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Earth Science Technology

Carbon Dioxide From the Air Converted Into Methanol (gizmag.com) 158

Zothecula writes: The danger posed by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has seen many schemes proposed to remove a proportion it from the air. Rather than simply capture this greenhouse gas and bury it in the ground, though, many experiments have managed to transform CO2 into useful things like carbon nanofibers or even fuels, such as diesel. Unfortunately, the over-arching problem with many of these conversions is the particularly high operating temperatures that require counterproductive amounts of energy to produce relatively low yields of fuel. Now researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) claim to have devised a way to take CO2 directly from the air and convert it into methanol using much lower temperatures and in a correspondingly simpler way.
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Carbon Dioxide From the Air Converted Into Methanol

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  • Energy in? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:15PM (#51465929)
    I see no mention of the energy put into the process vs the methanol output. Unless they are close, this would make no sense.
    • I see no mention of the energy put into the process vs the methanol output. Unless they are close, this would make no sense.

      Trust me, it makes no sense... I can guarantee you that it takes a lot more energy input than you can get out of the methanol.

      Maybe, being a liquid fuel that can be burned in internal combustion engines it makes sense as an energy storage medium, but if you wan to produce methanol, just produce it the normal ways. It will be cheaper and more efficient.

      • Re:Energy in? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:25PM (#51465993)

        They have to obey the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy? You don't say.

      • Re:Energy in? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by blue9steel ( 2758287 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:27PM (#51466007)
        Even if it wasn't net positive a low enough ratio might make it worth it to just pull the carbon out of the air and store the methanol in tanks. This might be a good use for surplus power at renewable generating sites, they could actually be carbon negative.
        • Again, no way this makes sense... At least not for carbon sequestration.

          Just dumping waste energy into methanol production doesn't seem to be a viable way to sequester carbon to me. Now if you want to make it into a means of making use of this waste energy, say as a motor fuel or something, and reduce the amount of carbon we release, that might work... Some... But it's going to be hugely expensive and very inefficient...

          • Re:Energy in? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 08, 2016 @08:03PM (#51466173)

            The first thing is that power plants like nuclear are extremely inflexible. Basically they have to keep producing energy no matter what. This means that sometimes energy costs become negative. The producers of electricity from nuclear will actually pay you to use their power.

            The next thing you need to know is that renewable, whilst mostly very flexible, has a relatively high capital, but very low marginal cost. This means that if there is a time when energy prices are low (e.g. due to nuclear power plants having to run during a low usage period) the renewable sources will be willing to sell you energy for almost any positive price.

            This means that there is quite a bit of time when energy loss really doesn't matter nearly as much as you think. If you can just store some of the energy and use it at a later peak usage time, when it's many times more valuable, then you can make a profit even with huge energy losses.

            Methane would be better than methanol. If you can produce methane you can power highly flexible gas power plants. Stiill, methanol is definitely better than nothing.

            • > The next thing you need to know is that renewable, whilst mostly very flexible

              "Flexible" is an interesting word choice. Consider wind, for example. A 20 mph wind has 8 times as much power as a 10 mph wind, at 30 mph it's 27 times as much power. You can't control how much wind there is. Similarly, we might not realize it since our eyes measure brightness on logarithmic scale, but a cloudy day has 95% less solar energy than a sunny day. Most people would probably call this "unpredictable" or "unreli

              • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                Yes but windmills have tiny unit sizes as far as electricity generation goes so they are brought on and offline as needed. Need another 15MW, bring a few windmills online. They are spread around national grids so the wind is always blowing on some somewhere.
                Tricky to control? Not since about 1970. Your phone probably has the CPU power.
                • So why not turn the others on and make use of the free energy???
                • First I want to be clear - wind is a great supplemental power source in some areas. Having said that ...

                  > they are spread around national grids so the wind is always blowing on some somewhere.

                  It would be nice if any of those three things were true. In fact, weather systems are generally larger than most countries. Here's the current weather map for a very large country, the United States:
                  http://sirocco.accuweather.com... [accuweather.com]

                  You'll notice there's very little weather in the US today. Next week, a storm sy

                  • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                    FFS look up how little wind velocity it takes to turn these things before posting something based on an assumption that it takes a lot more.
                    • You're missing the main point about wind power, the fundamental law of physics that controls everything with wind power. The power of wind is the speed CUBED. Not squared, but CUBED.

                      If a 10 mph wind has 1,000 units of energy, a 20 mph wind has 8,000, and 40 mph has 64,000. That's right, 10 mph wind has less than 1.5% as much power as 40 mph. At 10 mph, it might, maybe have just enough power to overcome bearing friction, but there's no power left to harvest as electricity. You -might- see it turn

                    • by jbengt ( 874751 )

                      Use lighter components that spin more easily, you say? If 10 mph is 1,000 units, the cube power law means 60 mph imparts 216,000 units of force to that lightweight structure, destroying it.

                      A cube power law is not a cube force law.
                      Wind has a velocity pressure that is proportional to the square of the speed. This pressure over an area gives you force. Adjusting the angle of the blades can change the force vectors and apparent area enough to withstand the wind. (In high enough winds, at the expense of shu

                    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

                      Not that it's easy to make a big blade both strong enough for normal operation and light enough to start rotating at low wind speeds

                      Carbon fibre reinforced plastic - maybe not easy but now done on an industrial scale and in operation in thousands of windmills all over the world.

                    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                      So? The obvious answer turned out to be a lot of windmills turning slowly instead of just one spinning really fast.

                      At 10 mph, it might, maybe have just enough power to overcome bearing friction

                      What exactly do you base that guess on coder boy? Your understanding of Visual Basic, Pascal, Java or maybe even C? If a wind at four metres per second is not moving a windmill then it's obviously a pretty fucked up design isn't it?

                    • Your journal entry and some of your other posts indicate that you're an intelligent person.

                      I'm intrigued why it's hard for you to understand that Y = X^3 means that as X changes, Y changes a LOT. That when Y equals X cubed, a large value X means a VERY large Y, and conversely a small value for X means a comparatively tiny value for Y.

                      Really, your other posts seem like this arithmetic shouldn't be hard for you. A strong wind has a LOT of power. A light wind has almost no power in comparison. It makes wind

                    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                      Yes you can do high school mathematics and more wind is better - but if a windmill can't get it's bearings moving with an airspeed of four metres per second it's a pretty fucked up design and is never going to be built. There's still a serious amount of energy to be gained when the air is moving at that speed especially considering the length of the vanes.
                      That's the difference between high school level and possibly first year undergraduate engineering, but definitely by second year - a bit of awareness abo
                  • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                    As for the "no grid" comment - bullshit. Just because the weakest links, the interconnectors, failed to avoid the entire lot going down does not mean that the regional grids are not connected. Do you really think there is an air gap? What do you think? did you think before writing? Maybe read what you've written again and ponder the meaning of it and how it contradicts itself, then perhaps try again with increased understanding.
                    To dumb things down maybe you can pretend it's DC and consider Ohms law to
                  • It would be nice if any of those three things were true. In fact, weather systems are generally larger than most countries. Here's the current weather map for a very large country, the United States:
                    That is not a weather map. No idea what it is supposed to be.

                    if you think "weather systems" are bigger than countries, then "define weather system". Most certainly there was no weather system in the recent years that covered the whole USA.

                    If you are stuck in your argumentation like this, your country obviously w

                • by Chas ( 5144 )

                  Yes but windmills have tiny unit sizes as far as electricity generation goes so they are brought on and offline as needed. Need another 15MW, bring a few windmills online. They are spread around national grids so the wind is always blowing on some somewhere.
                  Tricky to control? Not since about 1970. Your phone probably has the CPU power.

                  I'd actually MUCH rather have a bunch of 500MW nuclear units. And if it means there's times when we just pump power to ground? C'est la vie!

                  The fact is the "national grids" such as you're talking about simply aren't as unified OR as smart as they'd need to be.

                  Sure, nuclear overspec introduces some problems. But the national appetite for energy continues to grow. And if electric cars are EVER going to become a reality, it REALLY wouldn't hurt to start building CO2-free capacity like nuclear NOW.

                  Instead o

                  • by dbIII ( 701233 )

                    I'd actually MUCH rather have a bunch of 500MW nuclear units

                    Yes but demand fluctuates over time while those atoms keep on decaying faster than the heat can be used.

                    And if it means there's times when we just pump power to ground? C'est la vie!

                    Yes, let those greasy Moorlocks work it out while the coder boys play in the garden.

                    There's an energy mix for a variety of reasons. If you want to ignore that and bring the dicussion down to a grade school level, fair enough, but then it's best to stick to what you kn

                    • > There's an energy mix for a variety of reasons.

                      Exactly. One big reason is that some of the stable, reliable sources aren't as clean as we'd like (coal, natural gas, nuclear), while the clean sources are either not as reliable (wind, solar) or available only in very limited locations and amounts (hydro, geothermal).

                      The mix allows us to use the cleanest stuff when and where it's available, then throttle the slightly less-clean stuff like natural gas to meet demand, with something very steady like nuclear

                    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                      With respect variable demand is a pretty huge reason for a mixture of small unit sizes and large before you go anywhere near the features of energy types.

                      It seems like _maybe_ you don't care for math

                      I used to work with applied mathematicians for the extremely nasty stuff and have had to resort to numerical solutions instead of analytical for some stuff, but I think you are getting the wrong idea maybe due to some things I have written about extremely simple concepts. After an argument erupted here over bra

                  • The fact is the "national grids" such as you're talking about simply aren't as unified OR as smart as they'd need to be.

                    In gods own country, perhaps. In the rest of the world they are.

                    Not to mention that it'll cut down on transmission losses.
                    Transmission losses are neglectible and in a third world grid like yours you have far more pressing concerns than transmission losses of a new wind plant. E.g. placing the wind plant at a place where it yields 5% more already covers the losses of transport into any con

            • "This means that sometimes energy costs become negative"

              Didn't you mean 'revenue'? Costs don't change much if a nuclear plant is idling, but the revenue plummets.

          • Just dumping waste energy into methanol production doesn't seem to be a viable way to sequester carbon to me.

            Well I'd prefer a non-toxic solid so we could just re-bury it. Calcium Carbonate or something along those lines.

            • Just dumping waste energy into methanol production doesn't seem to be a viable way to sequester carbon to me.

              Well I'd prefer a non-toxic solid so we could just re-bury it. Calcium Carbonate or something along those lines.

              Even better: make biochar, so that we could bury it as almost pure carbon in farmed soil for thousands of years, while at the same time having it improve the soil. We could get rid of a lot of municipal waste that way.

              • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                The soil magic thing was debunked but people in politics still like it.
              • If it were economical, that would be great. I did have a different thought though, perhaps the methanol could be used to solve the energy storage problem for renewable generating stations instead. Produce methanol when you have excess power, then burn it when things are slow. Might be more efficient than large battery banks.
          • by dbIII ( 701233 )

            Again, no way this makes sense... At least not for carbon sequestration.

            It may make sense if waste heat can drive the reaction, or solar thermal or whatever. I heard something along those lines when it hit the press a few months back
            Also the possible military, agricultural and mining exploration implications are interesting if it can be done on a small scale anywhere with a heat source. Shipping fuel into remote areas has diminishing returns - hence bizzare stuff like using solar at Dome A in the Antarcti

          • And why doesn't this make sense for carbon 'sequestration'? Even though it isn't sequestration.

            Creating a somewhat closed loop of CO2->CH3OH->(2CH3OH(l) + 3O2(g) --> 2CO2(g) + 4H2O(g)) seems, superficially, like a win. The inputs, probably the required energy, make you question the economics of the process. So let's think.

            Carbon sequestration is always expensive. Paying credits and such is a game that really doesn't reduce carbon anything but makes us^H^Hthem feel better. Costs to change proc

        • Everyone loves those.

          We could also start a massive nuclear war, which would have the benefits of greatly reducing the population and offsetting global warming with nuclear winter. It's a win-win.

      • Re:Energy in? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:41PM (#51466079)

        Trust me, it makes no sense... I can guarantee you that it takes a lot more energy input than you can get out of the methanol.

        Every energy storage process takes more energy to store it than you get back out. I don't think getting energy back out of the methanol is the goal. Using it for other industrial processes that require methanol would be more useful.

        but if you wan to produce methanol, just produce it the normal ways.

        This method can be used on the output of current industrial processes that produce carbon dioxide and prevent it from being released in the first place. It's less efficient to loose the dragon and then hope a tree eats him than to just keep the dragon in the dungeon to start with.

        • by jfengel ( 409917 )

          Could it be useful in powering cars? Power density has been an issue for mobile power plants. It's only half the energy density of gasoline, and a bit less than ethanol, though perhaps it would be a good feedstock for making one or the other? (I'm not a chemist; I've never entirely understood why making fuel out of low-energy carbon compounds requires so much more than just the energy input.)

          • The short answer is that energy is gotten by breaking bonds and required to form bonds, if we're talking stable structures in organic chemistry. Going from there... Short chain carbons have less bonds to break for power, long chain have more. Converting a short chain to a long chain is a PITA as it's not favorable because of something called 'thermodynamics,' almost always requires energy input,* and even then may just ignite instead unless you're using enzymes.

            And sometimes you will never know why your

            • Short chain carbons have less bonds to break for power, long chain have more. Converting a short chain to a long chain is a PITA as it's not favorable because of something called 'thermodynamics,' almost always requires energy input
              That is wrong, like 99% of all posts on /. containing the term thermodynamics.
              For starters: the laws of thermodynamics have absolutely nothing to do with "breaking" chemical bonds and/or "creating" them.

              If you get stuff like this already wrong, I wonder what that pun "is being le

              • Short chain carbons have less bonds to break for power, long chain have more. Converting a short chain to a long chain is a PITA as it's not favorable because of something called 'thermodynamics,' almost always requires energy input That is wrong, like 99% of all posts on /. containing the term thermodynamics. For starters: the laws of thermodynamics have absolutely nothing to do with "breaking" chemical bonds and/or "creating" them.

                What you think enthalpy is? What do you think it means when somebody says that the enthalpy of formation or of reaction is a given number of joules? What do you think is going on when a chemical reaction produces heat or when one needs heat in order to take place?

                Given that enthalpy is defined as "a thermodynamic quantity equivalent to the total heat content of a system," and you can easily find tables of bond enthalpies for covalent bonds like you get in hydrocarbons, I'm sure there's a lot of recognitio

        • Every energy storage process takes more energy to store it than you get back out.
          Uh? Bad in Physics? Ever heard about the law of conservation of energy?

          Perhaps you mean: Every energy storage technology, implemented/run by humans takes more energy to store it than you get back out.

          Key word is "technology". Just think about magnetic mounted flywheels. The storage and retrieval "process" is so close to 100% the loss is meaningless for any practical purpose.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        I can guarantee you that it takes a lot more energy input than you can get out of the methanol.

        Show your working.

      • Trust me, it makes no sense... I can guarantee you that it takes a lot more energy input than you can get out of the methanol.

        And which is then going to just ... release all of that carbon dioxide.

        It isn't magic.

        But, in case you really needed to know:

        but they admit that such a system may be five to 10 years away and will probably be still more expensive than ordinary fuel production.

        Which over the years I have taken to mean "it kind works in the lab, we need to publish now, but there will never be any appli

    • Re:Energy in? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hussman32 ( 751772 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:28PM (#51466013)

      From the article:

      "To produce methanol from CO2 in the air, the researchers at USC's Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences first bubbled captured air through an aqueous solution of pentaethylenehexamine (PEHA), an ammonia-derived organic compound with multiple amino groups that – at raised temperatures – helps form chemical derivatives from alcohols. They then added a catalyst made from ruthenium (a member of the platinum group) to promote hydrogen attachment to the CO2 when the mixture was subject to high pressure.

      The solution was then heated to around 125 to 165 C (257 to 359 F), and around 79 percent of the CO2 was converted into methanol. Though the resulting methanol was still mixed with water as it was produced, the researchers state that it can be easily separated using simple distillation processes. In addition, with the new method operating at such comparatively low temperatures, minimum decomposition of the catalyst meant that the researchers were able to repeat the process five times with minimal loss of the catalyst effectiveness. It also uses a homogeneous catalyst (that is, a soluble catalyst in solution with the chemicals it is reacting with) resulting in a simpler and faster "one-pot" process."

      So they have to procure an amine in the pure form, mix it with purified water, heat it to 125 to 165 oC (a lot of energy, also under pressure), bubble the air through it (requiring at least the same pressure as the solution so there wouldn't be backflow) then recover the product using distillation (energy intensive). It's good chemistry and interesting catalysis, but I don't see how it will be cost-effective.

      My guess is it would be cheaper to let a tree reduce the CO2, chop it down, and make the wood alcohol from that.

      • Re:Energy in? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @08:04PM (#51466187)
        Using energy from windmills to power the process in a remote location (arctic etc) is cheaper than flying in gas. Using energy from the nuclear reactor of an aircraft carrier to produce jet fuel while at sea would save a lot of money/risk on transporting fuel. Using this tech to make fuel at a military base in a dangerous place (Afghanistan etc) would reduce the need for supply convoys, and save lives.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Hussman32 ( 751772 )

          There are 44.6 moles per cubic meter of air. At 300 ppm, or 0.03% CO2, that would be 0.013 moles of CO2, at a 70% conversion rate you'd get 0.01 moles of methanol from 1 cubic meter of air. 1 kilogram of methanol (which isn't jet fuel, but never mind) is 31 moles of methanol. A 737 burns 3 kilograms of jet fuel per mile, let's say you want 6000 kilograms per trip. That means you'd need 3100 m^3 of air for one kilogram, or 18,600,000 m^3 of air. Assuming a residence time of a day for a facility to produ

          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            Methanol is a well known starter compound for numerous synthetic pathways. I believe that in WWII it was used in Germany to power cars (though how often I don't know.)

            I will agree that methanol would be a terrible jet fuel. It is not only low in energy density, it absorbs water like a sponge.

            OTOH, many model aircraft used to use methanol for fuel, so it not totally unreasonable as a drone fuel.

            • OTOH, many model aircraft used to use methanol for fuel, so it not totally unreasonable as a drone fuel.

              Mixed with a fairly significant proportion of Nitromethane. Methanol is not good enough, by itself, for even model engines. The stuff I use has about 16% Nitromethane in it.

          • you'd need a facility with a total volume of 18,600,000 m^3

            No, you'd need to process that much air. The facility could be much smaller, but you'd need to move so much air through it you'd be expending much more energy moving the air than you'd get back from the methanol.

            Even if you contain all the air in the one facility, you won't be using 18 million cubic meters of water and catalyst, so you still have to move the air.

            But it is a beautiful thought experiment to think about such a CO2 to methanol recovery device on the output of the burner of a hot air balloon.

            • by Reemi ( 142518 )

              But why would you process 'normal' air? I'd capture at a point where the CO2 levels are the highest: at the end of a combustion engine.

          • Or you could use a fan to blow/suck air into a smaller apparatus and not have a facility the size of a monster aircraft hanger.

        • Using energy from windmills to power the process in a remote location (arctic etc) is cheaper than flying in gas. Using energy from the nuclear reactor of an aircraft carrier to produce jet fuel while at sea would save a lot of money/risk on transporting fuel. Using this tech to make fuel at a military base in a dangerous place (Afghanistan etc) would reduce the need for supply convoys, and save lives.

          You couldn't fit enough windmills on a base to make all the fuel that base uses.

      • by Anaerin ( 905998 )

        So they have to procure an amine in the pure form,

        Correct.

        mix it with purified water,

        Right again

        heat it to 125 to 165 oC (a lot of energy, also under pressure),

        Partially Correct - there was no mention of it being under pressure.

        bubble the air through it (requiring at least the same pressure as the solution so there wouldn't be backflow)

        1.001 Atmosphere of pressure, yes.

        then recover the product using distillation (energy intensive).

        Correct. Though as the solution was originally at 125-165C, the methanol would most likely be in vapour form, so condensation would be a relatively simple matter.

        It's good chemistry and interesting catalysis, but I don't see how it will be cost-effective.

        My guess is it would be cheaper to let a tree reduce the CO2, chop it down, and make the wood alcohol from that.

        Oh, of course. Though that is a process that requires considerably more time than this one, it seems.

        • Re:Energy in? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Hussman32 ( 751772 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @08:53PM (#51466415)

          Pure amines are expensive, and purifying water isn't cheap at the volumes this would need (see my other notes).

          Note the process says it's aqueous, and therefore liquid. The temperature is 125-165 degrees, above the normal boiling point of water. Steam tables say 6 bars/atmospheres of pressure at 165 oC for pure water. 6 atmospheres isn't too bad for a pressure vessel, but you will need some engineering behind it.

          Condensation requires energy, especially if you need a vacuum.

           

      • My guess is it would be cheaper to let a tree reduce the CO2, chop it down, and make the wood alcohol from that.

        Sure. Perhaps. Certainly it would make things lots nicer here to have lots of trees. I'm a big proponent of reforestation, so even if the process isn't perfect through growing trees, I like the idea of more trees.

        But the low-temperature catalyst-driven system has a MUCH BETTER application: fuel generation in places where you can't grow trees, like, say, Mars.

        • by aliquis ( 678370 )

          But the low-temperature catalyst-driven system has a MUCH BETTER application: fuel generation in places where you can't grow trees, like, say, Mars.

          Would it also work within Uranus? I was going to ask whatever a liquid or gas source was preferred but it seems like whatever one prefer or use methanol or methane Uranus would contain them both in all forms from solids to gas. Hot gases seem to be leaking from Uranus.

      • Re:Energy in? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @08:32PM (#51466307) Journal

        Actually, it sounds like a perfect process for clean coal or other already existing energy production. The cooling towers alread carry enough heat to raise the temperature. As for pumping, well the generating already runs a bit under capacity so turning it up a little more shouldn't be too costly.

        With a little tweaking, it could relatively easily reduce the carbon footprint of existing power plants.

    • I see no mention of the energy put into the process vs the methanol output. Unless they are close, this would make no sense.

      TFA mentions lower temperatures than other processes. That suggests the new process is more energy efficient than the old one.

      Obviously, the laws of thermodynamics prevent this technology from being anything more than a way to store energy. However, it seems like they have made the process more efficient by discovering a new type of catalyst. [wikipedia.org]

      • TFA mentions lower temperatures than other processes. That suggests the new process is more energy efficient than the old one. Obviously, the laws of thermodynamics prevent this technology from being anything more than a way to store energy. However, it seems like they have made the process more efficient by discovering a new type of catalyst. [wikipedia.org]

        More efficient than what? More efficient than hopelessly inefficient isn't saying much.

    • by sd4f ( 1891894 )
      At the end of the article, they more or less admit that it's not viable. 5-10 years away means it's quite far from making economic sense. The big difference is hydrocarbons from crude oil are obviously really cheap to process, because all that we're doing is taking advantage of natural processes which produced those hydrocarbons. They wouldn't have been efficient either, in terms of thermodynamics, but since it happened naturally, and a long time ago, it's like as if they're free. The difference now is the
      • 5-10 years away means it's quite far from making economic sense.

        5-10 years away means that in 5-10 years, it will still be 5-10 years away.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Only if (like with fusion research) little is done over those 5-10 years.
          For example synroc was a year away from production for twenty years since there was no funding for a years worth of work for that time.
    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      In a different article (possibly about a different project) it was explicitly stated that the cost would currently be prohibitive, but that if oil ran out this could be a useful replacement.

      I would be very surprised if the same caveat didn't apply to this project, presuming it's not the same project.

  • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:15PM (#51465933)

    What about not putting it there in the first place? It takes far more energy to extract the CO2 from the atmosphere than to build an energy chain that doesn't burn fossil sources. And if you really are keen on removing CO2, then just stop deforestation in south america.

    • Really? What's your end to end solution achievable with today's technology at a price that populations and governments will accept, and which doesn't immediately make transportation people and governments already own useless?

      As important as both the issues you raise are (and the deforestation one may be the more achievable), the reality of it is that "that's it, no more fossil fuel" without a reasonable alternative will never happen, even if it kills us, because without a reasonable alternative, many of us

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      I'm keen on a way to make methanol without needing to pipe in oil, gas or the reasonably involved process to make it out of vegetation. If all you need is heat and a relatively small supply of a precursor that could cut the capital costs down significantly and allow it to be produced in a lot of places.
      It's not about reducing carbon, it's more about energy independance.
    • It's an important step if you want to eg make jet fuel on a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, or food in space, or plastics on Mars. Of course, I'd like to know how this compares to an algae + light process.

  • A way in which Donald Trump can be useful to all of us! Let's hook him up and see if his hot air can make things go.

  • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:21PM (#51465969)

    timothy are you okay? Post if you are okay.

  • by sittingnut ( 88521 ) <sittingnut@gmai l . com> on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:25PM (#51465985) Homepage

    how about growing and developing trees & plants that capture co2 more efficiently and can grow in places where there weren't any? why is there not much attention to this method? too easy? less news worthy? less grants?

    • Sounds like it needs a shitload of water.

      January notwithstanding, my local region has had below average rainfall for several decades and soil moisture is at 100 year record lows.

      Convincing city-dwelling politicians to spend money on infrastructure to drought-proof a continent by building pipelines to carry water from high rain areas to low ones is futile. Rural constituents continue to vote against their own self interest by electing conservative denialist nest-featherers.

    • The problem is that it only happens during growth and isn't efficient enough to solve our problems. I've read somewhere that a growing forest would capture 200 tonnes of CO2 per year per hectare. The problem is CO2 is capture during the day, but is partially released during the night, furthermore in a mature forest where growth has effectively stopped the CO2 absorption is very low as capture due to new growth of leaves is offset by decay of old plant matter.

      Basically, plants are a good thing. We should hav

  • by Verdatum ( 1257828 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:36PM (#51466047)
    The process to convert CO2 into long-chain hydrocarbons has been in use since the 1930s. It's not inefficient because it requires high heat. On the contrary, it produces excess heat, and must be actively cooled with water flowing through an internal heat-exchanger. The inefficiency lies in the need to create-and supply hydrogen, which requires some process such as electrolysis of water. Oh, and it does require high pressure, which costs energy. Oh and it does take energy to raise the concentration of CO2 to sufficient levels from the atmosphere while filtering out the nitrogen and oxygen. So it mostly makes more sense to start with a product like wood-gas, coal-gas or natural-gas, and then turn that into diesel. Not as interesting as pulling it from the air, but it does give you a carbon-neutral source of portable fuel, when you use plant material. It also ends up being similar to that whole "anything into oil" idea that Scientific American used to be crazy about, but turned out not to be price-competetive, and the smell of rotting turkey guys upset the neighbors.
    • The inefficiency lies in the need to create-and supply hydrogen, which requires some process such as electrolysis of water.

      The first part of your post was good, but no industrial plant produces hydrogen by electrolysis. Rather it is produced by Gassification + water-gas shift reactions (which produce pure CO2 as a byproduct) which is a modern way of doing it and the number one choice for new designs, or Steam Methane reforming which produces CO as a byproduct and is sometimes then combined with another water-gas shift reaction to again churn out hydrogen + CO2.

      Both processes are massively inefficient, burn hydrocarbons, and pro

  • What are the odds that one can power whatever this methane generating device is with solar or wind, so that you can store energy for use later? Many of the comments complained that it that it's X+ energy consumption for the generation of X methane energy. If the storage is stable, it's solved one of the big problems with renewable energy.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      What are the odds that one can power whatever this methane generating device is with solar or wind, so that you can store energy for use later?

      Heat is heat, so definitely. An ideal would be a solar thermal thing out on a farm steadily dripping enough methanol over time to drive a tractor - you'd still need to ship in the precursor but not really a lot per unit of fuel. In some areas it wouldn't have to be especially cheap and would still beat local fuel costs over the long term.

  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @08:22PM (#51466263)
    Unless user Zothecula is actually Colin Jeffery, the author of the article, then it is disgracefully misleading to represent the content of the blurb as something that "Zothecula writes". Those words were instead lifted directly from the Jeffery's article, and no indication was made that this was done. Where I teach, anyone who shows this little regard for proper attribution gets a failing grade for plagiarism, and a second offense gets you expelled. It's depressing that a for-profit journalistic outlet could be so indifferent to plagiarism. If the article must be quoted in the blurb, then fucking quote it. You have a tag for that, and you also have the power to use quotation marks.
  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @09:24PM (#51466539)

    If some one could invent a cocktail machine, powered by wind and solar, that could take in atmospheric CO2 and spit out a daiquiri (no, wait, a Hurricane), how long would it take to get everyone behind the solution to global warming?

    Do I have to come up with all the great ideas around here? Come on, let's get some people on this, stat!

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @09:39PM (#51466595)

    The Sabatier reaction is being used to convert exhaled CO2 and hydrogen produced by electrolytic decomposition of water into methane and water on the ISS. It is a means to produce fuel on the surface of Mars (copious amounts of CO2 and water ice, and solar power to run the cycle).

    The fact that it is a net energy sink doesn't matter here - it saves having to haul a whole lot of fuel to Mars.

  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @11:52PM (#51466979)

    Crops turn CO2 into things like grain and fruit. Some crops can be grazed, such as spring onions, chives, and other herbs, some only take three months or so to mature. They all do the same thing: lock carbon into a stable and USABLE and USEFUL form.

    And it costs fuck-all except a little time and patience.

    • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @02:19AM (#51467429) Homepage Journal

      That's just it though. Everyone wants a solution "RIGHT NAO!!!!"

      Instead of planting more trees than we remove (as a species) and increasing our long-term carbon sink

      As for growing crops, while yes, it does bind SOME carbon, the short growth span of modern plants actually limits the amount of actual carbon that's sequestered in the process.

      But no, we continue to clear-cut areas, and then pave/build them over.

      • by dave420 ( 699308 )

        The long-term carbon sink you mentioned isn't quite as long-term or sink-y as you imagine. Your lack of understanding of this topic is now very apparent.

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @08:38AM (#51468313)

    I'll wait until they sell a machine that can turn air into ethanol, thanks.

  • by Phil Karn ( 14620 ) <(karn) (at) (ka9q.net)> on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @09:08AM (#51468425) Homepage
    Well, I've recently developed a machine to convert atmospheric CO2 into various simple organic molecules known as "sugars", which have the significant advantage over methanol of being relatively nontoxic. My design has been successfully tested for some time and it only requires sunlight, water and a few miscellaneous other inexpensive materials. And best of all, my machine is self-replicating!
  • With some work, you could put solar cells in the desert, use them to create Methanol (slowly but surely), and occasionally come by to pick up your fuel. The economics may not be there yet, but something like this could be the future. It would basically take advantage of free energy and convert that into a more dense portable energy like Methanol. That said, fre

  • The US Navy has been working on a process that derives hydrogen and CO2 from seawater as feedstock for synthesis of hydrocarbons. Methanol is nice but hydrocarbons are better. We know how to store, transport, and efficiently burn hydrocarbons. We don't know as much about methanol.

    Also, it sounds like the seawater to jet fuel process is in its final stages of development, needing only enough funding to prove its viability. This air to methanol process sounds like its purely theoretical now.

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