Revealed on Might 4th, 2019 |
by Michael Barnard
Might 4th, 2019 by Michael Barnard
The 5-part collection on Carbon Engineering’s strategy retains bearing fruit. After the seventh and what we thought was ultimate evaluation was revealed, an unbiased power researcher, one Leon di Marco, challenged our evaluation. He’s spent a average period of time publishing and talking about artificial fuels, so we thought a follow-up article was warranted. Di Marco’s 1970s schooling was in electronics and solid-state physics and his career was in semiconductors and communications, but his present focus is on large-scale solar energy and synthetic fuels.
If Carbon Engineering is making e-diesel, driving the same distance in a freight truck would value at the least 6.5 occasions as a lot and have 16 occasions the CO2 emissions as just using electrical energy in a Tesla Semi.
In case you’ll keep in mind from elements 6 and seven, we labored up a mannequin the place Carbon Engineering would turn CO2 captured with its natural gas-powered 2 kilometers of followers and 900 diploma Celsius temperature system, and hydrogen electrolyzed from water using BC Hydro electrical energy, then transformed it into methanol or wooden alcohol. We in contrast and contrasted that with simply utilizing electricity instantly in an electrical car to evaluate how odd this example was.
We arrived at two summary tables which highlighted the comparisons. This primary was the power, CO2, and price workup for creation of methanol.
The second was the comparability to utilizing the methanol as a gasoline additive or converting it to gasoline utilizing one in every of a number of processes in comparison with just utilizing the electrical energy in an electric car.
That assessment, which was extremely generous to Carbon Engineering’s process and ungenerous to electrical automobiles, discovered at greatest its gasoline can be 25x the price and 35x the CO2 emissions of simply utilizing an electric car with the identical power.
Di Marco’s assertion is that Carbon Engineering is utilizing a Greyrock Energy Inc. patented course of to rework CO2 and hydrogen immediately into a synthetic diesel or a synthetic jet gasoline. How he knows that is unstated, however he’s revealed within the area and has contacts. Carbon Engineering has been silent on this collection, so we’ll take di Marco at his phrase, plug in what we see and learn how Carbon Engineering’s answer would stack up.
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How does Carbon Engineering’s freight diesel choice stack up?
Let’s take a look at diesel first. The Greyrock patent asserts that they have an efficient course of for creating quite a lot of heavy hydrocarbons depending on catalysts and process in an easier strategy than giant scale refineries use. Diesel’s common chemical method is C12H24. Evaluating to methanol’s CH3OH, this probably bodes properly for Carbon Engineering as there are half the hydrogen atoms to carbon atoms required, 2:1 not 4:1. That signifies that given a ton of CO2, we solely want about 48 kg of hydrogen so as to add to the 272 kg of carbon (remembering the 5% hit on hydrogen that’s misplaced to the method). That may save some cash, power, and CO2.
And it’s direct-to-diesel, as an alternative of going by means of an intermediary, until you rely the processes associated to components. Meaning no losses for an extra step of conversion from an interim drop-in gasoline to an actual gasoline. And it’s diesel, which is a little more power dense than gasoline, so that bodes nicely too. Nevertheless, there’s much less hydrogen so extra of the power is coming from burning the carbon, so the ratio of CO2 ought to be fascinating to assess.
To be even more truthful, we need to examine this to freight automobiles that use diesel for this level, slightly than to passenger automobiles.
Greyrock makes no financial claims in its patent besides to say that that is an applicable know-how for on-site, relatively small-scale era of diesel where delivery prices are prohibitive, and that it might scale. That’s not promising. Let’s make an assumption that their one-step process to diesel costs the identical because the one-step process to methanol within the absence of different info.
How a lot diesel can be created by this process? Once once more, that’s straightforward. The 272 kg of carbon will mix with roughly 46 kg of hydrogen to create 318 kg of diesel. Hmmm, that’s lots lower than the 730 kg of methanol that may be created.
Fascinating to date. You get half as a lot gasoline for half the price with virtually the came CO2 debt, however the power intensity is greater. How does that examine to an electric car as an alternative of a diesel car? Nicely, let’s take a look at the Tesla Semi, as a large portion of diesel is used by freight vans and comparable automobiles.
318 kg of diesel is about 82.2 gallons. Freight vans within the USA have been averaging 6.4 miles per gallon in 2010 (down from 9 miles per gallon in 1949, oddly). Meaning a freight truck might journey about 526 miles on the e-diesel created by this process.
How would the Tesla Semi do on the 5 MWh equivalent of power? Nicely, the company asserts the consumption at lower than 2 kWh per kilometer, which we’ll round as much as 3.2 kWh per mile. Once once more, being beneficiant to the air-to-fuel and not-so-generous to the electric car, the Tesla Semi would travel 3 occasions as far on the identical power. And once once more, it might journey further on just the electricity inputs to the method excluding the pure fuel inputs than the e-diesel answer would drive a truck.
So, for the same power inputs you can journey three occasions as far for a fifth the CO2 emissions and nicely beneath half the price in an electric truck. In case you needed to drive the same distance, it will value you 6.5 occasions as much earlier than distribution, storage, and markup of the e-diesel, and have 16 occasions the CO2 emissions. The CO2 emissions are higher than commonplace diesel however 50% of dangerous continues to be dangerous, and it costs at the least twice as a lot for e-diesel from Carbon Engineering when the choice electric Semi is a quarter the fee per mile and has a fraction of the CO2 emissions as properly.
Per the American Transportation Research Institute, gasoline represents about 21% of the prices of freight trucking. Tesla and different electric vans are promising to scale back that to about 6%, whereas Carbon Engineering’s answer would improve it to at the very least 34%. Which is the freight business going to be taken with?
Clearly, that’s not a viable market until your technique is continuation of the interior combustion engine. I’m wondering who benefits from that? Definitely not the trucking business which has to pay for the gasoline, the shoppers who need to pay for costlier delivery, or the world which has to pay for the upper than required CO2 emissions. That’s a very costly 50% CO2 emissions reduction when a really low cost 90% reduction is accessible.
What about jet gasoline for air journey?
Up to now, we’ve eradicated mild vans, automobiles and bikes, other vans, and (city) trains and buses from the combination. Clearly pipeline gasoline and lubricants aren’t great decisions for this either. That’s eradicated about 84% of the US marketplace for Carbon Engineering’s air-to-fuel strategy. But that also leaves 16%, proper? Perhaps there’s some gold there?Let’s take a look at other use instances for petroleum transportation. Aircraft eat roughly 8% of petroleum per the US EIA, half of the remaining market. The Carbon Engineering process might be used to make an alternate aviation gasoline. What do the massive majority of jet and propeller planes use? Blends of kerosene which are available numerous flavors with carbon atoms within the 10-16 per molecule and a wide variance of hydrogen. The only is C10H8, however this is just the beginning.
Aviation fuels aren’t defined by particular chemical compounds, but by characteristics of efficiency. Consequently, anything Carbon Engineering might create can be feedstock for aviation gasoline, not an aviation gasoline in and of itself. That stated, let’s work out the identical comparison.
Two fewer hydrogen in the ratio means less electrical energy to supply the hydrogen. Let’s assume but once more that generously a variant of the Greyrock process makes use of the identical power to make kerosene.
Perhaps fortunately for Carbon Engineering, this isn’t a spot where electrification is predicted to dominate and some type of artificial or biofuels might be required for the approaching many years. There are definitely small electrical planes commercially obtainable in the present day and a lot of the majors are working on hybrid electric planes for intercity routes, however vital distances are nonetheless going to require burning gasoline for fairly some time. That stated, they are competing with low-carbon fuels which were round for a decade.
This desk is a portion of the concluding prices table from a 2016 NREL report on various jet fuels. These pathways have been being explored absolutely by many organizations for 20 years. If Carbon Engineering needs to compete, these are its rivals on this area and the possible economics. The comparable pathway to the one Carbon Engineering is on is circled.
That 307 kg of intermediate-stage kerosene that Carbon Engineering is creating represents about 84.4 gallons at a price of about $6 USD per gallon. In 2016, equivalent processes based mostly on biomass have been operating within the $1.9 to $2.5 USD per gallon vary, nicely underneath 50% of the fee that this work is suggesting for Carbon Engineering’s strategy. Jet gasoline is operating about $1.91 per gallon proper now, so Carbon Engineering is doubly out of the market. It’s costlier than present options which might be already in play and a minimum of three occasions costlier than present jet gasoline. For our comparison, we’ll use the intermediate high-end of the range $2.5, understanding that it’s incomplete, but will at the least give a sense of what’s happening.
But what about CO2? In any case, that is presupposed to be carbon emissions reduction know-how. To date, it’s not working, but perhaps in various jet fuels it truly has a worth proposition?
Nicely, not likely. The NREL research additionally does full workups on CO2 intensity of the totally different pathways. In exactly the identical area as Carbon Engineering of making liquid hydrocarbon fuels, however utilizing biomass as an alternative of capturing all the CO2 from the air with big fans, CO2e emissions are 5% of jet gasoline already, and at a worth level properly underneath 50% of Carbon Engineering’s per this workup.
For aircraft, Carbon Engineering’s answer is three occasions as costly (at minimal) and only eliminates 50% of the emissions of petroleum-derived jet gasoline. It’s 2.three occasions as costly as present options and has 10 occasions the CO2 emissions.
So where does this depart Carbon Engineering?
That’s one other eight% of complete market gone. That leaves us with eight% left, half of which are boats and ships and the remaining unfold across army, long-distance freight trains, and freight delivery. There’s no purpose to go on. All the similar work will just present the same results.
Carbon Engineering’s strategy of utilizing natural fuel to drive air carbon capture just isn’t almost as efficient at decarbonization as options, and it’s costlier than present options with no apparent solution to scale back these costs substantially. Its actual analysis value proposition has been accomplished. Its direct air capture has been prototyped at adequate scale to robustly extrapolate costs, power flows, and CO2-reduction worth propositions. And it’s a nasty strategy.
It has no unique mental capital to deliver to the desk relating to both hydrogen era or creation of artificial fuels, but is going to bolt on technologies licensed from others, and those applied sciences are properly understood. There isn’t any information that’s going to be gained of any significance as the company strikes ahead. They’re trodding on paths made by others now.
Further, the assessment has proven multiple occasions that it’s a lot better to divert present assets to eliminating fossil-fuel era of electrical energy and eliminating liquid gasoline demand from transportation earlier than making an attempt to do something with the excess of CO2 in the air. When deep in a gap you’re digging, first cease digging, then begin filling in the gap. Additional, it’s value stating that Carbon Engineering’s answer is just decrease carbon when it’s on about as low-carbon a grid as exists. BC’s 15.1 g/CO2e/kWh is among the many greatest on the earth, and even utility-scale wind is eight g/CO2e/kWh full-lifecycle. Using electrical energy for air carbon capture in any respect solely is sensible in slender niches the place there’s a variety of excess renewable electricity to take in at low demand time durations.
Carbon Engineering was doing useful analysis for an inexpensive worth up till lately, and will have been wrapped up when it was concluded. But as an alternative, it’s preventing to proceed and develop. And that progress has lead directly to it being a fig leaf for Chevron, BHP, and Occidental, fossil gasoline corporations that don’t truly need to repair the problem.
Concerning the Writer
Michael Barnard is Chief Strategist with TFIE Strategy Inc. He works with startups, present businesses and buyers to determine alternatives for vital bottom line progress and price takeout in our rapidly reworking world. He’s editor of The Future is Electrical, a Medium publication. He commonly publishes analyses of low-carbon know-how and coverage in sites together with Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Publish, Quartz, CleanTechnica and RenewEconomy, and his work is frequently 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, where Mike has been a Prime Author annually since 2012. He’s obtainable for consulting engagements, speaking engagements and Board positions.
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