this because I consulted briefly with the company and so discovered about them. It’s a growth and bust market with long durations of low prices and then durations of high demand, like the leap in 2017 by 180% to $500 USD per ton.

The chart is read as 2015 being the index worth at 100%. So the absolute best state of affairs for Carbon Engineering appears to be a worth 2.5 occasions the historical worth of methanol. And the worth in Feb 2016 was about $170 per ton, over 7 occasions cheaper. And nobody was capable of make methanol to gasoline work economically off of low cost methanol.

So right now, that is wanting like it’s economically non-viable, and we haven’t even made it to the worst half but.


How much power is in zero.73 tons of methanol?

Methanol has an power density of 20-22 megajoules (MJ) per kilogram. Because of this the embodied power within the zero.73 tons of methanol is 14.6 to 16.1 GJ or four.1 to 4.5 MWh.

Wait. What’s that? Thus far we’ve spent 7.four MWh (with none distribution or additional course of costs) and we’re solely getting back four.5 MWh equivalent power? We’ve already misplaced 40% of the power only for the chemical processes which create the useful gasoline.

What about when it’s used?

Let’s go back to what the company’s claim is, which is “to generate fuels that are drop-in compatible with today’s infrastructure and engines.” So meaning not special engines, but at the moment’s engines. And its examples are all transportation. Let’s perform a little thought experiment.

Most automotive inner combustion engines common about 20% efficiency, which means that 80% of the power is wasted as heat. Toyota has a prototype inner combustion engine that hits 38%. Diesel are a bit better than primary fuel engines at 30% or so. Jet engines range drastically as nicely, but common for an enormous Boeing is around 36%.

Taking the automotive instance, the only model is to add maybe 10% of the methanol to gasoline to create a mix that the automotive engine can run on. With adaptation you possibly can run engines on pure methanol, and actually some racing collection do this. Methanol burns a bit more effectively than gasoline but has solely about half the power per unit of mass. Mixing is a really low power process, however still you must distribute the liquids, blend them, do course of quality work, and store and distribute the end result. Let’s ignore that power value for now.

Once you burn methanol to power an inner combustion car, with the larger effectivity you continue to throw away about 75% of the power within the liquid as heat.

How many MWh equal are we left with? That’s about 1.1 MWh. We’re now right down to 15% of all the power inputs being become useful work.

The power density compared to gasoline means it’s a must to burn close to twice the methanol to go the identical distance. That zero.73 tons of methanol is the equal of about 0.36 tons of gasoline. That’s about 130 gallons or 500 liters of gasoline capable of driving the typical 28 mpg automotive about 3,700 miles.

What if we truly took the final step and made a totally engine-compatible gasoline for automobiles from this course of? The process effectivity for methanol to gasoline is 50% to 60%, so multiply the badness by 2. Gasoline power is around 90% of the methanol feedstock, so you may have the ability to journey three,400 miles on the resulting of synthesized gasoline and the carbon debt would go up fairly a bit. The course of is pretty inefficient, but let us, as soon as again, be good to Carbon Engineering and recommend we’re up to zero.6 tons CO2 debt.

What if we simply used the 7.four MWh in an electrical automotive?

Electrical automobiles take about 15-30 kWh to journey 100 miles. With 7.4 MWh, that’s 25,000-50,000 miles. Let’s work with one of the best case for air-to-fuel and the worst case for electricity.

Those are some fascinating apples-to-apples numbers. The methanol path prices 18 occasions extra for a unit of distance traveled and has 23 occasions the CO2 emissions for gasoline as the identical starting power used immediately in the worst-case EV. The methanol to gasoline path is worse at 25 occasions the fee and 35 occasions the emissions.

What if  we simply used the electrical energy that the process consumes, not the pure fuel? That’s virtually exactly 6 MWh and you may drive virtually 20,000 miles on it without burning any pure fuel at all.


Who thinks this can be a good concept again?

Nicely, these corporations just put $68 million into the corporate. Assuming that they’re truly interested in this utterly absurd strategy, why would they be?

Might it’s as a result of it retains a lifeline for maintaining the engine know-how which burns their gasoline around for a lot longer? And with a total world market for methanol of only 20 million tons at 40% of the fee at peak commodity markets, this isn’t going to be opening up new demand. The major economic research cited commonly concluded that even with CO2 being free as a result of governmental funds would pay for the cost of ton of it,  methanol was far too expensive.

Carbon Engineering’s $100 per ton for CO2 claim is meaningless when the remainder of the process makes your complete thing uneconomic. This conclusion has been reached time and again by analysts. Personally, this is the primary time I’ve bothered to do a bottom-up workup of the top to finish efficiencies, costs, and emissions because I’ve read conclusions like this from credible sources a few dozen occasions.

That Carbon Engineering’s know-how is just as abysmally dangerous at attaining something of precise market value within the syngas area was so apparent to me that I went and looked at different use instances, assuming that it have to be doing one thing else. That’s why part 4 pointed at enhanced oil recovery, the one place its central know-how has any fiscal benefit without having any environmental benefit.


What might the money have been spent on as an alternative?

Carbon Engineering has thus far accrued about $6 million USD from the Canadian government and $68 million from the oil and fuel majors. The company spent a bunch of money already to get to that time, so let’s assume that it is up at $80 million in funding so far, possible a conservative number.

What if that $80 million had been spent on a wind farm? The rule of thumb is $2 million per MW of capability, in order that’s a 40 MW capacity wind farm. In a yr, it might generate about 150 GWh of electrical energy and electric automobiles might drive about 470,000 miles on the electrical energy, about 130 occasions as far.


The place does this depart Carbon Engineering?

Carbon Engineering has a process that would produce methanol beneath about the absolute best circumstance at 2.5 occasions the very best market value prior to now decade. It might produce transportation gasoline that prices 18-25 occasions electrical energy for an EV and would have emissions only for the gasoline of 22-35 occasions the EV. If the same money was spent on renewables, you would drive automobiles and vans over 100 occasions further with CO2e emissions per mile two orders of magnitude lower than this air-to-fuel, Rube Goldberg gadget.

If the CO2 was priced in order that its central process was free per ton from the air, they’d still be uneconomic. Carbon Engineering will never discover a market for its air-to-fuel products.

The solely helpful factor that its know-how can do is be plunked down on a tapped-out oil properly, run off local natural fuel not value delivery to market, and drive the extraction of extra oil. Oh, and provide a nice inexperienced fig leaf for Chevron, Occidental and BHP.


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Tags: Air-to-fuel, BHP, british columbia, Carbon Engineering, Chevron, David Keith, Mark Z. Jacobson, Occidental


Concerning the Writer

Michael Barnard is Chief Strategist with TFIE Strategy Inc. He works with startups, present companies and buyers to determine alternatives for vital bottom line progress and price takeout in our quickly reworking world. He is editor of The Future is Electric, a Medium publication. He frequently publishes analyses of low-carbon know-how and coverage in websites including Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Submit, Quartz, CleanTechnica and RenewEconomy, and his work is commonly included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews have been revealed in dozens of stories websites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. A lot of his work originates on Quora.com, the place Mike has been a Prime Author yearly since 2012. He’s out there for consulting engagements, speaking engagements and Board positions.



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