As the years roll by without sufficient progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the need for technologies that can capture CO2 from its sources or remove it from the air becomes stronger and stronger. People have developed various ways to capture carbon dioxide, but to date, they generally suffer from some combination of being too costly or not being able to scale up to the necessary magnitude.
Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington recently announced the creation of a new system that they claim is the least costly to date that captures carbon dioxide and turns it into a widely-used chemical: methanol.
Technologies that simply capture carbon dioxide that then needs to be stored in some secure location are difficult to implement from a cost perspective. The PNNL researchers believe that turning CO2 into methanol can provide the financial incentive for widespread implementation. Methanol can be used as a fuel, a solvent, or an important ingredient in plastics, paint, construction materials, and car parts.
The system is designed to be installed in fossil fuel-fired power plants as well as cement and steel plants. Using a capture solvent developed by PNNL, the system grabs carbon dioxide molecules before they are emitted and converts them into methanol. Creating methanol from CO2 is nothing new, but capturing the carbon dioxide and converting into methanol in one continuously flowing system is new.
More work is needed to optimize and scale the process and it may be several years before it is ready for commercial deployment.
Photo, posted November 25, 2022, courtesy of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Conservation via Flickr.