From sources such as natural gas fields, refinery flare gas, landfill gas, municipal waste, algae and other biomass, there is an abundant supply of inexpensive feedstock available to produce large and sustainable quantities of liquid fuel to replace petroleum for global consumption, thereby eliminating our dependence on petroleum.

AltEnergyMag Interview - Recycle CO2 into Fuel

Byron Elton | Carbon Sciences

How does Carbon Sciences' process work?
Carbon Sciences is developing a breakthrough technology to recycle CO2 emissions into the basic fuel building blocks required to fuel.
We have discovered a low energy and highly scalable process to recycle large quantities of CO2 into gaseous and liquid fuels using organic biocatalysts. The key to our CO2-to-Fuel approach lies in a proprietary multi-step biocatalytic process.
Instead of using expensive inorganic catalysts, such as zinc, gold or zeolite, with traditional high energy catalytic chemical processes, our process uses inexpensive, renewable biomolecules to catalyze certain chemical reactions required to transform CO2 and water (H2O) into fuel molecules. Of greatest significance, our process occurs at low temperature and low pressure, thereby requiring far less energy than other approaches.
The energy efficient biocatalytic processes we are exploiting in our technology actually occur in certain micro-organisms where carbon atoms, extracted from CO2, and hydrogen atoms, extracted from H2O, are combined to create hydrocarbon molecules. Our breakthrough technology allows these processes to operate on a very large industrial scale through advance nano-engineering of the biocatalysts and highly efficient process design.
In January, Carbon Sciences announced the development of certain process technologies that will allow for the production of gasoline, shorten the time to commercialization and reduce the system and operating costs of its CO2-to-Fuel technology.
The company’s current approach (referenced above) is an enzyme-based process used to transform CO2 into low-level fuels, such as methanol. But Dr. Naveed Aslam, chief technology officer of Carbon Sciences, has now discovered a new and more cost efficient process to produce gasoline, a high-level fuel, from CO2. The key features of this breakthrough includes (1) the of use flue emissions directly from coal-fired power plants or industrial factories, eliminating the need for “clean” CO2, (2) the use of brackish water, eliminating the need for distilled freshwater as the source of hydrogen and reaction medium, (3) mild operating conditions, eliminating the need for capital intensive stainless steel equipment, and (4) a highly scalable system to transform large quantities of CO2 into gasoline for use in the existing transportation infrastructure.
Where do you expect most of the CO2 come from and how does the transfer take place?
The Carbon Sciences CO2-to-Fuel technology includes a complete plant level process that takes CO2 from a large emitters, such as coal, gas-fired plants and oil refineries, and produces usable fuels as the output. We plan to work with these major CO2 emitters to help mitigate emissions and help refineries meet carbon emission caps that might be put in place by in the future.
With over 43 billion tons of CO2 emitted each year by 2030, there is an abundant supply of raw material available to produce renewable and sustainable fuels for global consumption and reduce our dependence on petroleum.
What type of fuel does the process produce and who would be the primary user?
 Naveed Aslam, our chief technology officer, developed and invented the technology that takes CO2 as its source of carbon and water as its source of hydrogen, and produces hydrocarbons, which are the building blocks for gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel and other fuels.
Our main advantage is that our system allows our fuel to go directly in the same distribution channels and infrastructure as gasoline. We don't need to build new infrastructure.
What is the difference between your process and carbon sequestration?
 Most of the work on reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere is focused on reducing emissions from fossil fuel combustion or capturing and sequestering the CO2 in underground geological formations. Underground CO2 sequestration is very expensive and requires ongoing monitoring with questionable success and no current commercial deployment. However, with the demand for fuel expected to remain high and harmful CO2 levels expected to increase, there exist another possible solution: the conversion of CO2 back to a hydrocarbon fuel.
With Carbon Recycling, there is no storage risk and the commercial value can offset the costs of traditional carbon capture and sequestration systems.
What is the advantage of your process over biofuels?
Carbon Sciences bypasses the inherent energy intensive and time consuming tasks of growing and processing biomass into fuel. Our breakthrough CO2-to-Fuel technology is based on the direct molecular transformation of CO2 and water into fuel molecules through a novel, elegant, and energy efficient biocatalytic process. The resulting fuels are molecularly identical to fuels that we use today such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The difference between fuels produced by our technology and petroleum is that ours are renewable -- made from CO2 emissions and not dug up from the Earth. Unlike biofuels, they can be used as-is in today's infrastructure, supply chain and vehicles.
Our biggest asset is scale. You can't grow enough to make a big impact. But there is an unbelievable amount of CO2 available. Also, the fuel that we are making goes right back in the existing infrastructure.
How expensive does oil have to be for your technology to be viable?
 Based on a projected industrial scale CO2 to fuel conversion efficiency range of 40% to 80%, Carbon Sciences believes its breakthrough CO2-to-Fuel technology can provide a significant portion of the world's liquid fuel supply. Recycling CO2 emissions into renewable liquid fuels can directly and immediately reduce the demand for liquid petroleum fuels.
Los Alamos [National Labs in New Mexico] says that they can do it for $4 a gallon. We believe we can do it for less. The key to our technology is about making the biocatalysts do their job as many times as possible [which reduces the need to replenish them, cutting costs].
What will motivate companies and large CO2 emitters to consider this technology?
 Government. It is a political will of the world to make sure that we don't lose our future. Recessions come and go, but climate change stays. The U.S. will be a leader in climate change and technology, and the new administration seems to send the right signals about that. The most recent one is that the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] decided to make carbon a pollutant.
Is the process equipment portable or will the CO2 need to be shipped to a central plant for processing?
 The Carbon Sciences CO2-to-Fuel technology includes a complete plant level process that takes CO2 from a large emitter, such as a power plant, and produces usable fuels as the output.
The complete process includes the following major components: 
  • CO2 Flue Gas Processor - Purification of CO2 stream to remove heavy particulates. 

  • Biocatalyst Unit - Regeneration of biocatalysts for the CO2 recycling process. 

  • Biocatalytic Reactor Matrix - The primary and largest part of the plant where mass quantities of biocatalysts work in a matrix of liquid reaction chambers, performing the multi-stage breakdown of CO2 and its transformation to basic gas and liquid hydrocarbons. These reactors are inexpensive low temperature and low pressure vessels. The number of reactors determines the size and output capacity of the plant. 

  • Filtration - The liquid solutions are filtered through membrane units to extract liquid fuels. Gaseous fuels are extracted through condensers. 

  • Conversion and Polishing - The output of the Filtration stage contains low hydrocarbon fuels. These hydrocarbons can then be further processed into higher fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel.
The Carbon Sciences CO2-to-Fuel process can be configured to produce a variety of hydrocarbon fuels by customizing the Conversion and Polishing stage and biocatalytic formulation. 
What is the next step? When could it begin processing CO2 into fuel?
The next step for Carbon Sciences is the identification of appropriate strategic partners for a full-scale pilot plant. In terms of processing CO2 into fuel, Carbon Sciences will have an additional prototype this Fall for the chemical process and will be producing gasoline in small amounts. We anticipate producing commercial amounts of gasoline in 2012.

Byron Elton
President and CEO of Carbon Sciences
Byron Elton has over 25 years of media and marketing experience with a proven record in pioneering new business development strategies and building top-flight marketing organizations. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Sales for Univision Online. Mr. Elton served for eight years as an executive at AOL Media Networks, where his assignments included Regional Vice President of Sales for AOL and Senior Vice President of E-Commerce for AOL Canada.

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