CO2 to Fuel: Creating Gasoline Without Crude Oil
Written by Byron Elton
As a 2011 UC Davis study indicates, the global oil supply is set to run dry 90 years before replacements, such as renewable energy, are ready. Such measurements are helpful in driving development and establishing market-ready deadlines, but perhaps their largest contribution is the conversation they spark about how to address this problem.
The biggest obstacle to replacing petroleum is that alternative fuel technologies not only have severe limitations, but are decades away from being affordable without substantial government subsidies. They also require expensive infrastructure changes. While waiting for alternatives to mature, a technology that bridges our current and future energy consumption habits is needed to wean us from petroleum-based fuel.
Consider the good and bad aspects of today’s energy challenges. First, the bad news: each and every day the United States consumes 20 million barrels of crude oil. We produce seven million barrels, which means that we need to purchase 13 million barrels from foreign sources. At current prices of about $100 a barrel, that adds up to nearly $1.3 billion a day that we send outside the country, or $474.5 billion a year.
Now for some good news: there are technologies being developed that could produce copious amounts of gasoline and other transportation fuels by using other fossil fuels such as natural gas. The United States has more natural gas than any other country in the world. Known estimated reserves are 4,000 trillion cubic feet – the equivalent of 700 billion barrels of crude oil, or three times the current amount in Saudi Arabia. A colorless, odorless and tasteless fuel, natural gas has gained support from oil industry heavyweights, including gas and oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens who is campaigning to reduce the use of natural gas for generating electricity and increasing its use as a transportation fuel.
Carbon Sciences is working on a method that combines methane from natural gas with carbon dioxide (CO2) to create a syngas, or fuel precursor, that can then be converted into gasoline. Acting as a drop-in replacement for crude oil-based gasoline, it can be used in current infrastructure, supply chain and vehicles—an enormous advantage over other fuel technologies, such as biofuels or compressed natural gas (CNG).
DRY REFORMING'S NEW CATALYST
Dry reforming efforts in the past have suffered from low conversion efficiency and premature catalyst deactivation. The latter problem has arisen because the catalyst used has not been of high enough quality to maintain robustness throughout the entire dry reforming process.
Carbon Sciences' use of a new catalyst, composed of nickel and cobalt and supported by aluminum and magnesium, has allowed for conversion of methane and selectivity to CO and H2 that is as high at the end of the reforming process as it is in the beginning. After thousands of hours of laboratory and commercial testing, the catalyst maintained high conversion efficiency and, unlike those before it, resisted deactivation under harsh industrial operating conditions. This catalyst allows for the creation of a synthesis gas, or syngas, from natural gas and CO2. The syngas is then converted into drop-in fuels using a well-known Fischer-Tropsch process.
Compared to traditional methane reforming processes, no rare earth metals are required, bringing costs down further. Additionally, the methane required can be easily sourced from traditional natural gas fields, or other sources including landfills, algae and biomass, coal-fired plants, flare gas and livestock gas.
Once manufacturing partners have been secured, the new technology will serve as a substitute for gasoline and other fuels, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and contributing thousands of new jobs to an emerging industry.
The world is not facing an energy crisis; it is facing a fuel crisis. We are not running out of electricity, we are running out of cheap, easy crude oil. The utilization of domestic natural gas and greenhouse gases to make transportation fuels will benefit the environment and the economy, create well-paying jobs and achieve the energy independence that we have longed for and talked about for too long.
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.