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Scientists Develop Technology That Burns Natural Gas With No CO2 Emissions (scienceblog.com) 163

New submitter Ben Sullivan writes: Researchers and engineers in Vienna have developed a way to burn natural gas without releasing CO2 into the air through a combustion method called chemical looping combustion (CLC). In this process, CO2 can be isolated during combustion without having to use any additional energy, which means it can then go on to be stored. The method had already been applied successfully in a test environment, and has now been upscaled to allow use in up to a 10 MW facility. ScienceBlog.com reports: "A granulate made of metal oxide circulates between the two chambers and is responsible for transporting oxygen from air to fuel: 'We pump air through one chamber, where the particles take up oxygen. They then move on to the second chamber, which has natural gas flowing through it. Here is where the oxygen is released, and then where flameless combustion takes place, producing CO2 and water vapor,' explains Stefan Penthor from the Institute of Chemical Engineering at TU Wien. The separation into two chambers means there are two separate flue gas streams to deal with too: air with a reduced concentration of oxygen is discharged from one chamber, water vapor and CO2 from the other. The water vapor can be separated quite easily, leaving almost pure CO2, which can be stored or used in other technical applications."
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Scientists Develop Technology That Burns Natural Gas With No CO2 Emissions

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  • Hmmmmmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @05:10AM (#54489777)

    "The water vapor can be separated quite easily, leaving almost pure CO2, which can be stored or used in other technical applications."

    Hmmmm, quite a lot of CO2. Probably more than needed for "other technical applications" - besides which, what will be done with it after those "applications" are complete?

    Anyone need 10 Gigatonnes of CO2? How many big tanks would it take to store? Or will it be cleverly stored underground, somewhere we can be absolutely sure it will never suddenly re-emerge into the atmosphere?

    • Underground (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26, 2017 @05:20AM (#54489801)

      From the article:

      "“The large-scale underground storage of CO2 in former natural gas reservoirs could be very significant in the future,” believes Stefan Penthor. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also sees underground CO2 storage as an essential component of any future climate policy. However, CO2 can only be stored if it has been separated as pure as possible – just as it is with the new CLC combustion method."

    • Re:Hmmmmmmm (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26, 2017 @05:33AM (#54489833)

      "Hmmmm, quite a lot of CO2. Probably more than needed for "other technical applications" - besides which, what will be done with it after those "applications" are complete?"

      People are ignoring the obvious here.
      Mix CO2 with Water, add some flavorings and a heap of Sugar, probably Corn-Derived, and launch it into Space.
      Who will be the first to market this to Alpha Centauri, Coca Cola or Pepsi?

    • Re:Hmmmmmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by balaband ( 1286038 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @05:44AM (#54489863)

      Actually, there is a nice place where you can use all of this CO2 - make the richer mixture of CO2/Air and use it in greenhouses. If I remember my high-school biology correctly, more CO2 in air (up to 0.07%) would make plants have better photosynthesis process and much higher yield.

      • by robbak ( 775424 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @06:00AM (#54489895) Homepage

        Look at it this way - If you grow plants to absorb all the CO2 a power plant produces, you would be growing enough plant matter to run the plant on the biomas. That's going to be a lot of farms under plastic.

        • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @06:40AM (#54490005) Homepage

          Assuming that your plan is to grow greenhouse biomass to burn for power. Which would be a pretty weird plan.

          CO2 has plenty of uses (a big one is in enhanced oil recovery), but yes, the amount produced in generating baseload power is far more than industry needs. That said, the objective is not to have CO2-intensive power as baseload - only peaking. With an ideal generation infrastructure (solar + wind, HVDC links connecting different regions), the amount of CO2 generated drops by 1-2 orders of magnitude. Which puts it more in the range of industrial needs.

          • Algal ponds also need a cheap source of CO2 to sparge. I don't know what fraction of it is taken up and what is lost but given the algae are hungy for it perhaps it is a lot.

          • My point isn't that we should grow biomass to run the power plant. Farming plants to power a power station is ridiculously impractical.

            But it is exactly what you are trying to do - in reverse - if you capture the CO_2_ and feed it to plants, with the intent of consuming all the CO_2_ the power plant produces. You are trying to use plants to un-burn the fuel you used to run the power plant - and the scale is the same as trying to grow the fuel.

        • by epine ( 68316 )

          Look at it this way - If you grow plants to absorb all the CO2 a power plant produces, you would be growing enough plant matter to run the plant on the biomass.

          You don't get it, do you?

          You simply bury all this biomass in a downward-sucking rift valley, so that the glorious post-civilization reboot a billion years from now has a convenient carbon source to prime the pump.

          Only they won't call it "priming the pump". They'll have a new word, meaning "better than prime".

          Here's the thing.

          If "better" maps onto "b

      • Re:Hmmmmmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

        by umafuckit ( 2980809 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @06:18AM (#54489935)

        Actually, there is a nice place where you can use all of this CO2 - make the richer mixture of CO2/Air and use it in greenhouses.

        Isn't that what we're doing right now?

      • Re:Hmmmmmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <.mojo. .at. .world3.net.> on Friday May 26, 2017 @06:28AM (#54489967) Homepage Journal

        Only problem is that you need an airtight greenhouse, complete with airlocks. Compared to modern greenhouses made out of plastic, it is unlikely to be economical.

        The thing is, we actually don't have a problem growing enough food. Modern farming is already more than efficient enough. What we need is to make it more sustainable.

        • Re:Hmmmmmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday May 26, 2017 @06:34AM (#54489991) Homepage Journal

          Only problem is that you need an airtight greenhouse, complete with airlocks. Compared to modern greenhouses made out of plastic, it is unlikely to be economical.

          No, no you do not. I don't know who told you that, but they were full of shit, and I cannot understand why you are repeating it. There are people all over the place doing CO2 enrichment without airtight grow spaces, and it works. The down side is that humans shouldn't be in the room while it is active. Elevated CO2 levels affect mood and health. They are actively bad for you.

          The thing is, we actually don't have a problem growing enough food. Modern farming is already more than efficient enough. What we need is to make it more sustainable.

          This part is true. There's more than enough food for everyone to eat. The problem isn't there being enough food. The problem is having the will to feed them.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <.mojo. .at. .world3.net.> on Friday May 26, 2017 @06:41AM (#54490009) Homepage Journal

            No, no you do not. I don't know who told you that, but they were full of shit, and I cannot understand why you are repeating it. There are people all over the place doing CO2 enrichment without airtight grow spaces, and it works. The down side is that humans shouldn't be in the room while it is active. Elevated CO2 levels affect mood and health. They are actively bad for you.

            You misunderstand. The point is to find a use for large amounts of CO2 that doesn't involve releasing it into the atmosphere (to meet the zero emission goal). If you use it in a non-airtight greenhouse I'm sure it will help the plants, but it will also leak out into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

            So my point was that rather than using it to grow more of what we already have enough of at the expense of creating some emissions, or building an airtight greenhouse, we should do something else.

            • The point is to find a use for large amounts of CO2 that doesn't involve releasing it into the atmosphere (to meet the zero emission goal). If you use it in a non-airtight greenhouse I'm sure it will help the plants, but it will also leak out into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

              It's going to do that anyway. Not all the CO2 will be used. Instead of figuring out ways to capture CO2 while burning fuel, we need to be finding ways to capture CO2 while making fuel, instead of releasing trapped carbon. Then it doesn't matter if we release the carbon when we burn it. With carbon-neutral fuels, we could all but ignore the CO2 emissions, and focus on HC, NOx, SOx, and PPM which are plenty to deal with — and all more immediately life-threatening than CO2. I like to bang on about Butano

            • "If you use it in a non-airtight greenhouse I'm sure it will help the plants, but it will also leak out into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change."

              Do you understand the truly small concentrations of CO2 we're talking about here (as used in greenhouses)?

              I swear... due to the relentless hysterical propaganda about climate change some people's brains have fallen out. Or it's all politics; a molecule used as a stick to beat your opponents with.

              But hey, I used to work for a company that recover
              • by Thruen ( 753567 )
                Sounds like your brain fell out. We're talking about things to do with massive amounts of CO2, not complaining about the tiny amounts you already use. The post you replied to very clearly states that. Greenhouses would not be very effective for that. I think you agree, you're just too stupid to realize it.
              • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

                Yes, I understand it perfectly. We are talking about potential applications for the CO2 produced here, which will be very large amounts. That implied very large greenhouses, using massive quantities of CO2.

                Otherwise it makes even less sense because it doesn't solve the problem of what to do with the CO2 generated by this system.

                • What concentration of CO2 do you think balaband was talking about? S/he specifically mentioned 0.07% - you're concerned about that percentage?

                  The "CO2 generated by this system" is CO2 that would have been generated elsewhere for existing applications anyway, is it not?

                  I have a feeling you believe there's some perfect CO2 concentration that must be maintained and that we're already doomed at the current 0.04%.
          • by dbIII ( 701233 )

            The problem is having the will to feed them.

            That kind of happened in the 1960s and 1970s and was called "the green revolution".

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

              That kind of happened in the 1960s and 1970s and was called "the green revolution".

              The green revolution was a great handout to chemical companies but it is not clear that it actually reduced deaths by starvation, it only postponed them slightly. Meanwhile it is selling out our future by destroying topsoil upon which we depend for growing crops. It leads to a future in which all food is grown hydroponically in an inert dirt medium, which is basically the present for many crops — indeed, it is the current state of affairs for any field not fertilized with shit.

              Using synthetic fertiliz

              • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
                I'm in Ohio, each spring I see more and more fields switch over to more sustainable practices such as no till and better crop rotations.
                • I'm in Ohio, each spring I see more and more fields switch over to more sustainable practices such as no till and better crop rotations.

                  That's nice, but do the math, look up the statistics. The vast majority of food comes from factory farms. And then there's corn for ethanol fuel, which is typically farmed continuously! They don't even use crop rotation, let alone let fields lie fallow!

                  Small farms are overwhelmingly shifting to superior farming practices because they can charge more money and otherwise they go out of business and turn into part of a large farm which will destroy the soil with no regrets.

              • by dbIII ( 701233 )

                but it is not clear that it actually reduced deaths by starvation

                WTF?
                You are not supposed to SMOKE the green stuff you are supposed to EAT it.

              • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                And all the rest as well. It was about applying science to agriculture in a major way.
                What's your excuse for the rant I replied to when you'd already heard of the green revolution? It's starting to look very dishonest and "political" instead of just ignorant.
                • And all the rest as well. It was about applying science to agriculture in a major way.

                  It was about applying synthetic fertilizer and pesticide to agriculture in a major way. If we were applying science, then we would have cared about soil health. Instead, all we cared about was yields. The time at which we applied science to agriculture in a major way was not the green revolution, it was solving the dust bowl. That's when the feds began aggressively communicating things we consider to be absolute basics of farming today like crop rotation to farmers. Only, guess what? Now many food crops are

                  • by dbIII ( 701233 )

                    It was about applying synthetic fertilizer and pesticide to agriculture in a major way

                    And also many, many other things.

                    What's your excuse for the massive ignorance you display on this topic

                    Me? You are the one that says the only relevant advances were synthetic fertilizer and pesticides.

                    The Green Revolution was about applying corporate involvement to agriculture

                    Globally? No. Locally? Rarely. Even in the countryside near the city where you obviously rarely left a lot of changes would have been driven by

            • The Green Revolution actually started in the United States in 1938. That was the time and place that agricultural productivity abruptly shifted from an annual productivity growth of near zero (less than 0.1%) which stretched back hundreds of years, to about 1.5% every year. Here is an illustration of the phenomenon [usda.gov]. This USDA chart starts in 1948, setting everything equal to "1", but the trend goes back to 1938. After WWII this trend spread from the U.S. to the entire world, and has (so far) tripled agricul

          • Re:Hmmmmmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @07:36AM (#54490155)

            The problem is having the will to feed them.

            Yes, well, it's a bit more complicated than that... let's say the US had the "will" to feed all of the world's hungry. Some (most?) of the world's "hunger" problems are actually political problems. Without threat of force, these political problems aren't going away. So really it comes down to a willingness to toss aside the old notions of sovereignty and actively intervene where help is needed, no matter whose jurisdiction. So yeah, you could feed the starving North Koreans, but you risk killing most of Seoul's population for that endgame.

            • Sorry, when I said "we" I didn't mean the USA, although that is also true. I meant humans. We have the means, men and material to solve most of the world's problems if only there weren't so dang much money in operating businesses whose profit margins depend on preventing it.

          • This part is true. There's more than enough food for everyone to eat. The problem isn't there being enough food. The problem is having the will to feed them.

            There are plenty of other uses plants can be used than food. Especially if those become more economically viable with higher yield.

            • There are plenty of other uses plants can be used than food. Especially if those become more economically viable with higher yield.

              The problem there is that we are growing fuel out of topsoil. As I have stated in several other recent posts, virtually all of that fuel feedstock is being grown continuously, which depletes the soil. Making topsoil into fuel is insane! There is basically only one [family of] plant[s] which it actually makes sense to use as a fuel feedstock: algae. Algae can be grown in dirty water, and at a variety of Ph levels. There is no need to engineer it because nature has made so many varieties; if you leave some wa

      • by Subm ( 79417 )

        What about the remaining 9.9 or so Gigatonnes?

        Even if plants in greenhouses converted all the CO2 into themselves, the total used is nowhere close to the order of gigatons. Meanwhile, a lot of the CO2 will have escaped into the atmosphere, which undoes the benefit.

      • That doesn't actually solve the problem at all though, it just kicks it down the road by a few months. Once those plants die, the fossil carbon still gets released into the ecological carbon cycle when they get eaten, burned, or decay. All you've done is make the first uptake happen under glass at a slightly increased rate.

        If you grow woody plants you could potentially produce biochar and dig it into the soil - that's actually fairly stable, and would also enrich the soil for centuries to come: you're esse

      • Take it a step further. We're all up into genetically engineering things now, right? Genetically engineer a dense plant for maximum conversion of CO2 into O2. Build huge greenhouses right next to the power plants, pump all the CO2 into that. Extract the O2 back into the atmosphere. If it's succesful enough, build gigantic greenhouses like this all over the planet, in places where nobody wants to live anyway; repair the atmospheric damage we've caused because of CO2. Workable idea?
      • by Strider- ( 39683 )

        In colder regions, this is already done. Many of the greenhouses in BC are setup such that in the winter, they run their boilers during the day, blowing a portion of the exhaust into the greenhouse to increase the CO2 concentration. The hot water produced is stored in large insulated tanks. At night, the hot water is used to keep the plants and greenhouses from freezing.

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        The problem is scale. We're produce enough CO2 to turn the entire planet into a greenhouse. Even if we freely supplied all of this captured CO2 to the actual greenhouses, it likely wouldn't add up to more than a fraction of a percent of what we generate.

        Same thing with using it for making carbonated beverages or whatever.. sure that's a use for it but the scale difference is staggering.

        Underground storage is really about the only option. Its probably a net carbon generator to try sending it into space wi

      • You'd better look at the numbers if you think you can use all the CO2 in this way.
        A ton of CO2 is perhaps enough to fill a 1000 sqft greenhouse with 100% CO2. The world emitted some 40 billion tons of CO2 in 2014 by burning fossil fuels. How many greenhouses per person are we building a year now?

    • What about artificial photosynthesis? They're working on it.
      • For production of H2 as far as I know, for refucing CO2 I doubt that is easy.
        In plants badically the same is happening, with captured photons they split water into OH and H and craft from CO2 and OH etc. sugars and fibres.

    • Probably more than needed for "other technical applications"

      Including methane synthesis from future renewably generated hydrogen? What goes out must go back in.

    • Re: Hmmmmmmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @08:57AM (#54490507) Journal

      If you are pumping it into an underground reservoir that used to hold natural gas, then you already know the reservoir can hold gas for geological time periods. (Or at least it could until someone drilled into it.)

    • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
      Store it underground as dry ice. Solves the storage problem and counters global warming!!

      I'm sure it will work, I'm a random guy on the internet with an idea. Those always work.
      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        Basically that's the idea. Except the ice part. It would be stored as a compressed gas (which would be hot.) Because we haven't found any natural caverns with -80C temperatures yet.

    • by sbaker ( 47485 )

      Yes - exactly. The insane quantities of CO2 that ANY sequestration method generates ("Clean coal"...yeah...right) would be vastly more than we could use industrially - or otherwise. CO2 simply isn't a very useful gas - it's not in high demand.

      So you're down to storing it somehow.

      But storing it as a CO2 gas at atmospheric pressure would require a VERY large volume of storage space - even ideas like pumping it down into the underground voids where we extracted the natural gas from doesn't work because natur

    • Anyone need 10 Gigatonnes of CO2? How many big tanks would it take to store? Or will it be cleverly stored underground, somewhere we can be absolutely sure it will never suddenly re-emerge into the atmosphere?

      It'll get put into the ground, in rock formations in appropriate shapes and with appropriate porosity-permeability vertical profiles to keep it there for a few million years, and a sufficiently saline pore water that in those several million years, it'll mostly be converted to carbonate minerals which

  • by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @05:14AM (#54489785) Homepage

    A better title would have been :
    Scientists Develop Technology to Recapture CO2 Produced by Burning Natural Gas.

    • So when we apply this process to recapture the CO2 and send it down deep wells, what happens to the cost advantage of natural gas over all other sources?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        A better way of phrasing the question would be:

        "So when we apply this process to recapture the CO2 and send it down deep wells, what happens to the externalized cost of releasing it into the atmosphere?"

        And the answer is:

        "The people creating that cost get to pay it for a change."

        • Re:Better title (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mpercy ( 1085347 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @06:22AM (#54489949)

          This is what researchers from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Associated Press—NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago set out to better understand. Their nationally representative poll found that 43% of Americans were unwilling to pay an additional $1 per month in their electricity bill to combat climate change—and a large majority were unwilling to pay $10 per month. That’s despite the fact that a whopping 77% said they think climate change is happening and 65% think it is a problem the government should do something about. Support plummets as the amount of the fee increases.’

          This is an upside-down result. The best available science tells us that Americans should be willing to pay considerably more, because the damages from climate change are so great—including to them personally. If we use the federal government’s estimate of the combined social cost of carbon pollution and apply it to the typical U.S. household’s electricity consumption on today’s national grid mix, the average household faces damages of almost $20 per month. Yet just 29% of respondents said they would be willing to pay at least that much.

          https://blogs.wsj.com/experts/... [wsj.com]

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            That's what the government is for. As a whole we know we need to do something about climate change. Individually we are unwilling to pay for it. The best solution humanity has come up with so far is for our collective will, through democratic government, to force it to be paid for.

            Doing it that way has the additional benefit of spreading the cost more fairly and making that cost lower than if individuals had to pay it.

  • Misleading title (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CustomSolvers2 ( 4118921 ) on Friday May 26, 2017 @05:18AM (#54489791) Homepage
    A better version would have been: "Scientists Develop Technology That Allows To Easily Separate CO2 Emissions When Burning Natural Gas", by paying special attention at words like almost in their "the water vapor can be separated quite easily, leaving almost pure CO2" description.

    They aren't even removing the CO2, but storing it somewhere else. So, this approach delivers something similar to what the existing CO2-capture techniques [wikipedia.org] already do.

    Clarification: I am not particularly interested in participating in discussions about this orrelated issues. The main motivation for this post is to somehow complement my previous ones in another article.
    • I meant "or related" rather than "orrelated". Error provoked by the pressure of trying to write my first first post (and convert this is my day best ever in Slashdot. Read this [slashdot.org] to get some context :)).
      • I was expecting to put here a video of Archer's Cheryl "best day ever" to correct my "day best ever" and couldn't find any! Can you believe it?
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Here's one temporary sequestration example:
      http://www.abc.net.au/news/201... [abc.net.au]
      • Eh, how much beer would you need to make to temporarily store even one ton of CO2?

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          It should obvious that it's too temporary to matter anyway but I suppose it isn't - maybe I should have put "temporary sequestration" in quotes since it was a cynical use of sequestration.
          The thing I linked to is effectively "greenwashing" since it's not actually a saving in hydrocarbon use to produce the industrial carbon dioxide. The new process may be better than that - a more efficient way to do it that actually saves on energy use, so not quite "greenwashing", but still it's not something you'd do to
    • I wonder just how much handwaving there is in the actual technology, given that you have entertaining remarks in the article like

      It is much cleaner to burn natural gas than to burn crude oil or coal. However, natural gas has the huge disadvantage that it generates CO2 during combustion, which has a detrimental effect on the climate.

      This can be read as implying that crude oil or coal, when burned, produces combustion products that are dirtier than natural gas, but don't produce CO2, because it describes producing CO2 as specifically being a disadvantage when compared to coal and oil. Since all three fuels produce CO2 when burned, natural gas producing CO2 when burned is not a 'disadvantage' in comparison.

      • The excerpt which you are quoting is clearly wrong. Any combustion generates CO2 and that's why this is never brought into picture when assessing how clean a fuel is. Analysing different combustion techniques or operating conditions is another story.

        Different fuels have different properties and that's why they are burned according to different methodologies and operating conditions (e.g., fuel/air ratio, pressure, etc.). Most of the toxic pollutants are the result of incomplete combustions and their variab
  • In other words: They have found a combustion process that produces one stream of almost pure CO2. So it's not removing any CO2, but splitting it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ACTUALLY they found an easy way to separate pure oxygen from air and then transport it to methane burning chamber. If they had access to cheap pure oxygen in tanks, this method would be the same. The problem before this was how to split CO2 from all the nitrogen in standard air.

  • leaving almost pure CO2, which can be stored

    And guess how much energy you need to "store" the CO2.

    • Depends... you might be pumping shit down into the ground anyway to displace oil. Might as well use the captured CO2 - that would significantly lower the marginal "storage" cost.

  • Production is still a dirty process. Methane leaks into air and ground for one thing. Drillinguses millions of gallons if water. Chemicals used in ectraction get dumped into underground wells with probable additional contamination.
  • Burning natural gas cleanly creates water vapor and CO2. If you simply run the exhaust through a still, the water vapor will condense down to liquid water and the gas will be almost pure CO2. I'm not sure what their fancy combustion method actually brings to the table.

    • I'm not sure what their fancy combustion method actually brings to the table.

      Exhaust gasses that are only CO2 and H2O, thus making your still example work.

      Normally, combustion is not complete in these systems, so the exhaust contains other chemicals (CO, NOx, unburnt fuel). Also, the normal exhaust contains regular atmospheric air.

      This method separates the oxygen from the air and then uses that for combustion. The combustion is (supposedly) complete, and you can only get CO2 and H2O in the exhaust.

  • to boost plant metabolism. Saves them on burning natural gas or propane to generate it

  • I guess the headline sounds better with "no CO2 emissions" so they used that rather than the more correct headline "pure CO2 emissions"? Since it is incredibly easy to remove water vapor from exhaust, this seems like a Rube Goldberg solution to that problem. Sounds like they put of lot work into something and rather than admitting the approach did not pan out, they are pitching their failure as an over-the-top success.

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