Carbon-Negative Fuels Show Coal Might Not Be All Bad

We all know that burning liquid fuels releases CO2 and that leads to global warming. It’s one of the biggest contributors to climate change. But is that paradigm shifting?

Engineers lead by Dr. Liang-Shih Fan at Ohio State announced that they’ve developed a process that in certain situations converts coal, shale gas, and biomass into electricity or syngas, while simultaneously consuming carbon dioxide. Further, they have reported some cases in which the technology not only consumes the full amount of carbon dioxide it produces, but also additional carbon dioxide from outside sources. This moment is being referred to as carbon negative.

The process, called “Chemical Looping,” involves the transportation of oxygen via tiny metal oxide particles into high-pressure reactors. Without the presence of oxygen in the air, these particles pass through the system, burning fossils fuels and biomass, causing a chemical reaction that doesn’t produce carbon dioxide.

The potential of this technology was first demonstrated in 2013, but since then, researchers have been able to increase the lifespan of the metal oxide, solving one of the technology’s most significant setbacks. The metal oxide has gone from withstanding 100 cycles to a staggering 3,000 cycles, extending its operational potential from eight days to eight months, making this technology substantially more economical.

The Ohio State study is not the first to show evidence that fuel can be produced in a way that actually lowers greenhouse gas emissions. A study conducted on a dairy cooperative with nearly 36,000 cows successfully converted manure to renewable compressed natural gas using a large anaerobic digester. This fuel was then used to power the farm’s milk tanker trucks. For more information on this study, see the full report

With all the world’s attention on climate change, projects like these might just be the early steps in reconsidering the process of burning fuels that produce CO2.   

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