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James Burgess

James Burgess

James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…

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Converting Carbon Emissions into Liquid Fuels

It is pretty much unilaterally agreed that renewable energy is vital for the future of energy production, and with that in mind many companies are researching new ways of creating cheap alternatives to traditional fossil fuels.

One idea that is becoming more popular is capture and recycling of carbon emissions to create ‘syngas’ which can then be converted into transportation fuel.

One company researching this technology is Carbon Sciences from California whose chief executive, Byron Elton, admitted that, “whilst you can achieve the goal of making ‘syngas,’ using carbon to do so is not now commercially viable because it is still too expensive.”  Even so they are developing the technology and hoping that they can reduce the costs to be more competitive. As Elton says, “It would be a real game-changer.”

Elton has announced that his company are already in talks with all major oil companies about the installation of his technology, and believes that it could become a common process within five years.

Carbon Sciences would basically build a facility next to a coal or natural gas power plant, where they would take the carbon released when the fossil fuel is burned, and then eventually transform it into a petroleum product.

A syngas facility that would accompany a 500 megawatt coal power plant would cost about $250 million, and would take the 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide normally released into the air each day and turn it into 750,000 gallons of petroleum. At $250 million a bargain compared to an oil refinery which costs billions.

Another similar idea is using natural gas in a gas-to-liquids process to create petroleum, but sceptics say that it would be more efficient and less expensive to burn the gas to create energy directly. True, but not all systems that require energy can be fed by natural gas. Turning natural gas into liquid fuels means that vehicles don’t need to be converted to use compressed natural gas, and the abundance of shale gas in the US will mean that they will no longer rely on imported oil for producing their petrol.

Byron Elton said that, “the first big advantage of using natural gas as a feedstock in lieu of petroleum” is that “we have three times more natural gas than Saudi Arabia has oil. The ability to use domestic, clean, affordable natural gas combined with significant amounts of carbon to produce syngas for use in a gas-to-liquids plant offers extraordinary advantages over the current system.”

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com


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