Making ethanol without the need to waste food crops

From Stanford University

Stanford scientists discover a novel way to make ethanol without corn or other plants

Stanford University scientists have found a new, highly efficient way to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas. This promising discovery could provide an eco-friendly alternative to conventional ethanol production from corn and other crops, say the scientists. Their results are published in the April 9 advanced online edition of the journal Nature.

“We have discovered the first metal catalyst that can produce appreciable amounts of ethanol from carbon monoxide at room temperature and pressure – a notoriously difficult electrochemical reaction,” said Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford and coauthor of the Nature study.

 

Most ethanol today is produced at high-temperature fermentation facilities that chemically convert corn, sugarcane and other plants into liquid fuel. But growing crops for biofuel requires thousands of acres of land and vast quantities of fertilizer and water. In some parts of the United States, it takes more than 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn, which, in turn, yields about 3 gallons of ethanol.

The new technique developed by Kanan and Stanford graduate student Christina Li requires no fermentation and, if scaled up, could help address many of the land- and water-use issues surrounding ethanol production today. “Our study demonstrates the feasibility of making ethanol by electrocatalysis,” Kanan said. “But we have a lot more work to do to make a device that is practical.”

Novel electrodes

Two years ago, Kanan and Li created a novel electrode made of a material they called oxide-derived copper. They used the term “oxide-derived” because the metallic electrode was produced from copper oxide.

“Conventional copper electrodes consist of individual nanoparticles that just sit on top of each other,” Kanan said. “Oxide-derived copper, on the other hand, is made of copper nanocrystals that are all linked together in a continuous network with well-defined grain boundaries. The process of transforming copper oxide into metallic copper creates the network of nanocrystals.”

For the Nature study, Kanan and Li built an electrochemical cell – a device consisting of two electrodes placed in water saturated with carbon monoxide gas. When a voltage is applied across the electrodes of a conventional cell, a current flows and water is converted to oxygen gas at one electrode (the anode) and hydrogen gas at the other electrode (the cathode). The challenge was to find a cathode that would reduce carbon monoxide to ethanol instead of reducing water to hydrogen.

“Most materials are incapable of reducing carbon monoxide and exclusively react with water,” Kanan said. “Copper is the only exception, but conventional copper is very inefficient.”

In the Nature experiment, Kanan and Li used a cathode made of oxide-derived copper. When a small voltage was applied, the results were dramatic.

“The oxide-derived copper produced ethanol and acetate with 57 percent faradaic efficiency,” Kanan said. “That means 57 percent of the electric current went into producing these two compounds from carbon monoxide. We’re excited because this represents a more than 10-fold increase in efficiency over conventional copper catalysts. Our models suggest that the nanocrystalline network in the oxide-derived copper was critical for achieving these results.”

Carbon neutral

The Stanford team has begun looking for ways to create other fuels and improve the overall efficiency of the process. “In this experiment, ethanol was the major product,” Kanan said. “Propanol would actually be a higher energy-density fuel than ethanol, but right now there is no efficient way to produce it.”

In the experiment, Kanan and Li found that a slightly altered oxide-derived copper catalyst produced propanol with 10 percent efficiency. The team is working to improve the yield for propanol by further tuning the catalyst’s structure.

Ultimately, Kanan would like to see a scaled-up version of the catalytic cell powered by electricity from the sun, wind or other renewable resource.

For the process to be carbon neutral, scientists will have to find a new way to make carbon monoxide from renewable energy instead of fossil fuel, the primary source today. Kanan envisions taking carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere to produce carbon monoxide, which, in turn, would be fed to a copper catalyst to make liquid fuel. The CO2 that is released into the atmosphere during fuel combustion would be re-used to make more carbon monoxide and more fuel – a closed-loop, emissions-free process.

“Technology already exists for converting CO2 to carbon monoxide, but the missing piece was the efficient conversion of carbon monoxide to a useful fuel that’s liquid, easy to store and nontoxic,” Kanan said. “Prior to our study, there was a sense that no catalyst could efficiently reduce carbon monoxide to a liquid. We have a solution to this problem that’s made of copper, which is cheap and abundant. We hope our results inspire other people to work on our system or develop a new catalyst that converts carbon monoxide to fuel.”

###

 

The Nature study was coauthored by Jim Ciston, a senior staff scientist with the National Center for Electron Microscopy at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The research was supported by Stanford University, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

This article was written by Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Energy. Bookmark the permalink.

140 Responses to Making ethanol without the need to waste food crops

  1. Carbon neutral
    ————
    So?

  2. rgbatduke says:

    Way cool. Further evidence that within the next few decades, we’ll be able to cheaply synthesize all sorts of things that are currently very expensive to either mine or derive in other ways from natural resources. Research and technology are going to solve the many technical challenges of the century, not carbon trading.

    rgb

  3. Randy says:

    This is very good news.

    There are however useful ways we could use plants in this regard. Mesquite is an example, it can grow on very poor land non irrigated, and produce year after year. This could be done on land not otherwise useful today. If set up ideally you might even bolster local water tables long term as the organic matter slowly builds up on the surface and allows for better water retention. We certainly couldn’t grow all our fuels like this, but there is a potential niche there to be sure.

    I always knew corn based ethanol would fail. I truly cannot understand why anyone would ever push for it, it is a horribly inefficient way to have thrown around resources. Dont dismiss plants entirely though!!!

  4. Sandi says:

    This will go over like a cement cloud here in Wisconsin, and the rest of the corn belt, where the farmers tenaciously hold on to their corn subsidies.

  5. Rich Carman says:

    I would not invest in this process until I could see a complete energy, energy cost, and mass balance including the electrical energy required to process this uphill reaction and including an estimate of the CO2 generated from the required electricity.and including the enrgy required to concentrate the ethanol/water solution.

  6. Mark 543 says:

    @So? There is a nonzero probability that the world’s leading scientific societies are correct and the politically motivated bloggers are wrong about climate change. Even it is only 20%, finding a cheap way to make fuel without causing CO2 emissions is to be welcomed. That it would not compete with food crops and reduce dependence of oil from hostile countries is all the better.

  7. Bill says:

    Ok, let me get this straight. I take the output of a power plant, and then in order to remove the oxygen atoms from the carbon I need the output of about 5 power plants of the same size (coal plants are about 40% efficient, heat to electricity and the CO to ethanol process is 57% efficient). So in order to remove the carbon dioxide exhaust from one plant, it takes the electrical output of roughly 5. Does this make sense to anyone out there?
    The energy in a coal plant comes from adding the two oxygen atoms to one of carbon (a process we call burning). The energy required to separate the oxygen from CO2 is roughly the same as you get from burning carbon. Actually it is worse than that because the separation processes are inefficient and making electricity is inefficient (2nd law).
    No process that involves the decomposition of CO2 can make any sense from a conservation of energy standpoint.

  8. TimO says:

    So making ethanol from carbon monoxide…. does this mean the cars can just have a fuel line from the muffler to the gas tank and fuel themselves??? Count me in!!

  9. philjourdan says:

    Now CO IS a deadly gas. Any productive use of excesses would be beneficial. But that begs another question. Where are they going to get all the CO from? If they eliminate the production of Ethanol from plants, there goes a significant source of the CO.

  10. Curious George says:

    Some I forgot … on what tree does carbon monoxide grow?

  11. MattS says:

    Randy,

    “I always knew corn based ethanol would fail. I truly cannot understand why anyone would ever push for it, it is a horribly inefficient way to have thrown around resources.”

    1. Ethanol was first added to gasoline in the US not for reducing gas consumption or for reducing CO2 emissions, but to reduce VOC(volatile organic compounds) emissions. VOCs tend to be very toxic and were at the time the big problem in tailpipe emissions. Ethanol does a very good job of this, but it only takes around 5% ethenol.

    2. At the time we first started adding ethanol to gas, corn was the crop in which we had the highest surplus. That surplus was so large, we were running out of places to store it effectively. At the time, it made sense to use corn for ethanol production.

  12. davidmhoffer says:

    This is really interesting science. Too bad they have to dress it up as a global warming mitigation scheme to maintain their funding.

    The flaw in their carbon neutral plan is that you still need energy input to make it work. I suppose if efficient enough it could become a way of storing energy from windmills and solar farms that are currently impractical due to being intermittent and expensive, and it provides a potential liquid fuel source for vehicles instead of trying to store electricity in batteries, BUT, it still comes down to economics. The advantage that fossil fuels have is that the energy input process has already been done when we dig the stuff out of the ground. Can the cost of generating ethanol this way compete with the cost of refining oil? I seriously doubt it.

    But the science itself is truly interesting.

  13. TAG says:

    http://www.geek.com/science/game-changing-navy-technology-can-turn-seawater-into-jet-fuel-1590495/

    US Navy creates fuel from seawater. A nuclear aircraft carrier could [use] this process to create fuel for its aircraft and lower the need for tanker replenishment

  14. Ken Hall says:

    Sandi: April 9, 2014 at 1:15 pm
    “This will go over like a cement cloud here in Wisconsin, and the rest of the corn belt, where the farmers tenaciously hold on to their corn subsidies.”

    Well they could try another novel market and try selling their corn for, oh I dunno…. Food?

  15. JohnWho says:

    “For the process to be carbon neutral, scientists will have to find a new way to make carbon monoxide from renewable energy instead of fossil fuel,…”

    Perhaps using either solar or wind power would make sense here?

  16. jim2 says:

    There is already a company with a process to convert CO2 to ethanol, gasoline, and diesel. They are building a commercial plant.

    From the article:
    Joule’s process produces fuels from specially engineered photosynthetic bacteria, waste carbon dioxide, sunlight and water. The production method involves erecting solar converter systems across unused land.

    Joule says the technology has the potential to decentralize the fuel industry, allowing fuel to be produced wherever the necessary elements are available.

    Joule was founded in 2007 by Flagship Ventures, and has raised at $110 million in funding to date from Flagship and unnamed investors.

    The company’s first “SunSprings” demonstration plant is located in Hobbs, N.M., and was commissioned last September and funded by Joule’s $70 million round of funding from early 2012.

    http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/startups/2013/04/joule-renewable-gasoline-jet-fuel.html

    http://www.jouleunlimited.com/

  17. Hoser says:

    Mark 543 says:
    April 9, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    There’s nothing new about making fuel from nuclear energy with no CO2 output. Hydrogen gas can be produced from (waste)water. Liquefied H2 can be supplied by pipeline.

    And don’t go off on a Fukushima rant. That’s like making decisions based on a black and white 60s TV versus a modern flat screen TV. Nuclear technology has changed. Modern modular reactors can’t melt down.

    http://www.nei.org/Issues-Policy/New-Nuclear-Energy-Facilities/Small-Reactor-Designs
    http://www.gen4energy.com/
    http://www.nuscalepower.com/
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/06/130605-small-modular-nuclear-reactors-tennessee/

    Fukushima v modular Gen4 technology comparison
    http://www.gen4energy.com/technology/safety-security/ (scroll to bottom)

  18. ironargonaut says:

    Where do you get a significantly pure source of co to make this work?

    unless I’m missing something energy in will exceed energy out. Without cheap electric power this is worthless.

  19. jim2 says:

    The joule process will get concentrated CO2 from a cement plant or fossil fuel electricity plant.

  20. Jim Arndt says:

    This Company makes Ethanol from natural gas but the EPA wont let them use it with gasoline even though it is exactly the same as grain ethanol.

    http://www.chron.com/business/energy/article/Incentives-sought-for-ethanol-made-from-natural-1597659.php

  21. jim2 says:

    From the article:
    Joule’s hydrocarbon fuels have the additional benefit of being inherently sulfur-free. For the diesel and gasoline markets, this gives refiners the ability to meet sulfur content requirements without raising production costs or fuel prices. As just announced on March 29, 2013, the US Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to further reduce the sulfur content of gasoline by more than 60% beginning in 2017.

    Joule is now commercializing its first product, Sunflow-E, for global availability in early 2015. Construction of the company’s first commercial plants is planned to begin in 2014 in multiple locations worldwide.

    To support its progress towards commercialization, the company has launched Joule Fuels, a global subsidiary formed to capitalize on the $1+ trillion fuels market with exclusive access to Joule’s revolutionary technology, IP and know-how.

    “Joule’s production platform is well suited to many regions around the world, where improving local energy security and environmental performance are critical goals,” said Peter Erich, President of Joule Fuels. “We are actively seeking sites and partners to deploy Joule Fuels plants in these regions, enabling localized production of high-volume, cost-competitive fuels in a sustainable process. This includes unique opportunities for off-take partners and input providers, including industrial CO2 emitters who can meet sustainability goals by directly converting their emissions into clean, renewable fuels.”

    http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2014/03/13/joule-unlimited-biofuels-digests-5-minute-guide-2/

  22. Jimbo says:

    Most ethanol today is produced at high-temperature fermentation facilities that chemically convert corn, sugarcane and other plants into liquid fuel. But growing crops for biofuel requires thousands of acres of land and vast quantities of fertilizer and water. In some parts of the United States, it takes more than 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn, which, in turn, yields about 3 gallons of ethanol.

    Wow! That is environmentally friendly?

    IF this new technique can be scaled up and is commercially viable then this must be a nightmare for many greens. It would once again show that all the panic over co2 is similar to the horse manure panic of the late 19th century. We always seem to get ourselves out of a ‘fix’. At the end of the day crude oil will not last forever, but suck it out while it’s there I say.

  23. rgbatduke says:

    The advantage that fossil fuels have is that the energy input process has already been done when we dig the stuff out of the ground. Can the cost of generating ethanol this way compete with the cost of refining oil? I seriously doubt it.

    At the conversion efficiencies they suggest in the top article, possibly. All it appears to require as input is electricity (plus water, catalysts, and sources of CO and/or CO_2 gas. One could indeed imagine setting up closed-system loops where the source of the CO/CO_2 is the burning of the ethanol produced, so that one is basically using the ethanol only as a means of energy storage.

    But the beauty of research is that nobody will implement this as production technology unless it IS able to find some economic niche where it is cost-advantageous. It might not be advantageous now, but in fifty years it might be. It’s just like our ability to synthesize gasoline or diesel out of coal — marginally unprofitable by design as long as it is cheaper to directly mine oil than to mine coal and convert it into oil, but as the relative scarcity of one rises compared to the other, that could change.

    The real problem with the process is that I’ll wager it doesn’t work very well given only the CO or CO_2 levels available in the atmosphere. I’m guessing that it works with a basically saturated CO level in the water. Concentrating the gas in the water to make a suitable catalytic feedstock (and then distilling out the resulting ethanol) are both going to substantially add cost.

    OTOH, maybe they’ll figure out how to make an integrated nano-material fabric that can be stretched into sheets and laid out in solar cells. As long as the sheet is kept damp and in the sun, it pulls CO_2 from the air, combines it with water on the sheet, and gives off ETOH, which floats up to the top of the panel and into a condenser coil so that all day long, ethanol accumulates at the bottom. Once again, rates and efficiencies are key, but a passive pay-once-use-forever catalytic sheet that produced liters of ethanol per square meter of collector per suitable time unit with nothing added but water, that would be an attractive thing.

    rgb

  24. Jim Cripwell says:

    There are two commercial plants about to go into production, producing ethanol from waste agricultural products; POET/DSM and Dupont. The feedstock is corn stover, and POET has worked out with farmers that 1 ton per acre of the corn stover produced is, in fact, waste.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am in favor of any commercially viable way of turning waste products into useful fuel. Will the two plants I mentioned be commercially viable? We wont know until at least the end of this year, but both are being financed mainly with private money.

  25. upcountrywater says:

    No one notices it’s another net energy loss, really just a nice science experiment…

  26. Third Party says:

    Who in their right mind makes copious quantities of surplus CO and then wants to make ethanol to displace petro-gasoline?

  27. David Chapell says:

    “The CO2 that is released into the atmosphere during fuel combustion would be re-used to make more carbon monoxide and more fuel – a closed-loop, emissions-free process.”

    Is this not a variant of the perpetual motion machine?

  28. James Strom says:

    Looks like University of Delaware might be willing to sell them the CO (sometime in the future):

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/01/31/better-living-through-carbon-conversion-chemistry/

  29. John Peter says:

    Latest predictions on the science advances in solar panel and storage solutions in The Telegraph
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/10755598/Global-solar-dominance-in-sight-as-science-trumps-fossil-fuels.html
    “Solar power will slowly squeeze the revenues of petro-rentier regimes in Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. They will have to find a new business model, or fade into decline.
    Solar power has won the global argument. Photovoltaic energy is already so cheap that it competes with oil, diesel and liquefied natural gas in much of Asia without subsidies.”

  30. Col Mosby says:

    “But growing crops for biofuel requires thousands of acres of land”
    Make that millions of acres.
    “But we have a lot more work to do to make a device that is practical.”
    Translation : ain’t gonna happen, but send funds anyway.

  31. Kpar says:

    Another Non-Starter

    Archer-Daniels Midland will never allow this baby to get out of its crib, too much funding and subsidies to lose.

    Interesting from a chemistry standpoint, and likely to be very useful in the future, but not for automobiles.

    Ethanol (as noted in a previous post) was introduced to mitigate the emission of VOCs in auto exhaust, although I don’t know if that was ever shown to happen. What has been demonstrated, however, is that it reduces the amount of energy in a gallon of “gasohol” (also known as E-10 where I live- Barackistan, formerly known as Illinois).

    Last summer, I drove my 2003 Ford CVPI out west. Stopping for fuel (I think it was in Colorado), I saw that the lower octane fuel (85) was more expensive than the mid-range fuel (87 Octane).

    Realizing that the difference in price was the absence of ethanol, I chose to perform an experiment. I always note my gasoline purchases (date, odometer reading, total number of gallons, price per gallon, and total cost for a tankful) and have for a number of years- the impetus for this behavior was the realization that, as engine control systems have improved, the only way to tell that a vehicle needs a tuneup these days is to check the MPG- the car performs pretty much the same, otherwise.

    My Police Interceptor normally gets about 18 MPG, city or highway. During the course of this experiment, however, running on the “low-octane” gasoline, my MPG improved to 23.6- almost a 30% increase! And this was driving through the mountains, not on flat ground like in Illinois!

    No matter how bad an idea ethanol in gasoline is, it won’t go away. The lobbyists have both political parties bought off, and any non-farm alternative will die a quiet death.

    Maybe the Department of Energy will issue a grant. That is where good ideas go to die…

  32. DirkH says:

    Mark 543 says:
    April 9, 2014 at 1:18 pm
    “@So? There is a nonzero probability that the world’s leading scientific societies are correct and the politically motivated bloggers are wrong about climate change. Even it is only 20%”

    IFF warming and CO2 increase correlate from 1979 to 1997 – 18 years – AND then, warming stops while CO2 continues to increase from 1997 to 2014 – 17 years and counting – AND all climate models failed to predict the latter, insisting on a continuation of the warming trend, we can SAFELY say that attempts at predicting the future climate have completely failed. In fact, a random generator would have beat the climate models.

    So, we can say: Climate Science is worse than guessing. It has negative predictive skill. It has a NEGATIVE probability of being right.

  33. james says:

    the last thing we want to do is pull co-2 out of the air .It is vital for all life on earth less is not better.

  34. timothy sorenson says:

    I think this is cool. Makes the carbon-nutcases happy, might have commercial value and might get corn being used for what corn should be used for; food!

    Perhaps a rare win-win-win. (hence probably highly unlikely!)

  35. dave/r says:

    why not grow industrial hemp on all the land not suitable for farming over 25 million acres in usa could be used as far as i can find out 1 acre can produce 30 barrells of oil witch can be used to power all manner of things also the seed cake left over is perfect for animal feed and the stalk is brilliant for building houses a win win situation all round me thinks also hemp absorbs huge amounts of co2

  36. timothy sorenson says:

    @james, just think about the math! Do realize how MUCH carbon-dioxide we can pull out of the air and impact the ppm minimally but make LOTS of ethanol!

  37. jim2 says:

    For the Joule process, it would use CO2 to make ethanol, gasoline, or diesel. Once the fuel is burning, it is CO2 once again! Win win.

  38. james says:

    we should do every thing possible to increase the co-2 in the air.Plants will do better and increase crop yields.

  39. Rob says:

    Storing energy in a liquid fuel is what our transport system is based on – solid state energy storage (batteries) just don’t cut it. Given the acceptance that there is some finite limit to oil (and lpg) a reasonably cost effective method of producing ethanol would be useful at some stage. However, this outcome is still a long way off with this technology – a fact placed front and center by the inventor.

    Since cellulosic ethanol is still five years away from commercialization (as it has been for about 15 years now, I think), we are still looking at fermentation of sugars (not starch from corn) as the only viable method. Great if you can grow sugar-cane without displacing food crops, but this is not an option for pretty much anyone except Brazil (and Australia, but I don’t think they have cottoned on yet – don’t anybody tell them!).

    Oh well, good job our oil reserves keep growing then I guess…..

  40. Speed says:

    rgb wrote, “OTOH, maybe they’ll figure out how to make an integrated nano-material fabric that can be stretched into sheets and laid out in solar cells. As long as the sheet is kept damp and in the sun, it pulls CO_2 from the air, combines it with water on the sheet, and gives off ETOH, which floats up to the top of the panel and into a condenser coil so that all day long, ethanol accumulates at the bottom.”

    Kind of an engineer’s/chemist’s/physicist’s version of photosynthesis.

  41. David L. says:

    What’s better, using the electricity directly to power an electric motor at 92% efficiency to propel a vehicle, or use the electricity at 57% efficiency to make ethanol which then has a 25% efficiency to run a motor to propel a vehicle.

  42. Catherine Ronconi says:

    Mark 543 says:
    April 9, 2014 at 1:18 pm
    “@So? There is a nonzero probability that the world’s leading scientific societies are correct and the politically motivated bloggers are wrong about climate change. Even it is only 20%”

    What about scientifically motivated bloggers & the thousands of scientists in relevant disciplines who agree with them?

    The suborned, bought off societies have been 100% wrong so far, ie their hypothesis has been repeatedly falsified & they haven’t even been able to reject the null hypothesis. Why do you suppose there is a 20% chance that they might be right at some point in the future?

  43. Crispin in Waterloo but really in Johannesburg says:

    As I understand this, it proposes to take electricity (a form of energy) and turn it into ethanol (a form of energy). To produce work one must convert the stored energy into ‘work’ such as heating (cooking) or motion (vehicle fuel). An advantage is that it is relatively energy dense per unit volume compared with batteries or super capacitors which could store the electricity directly and give it back on demand. A disadvantage is that it has to be combusted, or reacted in a fuel cell to get back electricity, meaning it is a battery, and not a very efficient one at that. There are ethanol-powered cell phones – did you know that?

    The ‘closed loop’ thing is not really closed – it has a huge input of solar energy. Well there is nothing wrong with that but it has to compete with the other ways one could store solar energy and move it around for sale. I certainly favour ending the subsidies on corn ethanol and putting the money saved into developing this and other technologies like Propanol.

  44. David L. Hagen says:

    Replacement Fuel Research is vitally important
    Despite all the hoopla, “tight oil ” wells deplete at about 20%/year – and require ever increasing drilling. The IEA reports existing oil fields are depleting at about 6%/year.
    We are dangerously past the time for major efforts to develop replacement fuels. See Richard L. Hirsch, The Impending World Energy Mess.

    Bjorn Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus identifies research into replacement fuels as one of the most effective applications of funds – far ahead of subsidies for existing technologies.
    Long term energy sources are nuclear fusion – solar energy or artificial fusion; and nuclear fission – such as conventional reactors or Thorium reactors. Hydrogen can be made by electrolysis or solar thermochemical catalytic cycles. For for practicality, dense liquid fuels are required.
    Heather Willhauer et al of the US Navy shows how CO2 could be extracted from sea water. H2+CO2 can make Methanol and thence gasoline/diesel/JP5 or JP8 or directly via Fischer Tropsch reaction.

    So research such as reported should be encouraged to search for the most economic transition and long term replacement fuels.

  45. D.J. Hawkins says:

    @ironargonaut says:
    April 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    You can gasify coal. There is a “water shift” reaction that produces a mixture of H2 and CO, popular in the late 1800′s/early 1900′s as “town gas”.

    @David Chapell says:
    April 9, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Not really. You still have to supply external energy to drive the reaction.

    @upcountrywater says:
    April 9, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    I don’t think this is about net energy efficiency. It’s really about how you generate a portable energy source when you can’t make a battery big enough or storage density is just too critical. If you use grid energy of whatever stripe (coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, etc) to drive the process, what you are really doing is converting electricity from a use-it-or-lose-it form (the grid) to a use-it-whenever form (liquid fuel). If I could plug a machine into an outlet in my house and get a liquid fuel to burn in my snowblower, lawnmower, or automobile, as long as the final cost was competitive (for me personally, not more that 10-15% over gas station prices), I’d buy that machine, assuming the amortized cost was similarly reasonable. It’s all about economics, not net efficiency.

  46. Brian R says:

    In it’s current guise it’s just another in a long line of processes that take petroleum and convert it into something else to be used for energy production.(e.g. hydrogen fuel cells)

  47. george e. smith says:

    Why not just mine the huge deposits of methane trapped on the bottom of the ocean, and convert that to methanol; it would be more carbon friendly than ethanol, and you wouldn’t get drunk from it.

  48. R. de Haan says:

    Show me a working installation ready for series production, an energy balance that tells me how much power has to go into the process and how much comes out. If the balance is positive I will have a look at it.

    But please spare me the the stories. There are over a million most promising stories on the web that never made it. Now we’re shutting down power plants without a reliable base load production.

    Very, very dangerous.

  49. Damian says:

    Cool. And it sounds way more constructive than tornado walls and hurricane windmills.

  50. RACookPE1978 says:

    David L. says:
    April 9, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    What’s better, using the electricity directly to power an electric motor at 92% efficiency to propel a vehicle, or use the electricity at 57% efficiency to make ethanol which then has a 25% efficiency to run a motor to propel a vehicle.

    Well, you – uhm, appear to have “accidentally skipped” a few “minor” steps there.

    You take power station electricity, generated at efficiencies between 38% to 62%, and transmitted across the state at some 98% to 93% efficiency, to go into a battery and get converted into stored chemical energy at about a 72% to 76% efficiency.

    So, your initial energy is now only .62 x .96 x .72 of the initial amount. But it is only stored chemical energy – very much less useful than – say, the stored chemical energy in a gallon of gasoline or jet fuel that is ALREADY in chemical form. And, in fact, since the stored chemical energy in a battery is inside a very, very heavy container (the battery itself) you cannot use that chemical energy in anything that flies or drives efficiently. It also takes a very long time to recharge compared to stored chemical fuels that can be refilled in mere moments millions of times every day by unskilled labor safely.

    Also, that chemical energy is now only stored for a short time in a very, very, very heavy and very, very very expensive battery using very dirty raw materials and a very large amount of energy to produce that doesn’t last a very long time before it has to be replaced.

    Now, you have to re-convert that stored chemical energy in the battery BACK to DC electricity but now at a lower efficiency of 62% to 75% efficiency, control it at a 96% to 90% efficiency, and then drive a motor at the 85% efficiency to the wheels. Some energy you can get back from regenerative braking – a good thing! – but only some.

    net? Your battery powered car is no better today than they were in 1900.

  51. Mike T says:

    Ethanol has been made from industrial grade flour (presumably made from low grade wheat) in Australia for decades. The gluten is separated for sale, some of the remaining starch is sold off while the rest is fermented (after conversion to suitable sugars) into ethanol. Low value crops like sorghum are also used to make ethanol. In Queensland, sugar cane is used. This might be seen as diverting a food crop to industrial use, but it gives cane farmers another market especially at times when the world price for sugar is low and they might otherwise barely cover the cost of harvest. A large proportion of the maize crop in the US goes into industrial processes, rather than food. Maize is used to produce high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is widely used as a sugar substitute since import tariffs on real sugar are high.

  52. Jim Cripwell says:

    Rob, you write “Since cellulosic ethanol is still five years away from commercialization”

    I suggest you visit

    http://poet-dsm.com/news
    http://biofuels.dupont.com/cellulosic-ethanol/nevada-site-ce-facility/

    The POET/DSM plant, capable of producing 20 million gallons of cellulose ethanol a year is scheduled to go into production in Q2 of 2014. The Dupont plant, 30 Million gallons per year, should be in production this year.

  53. Sandi says:

    Ken Hall says:
    “Well they could try another novel market and try selling their corn for, oh I dunno…. Food?”

    Agreed. My thoughts are not welcome here in Wisconsin, as I am for ending all farm subsidies. If they can’t make a profit without a subsidy, then they are growing the wrong crop, or need to get out of farming.

  54. Catherine Ronconi says:

    Oh, no!

    What about all those dangerous oxygen atoms that will be released in turning CO2 into CO? This will make the air flammable! We can’t have that!

  55. CRS, DrPH says:

    At Kraft Foods in Melrose, MN we made thousands of gallons of fuel-grade ethanol every year from parmesan cheese whey ultrafilter permeate. If we converted all of the fermentable industrial wastes available into ethanol (confectionary, bottling etc.) we’d have a surplus of the stuff. It’s still a lousy vehicle fuel….low energy content, corrosive, can’t be shipped via pipeline etc.

  56. Catherine Ronconi says:

    Jim Cripwell says:
    April 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Doesn’t the cellulose feedstock require fossil fuel fertilizers & pesticides to grow? Or more chemicals for the soil to replace the nutrients not plowed back in?

  57. Mike Maguire says:

    “But growing crops for biofuel requires thousands of acres of land”
    “Make that millions of acres.”

    Make that tens of millions of acres!

    “But we have a lot more work to do to make a device that is practical.”
    “Translation : ain’t gonna happen, but send funds anyway”

    Great idea but it probably won’t. The amount of energy needed to convert this into the compact, energy rich liquid hydrocarbon form to power vehicles for instance would greatly exceed the yields. This is the form, of course, needed to be compatible with our country’s fuel and transportation infrastructure.
    Not only would this result in a poor investment, losing energy return but it would have to take place on such a massive scale as to not be practical, even if the return was positive.

    This appears to be an attempt at a perpetual motion machine type process that can never work because of the laws of thermodynamics.

    We don’t need to find something to replace ethanol from corn, used for fuel. We just need to completely discontinue the ruinous policy of growing corn for ethanol. It would be great to find something but this policy has just made crop farmers, politicians and people benefiting from the ethanol industry rich and everybody else, poorer. Corn pollutes the most and uses the most natural resources(especially water when its used for fuel).

    The Ogallala Aquifer in the Plains is being drained faster because of corn grown for ethanol production. We need corn for food and animal feed. It’s ok to use vital water supplies for this……..not to make fuel.
    http://www.kansascity.com/2013/09/01/4452173/the-ogallala-aquifer-an-important.html

    Corn uses tremendous amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Humans being able to manufacturer synthetic forms of this from natural gas is one of the biggest factors in corn yields quadrupling since around 1940.
    Problem is that heavy rains cause run off of this fertilizer that makes it into streams, rivers and eventually, much of it gets into the Gulf of Mexico.
    http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2013-06-14/gulf-of-mexico-s-extinction-by-ethanol

    Growing corn requires use of other chemicals, that end up as pollution. It’s impossible to grow food to feed the world without some of this. It’s really dumb to be doing it to make a fuel that has 25% less energy, wrecks small engines, uses up natural resources, uses up 30 million acres of the most fertile land in the world……..meaning less acres to grow everything else and much higher prices for all crops/food because the price of everything else MUST go higher to give producers/farmers enough incentive to grow those other crops that must compete with corn. Farmers will plant whatever makes them the most money.

    Ethanol is not making much of a dent with our dependence on fossil fuels either. It makes no sense to burn fossil fuels to make it. Just eliminate the ethanol and its numerous problems and use efficient fossil fuels.

    However, using all these negatives that ethanol has to draw attention/support for something that doesn’t have most of those negatives(the process described above) only makes sense if the replacement is viable.

  58. ATheoK says:

    Figures.

    The drinking and driving rate is actually reducing and now them revenuers went and invented a process to make alcohol from car exhaust.

    Soon, hidden stills will be in many cars and drivers will be able to drive while they drink.

    I do find this statement either wrong or just plain absurd;

    “…The challenge was to find a cathode that would reduce carbon monoxide to ethanol instead of reducing water to hydrogen…”

    CO reduces to C and O, C2 and H2. In order to grab the hydrogen necessary to make the OH part of alcohol, some of those dangerous GHG water molecules have to surrender their hydrogen.
    2CO + 6H₂O == Ch₃Ch₂OH + 3O₂ + O

    Of course the oxygen is released singly and must combine to form the O2 molecules. With the electrical impetus I wonder if any of the aggressive oxygen atoms decide to go for O3 (commonly called ozone). That makes the formula 2CO + 6H₂O == Ch₃Ch₂OH + 2O₃ + O.

    Nothing like rapidly corroding parts of the car.

    The good news is that high schoolers and even college kids will learn basic chemistry again.

  59. R. de Haan says:

    Why do we need to replace food based ethanol anyway. We just have to stop this moronic and criminal behavior fueling cars with food. Look what happened to the food prizes, the Middle East and North Africa where all the problems started with food protests.

    We are the “bad guys” now.

    Besides that, ethanol is a very poor car fuel.

  60. Pat Frank says:

    A water-solution based process to produce ethanol from CO immediately runs into two immediate problems, even with 100% electrochemical efficiency.

    First is that the solubility of CO in water at room temperature is about 28 ppm (~1 milliMolar for you chemists out there). The rate of ethanol production is CO concentration-limited. Low concentration = low production rates. Saturated solutions of CO = 28 ppm are a non-starter for industrial production.

    Second problem is that ethanol, the product, is water soluble at all concentrations. The process produces a solution of ethanol in water. The ethanol must be removed from the water. The only way to do that is distillation, which takes energy.

    Problem two-b is that ethanol and water form a constant-boiling azeotrope at ~96% ethanol, ~4% water. The last 4% of water can’t be removed, even if you carefully re-distilled the 96-4 solution until the universe dies of heat-death (unless physical constants are slowly time-varying). Removal of the last 4% typically requires an additive. The usual additive is benzene. Benzene-water-ethanol forms a lower-boiling ternary azeotrope that will remove the water. The ethanol and residual benzene form a binary azeotrope that allows removal of the benzene. Other additives than benzene also work, but the purification problem remains.

    The 4% water can also be removed from the 96-4 solution by multiple cycles through molecular sieves, or by chemical dehydration, but none of those methods are cheap.

    And after all that — Voila! Pure ethanol! Economical for fuel? Not a chance.

    On the other hand, if they can made the reaction gas-phase, then you’ve got something interesting. Maybe a high-temperature stream of CO and H2O, entering into a porous copper electrode could emerge enriched in ethanol. Problem is, the other reaction product is hydroxide (OH¯), which hasn’t any vapor pressure. It would probably deposit and end up corroding the electrode. Reality always bites. . .

    Problem two-b also shows up in fermentation ethanol from corn or waste cellulose, of course. In that case energetic inputs are supplied by yeast. Much less electric power required.

  61. LeeHarvey says:

    Well that’s just super! Let me go over here to tap into this huge stockpile of carbon monoxide that I just happen to have lying around!

    Oh, wait…

  62. ATheoK says:

    “…CO reduces to C and O, C2 and H2….”
    My error, I mistyped and I even have a full size keyboard.

    Corrected.
    “…CO reduces to C and O, C2 and O2….”

  63. Dr Burns says:

    Burn coal to make CO2 and electricity, convert the CO2 to CO then use the CO and electricity to make fuel. Yeh right. Good for some grants no doubt though.

  64. John says:

    The ironic part of these exercise is people actually consider oil and gas “fossil fuels” when they are actually renewable fuels as they are part of a biological/geological cycle. Then they consider solar panels and wind-power renewable, go figure.

  65. @RockyRoad says:
    January 25, 2014 at 11:02 am

    And you forgot that each GCM has programmed into it’s assumptions & calculations the thesis that CO2 will rise monotonically, causing water vapor to rise monotonically, causing temperature will rise monotonically.

    Clean & simple, a QED of sorts, but why do we need models… because they were hoping for a more believable & disguised lie.

  66. bhiggum says:

    I can’t believe all the vitriol and half-truths that gets spewed on here about corn-based ethanol. 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn? Okay, but some research on the USDA site shows me that only 15% of the total corn acres in 2007 were irrigated. Just like I’m skeptical about what the media tells me about AGW, I’m skeptical about what hear about ethanol. It’s not a perfect fuel, but it’s far better than depending on other countries for petroleum. And if you want to call the RFS a subsidy, well, then you should also call the tax breaks the oil refiners get subsidies. Whatever, everyone loves money from the government.

    But the argument that really gets me is that it’s diverting a “food” crop for fuel- come on! It’s field corn- it’s fed to cows, pigs and chickens. And guess what? When corn is fermented, not all the solids become alcohol- there’s a lot of protein, fiber and even a bit of starch left over. Where does that go? Well, shockingly, it gets fed to cows, pigs and chickens. Food gets more expensive because oil gets more expensive, not because of ethanol. Read the World Bank report from 2010 (http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/IW3P/IB/2010/07/21/000158349_20100721110120/Rendered/PDF/WPS5371.pdf).

  67. Steve from Rockwood says:

    Ah, that’s nothing. The U.S. Navy has found a way to convert sea water to jet fuel.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/09/seawater-to-fuel-navy-vessels-_n_5113822.html?utm_hp_ref=green

  68. Steve from Rockwood says:

    bhiggum says:
    April 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    I can’t believe all the vitriol and half-truths that gets spewed on here about corn-based ethanol.
    ————————————————–
    Exactly what “tax-breaks” do oil refineries get?

  69. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    The biggest problem with this is the anode reaction. At the anode they are producing oxygen. Even with catalysts this reaction has a high overpotential.

    This is lost energy since it ends up as heat. I’m not clear what the cell voltage is, so I’ll assume 2 V. (The K value for the chemical reaction is 5.83×10^-143 at 25C (HSC Chemistry) which suggests a cell voltage of at least 2 V with O2 overpotential, depending on the cell configuration and current density.)

    If we take the cell voltage to be 2 V, which is not too bad since the very best water electrolysers can get down to about 1.5 V, then the calc is this:

    2CO + 8H+ + 8e = CH3CH2OH + H2O
    4H2O = 2O2 + 8H+ + 8e

    Therefore one molecule of ethanol needs 8 electrons. Faraday’s constant is 96485.3 C/mol.
    One mole of ethanol, 46g, therefore needs 2V * 8 * 96485.3 / 1000000 = 1.54 MJ
    1 tonne of ethanol needs 1.54 * 1000000 / 46 = 33478 MJ.
    Convert to kWh: 33478 * 0.2778 = 9300 kWh/t
    Convert to US gallons using SG of ethanol: 9300 * 0.789 * 3.78 / 1000 = 27.7 kWh/gal

    That is a theoretical minimum assuming 100% Faradaic efficiency and all the CO converted to ethanol, and not acetate, which is hard to see happening even with optimisation of the process.

    If you use an electricity cost of 10c/kWh, which is arguably reasonable in a world where ethanol is needed for vehicles, that gives you a cost of about $2.77 per gallon for the electricity alone. Add the cost of the carbon monoxide, the depreciation of capital, wages and etc and it will be substantially higher.

    The ethanol price in the US has averaged about $2.50/gal so far this year.

    In other words, great chemistry, but go find another project guys and girls. Or find a different anode chemistry. I hate being negative about innovative ideas but it just isn’t ever going to make economic sense for such a low value product.

    I would be very pleased if someone can show this calc is wrong.

  70. Bruce Cobb says:

    Great, another pipe dream. Wake me when they can get the price per gallon from $20 down to $3. Hint: aint gonna happen.
    Ethanol? Who needs it?

  71. bhiggum says:

    Steve from Rockwood says:
    April 9, 2014 at 5:04 pm
    bhiggum says:
    April 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    I can’t believe all the vitriol and half-truths that gets spewed on here about corn-based ethanol.
    ————————————————–
    Exactly what “tax-breaks” do oil refineries get?

    Well, here’s a few from the first page of a Google search for “oil refinery tax breaks”. I really like the last one.

    http://www.freep.com/article/20140314/NEWS01/303140013/Tax-break-for-Marathon-refinery-expansion-fails-to-bring-jobs-for-Detroit-residents-city-officials-say

    http://daily.sightline.org/2014/02/04/what-would-repealing-an-accidental-tax-break-cost-oil-refineries/

    http://www.law360.com/articles/523904/alaska-gov-calls-for-new-oil-refinery-tax-breaks

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/business/04bptax.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  72. u.k.(us) says:

    “Most materials are incapable of reducing carbon monoxide and exclusively react with water,” Kanan said. “Copper is the only exception, but conventional copper is very inefficient.”
    ========
    Not to mention copper is expensive, and the copper in the coils of the windmills powering the process ………
    What ?

  73. Bill H says:

    When they have carbon captured the CO2 in the air below 250ppm what is going to feed the plants which we need for food?

    Those pesky unintended consequences of this endeavor. Why do these people not think things through?

  74. David L. says:

    RACookPE1978 on April 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    “Well, you – uhm, appear to have “accidentally skipped” a few “minor” steps there.

    You take power station electricity, generated at efficiencies between 38% to 62%, and transmitted across the state at some 98% to 93% efficiency, to go into a battery and get converted into stored chemical energy at about a 72% to 76%…”

    ———–

    Fair enough. Where does the electricity originate and what are it’s production/transmission efficiencies that power the ethanol electrolysis contraption?

  75. Kjetil Nesheim says:

    “That means 57 percent of the electric current”.
    In other words nearly halfe the energy is lost. Then you loose another half when you use it, and since CO also can burn this energy most also be added. Less then 20% return off energy when used is a BAD deal.

  76. ossqss says:

    As long as it doesn’t ruin my small gas engines. I am in.

    Did I mention that it has to provide more energy than it takes to make it in net total?

  77. Jim Cripwell says:

    Catherine, you write “Doesn’t the cellulose feedstock require fossil fuel fertilizers & pesticides to grow? Or more chemicals for the soil to replace the nutrients not plowed back in?”

    Corn is grown for the food it produces. So, in principle, the fuel, fertilizers and pesticides are being used for the food. The corn stover is used to plough back into the land for future years. However, POET and the farmers have worked out that of the 4 tons per acre of corn stover that is produced, only 3 tons per acre is required for future years. So there is 1 ton per acre, which is waste, and this is what is used to produced the ethanol.

  78. jim2 says:

    @ bhiggum says:
    April 9, 2014 at 5:15 pm
    *****
    Looks like you’ve found a whole lotta nothin there for tax breaks. States give all kinds of companies tax breaks, so those aren’t anything specific to refineries. The New York Times hit piece does not name the laws, just hints at them.

    Finally, tax breaks just allow a business to keep some money. Subsidies are tax payer monies given to favored businesses. Big difference.

  79. Rob says:

    Jim Cripwell,

    I have heard the same stories for 10 years now about cellulosic ethanol plants being “nearly there”. I am happy to hear someone else is still going on this, but these reports are no different than ones I have read before from at least three different companies that no longer exist. They have made it work for short runs, but cannot cope with the variation in input material and still get efficient production such that it is a commercial process.

    Forgive me if I want to wait until they actually start producing commercially before I believe it.

  80. pat says:

    9 April: Reuters: By Barbara Lewis and Foo Yun Chee: New EU rules on energy funding phase out subsidies for renewables
    Funding green energy will become harder under EU rules published on Wednesday designed to replace subsidies with market-based schemes, just when the Ukraine crisis has heightened the need for alternatives to imported fossil fuel.
    The executive European Commission said the guidelines, which will be gradually phased in, strike a necessary balance after fierce political debate about the cost of green subsidies.
    “Politically, it’s the best balance possible. We were obliged to establish a lot of trade-offs,” the Commission’s competition chief, Joaquin Almunia, told reporters.
    But green energy campaigners, who protested outside the Commission headquarters in Brussels, said the rules were a victory for industry and a blow to the renewables sector as well as ordinary consumers.
    The rules take effect from July 1 this year and from 2017 all member states will have to hold tenders to support new green power facilities following a pilot phase from 2015-16.
    The idea is to replace feed-in tariffs, which have little or no relation to market reality but have spurred renewable development, with auctions or bidding processes open to all green energy generators competing equally for government funds…
    Following extensive lobbying from companies, the new rules allow for exemptions in special circumstances, including sparing energy-intensive industries such as chemicals, metals, paper and ceramics from helping to pay for renewable power. That leaves ordinary household consumers to pick up the bill…
    CITIZENS ‘LOSE TWICE’
    Environmental groups and the renewables lobby are concerned the EU’s renewed emphasis on increasing energy security and weaning itself off Russian gas because of instability in transit nation Ukraine will lead only to more use of coal and efforts to develop shale gas, not more green power.
    “It’s the whole contradiction of the Commission, which asks that we learn from the Ukraine-Russia crisis and then gives in to corporate lobbies,” Claude Turmes, a member of the European Parliament representing the Green Party, told Reuters.
    “Citizens will lose twice: they will pay for industries’ new free ride and will continue to suffer from an outdated energy system.”…
    However, the latest guidelines do not include rules on aid for nuclear energy. This means if member states want to fund such projects, they need to notify the Commission, which will assess requests on a case-by-case basis.
    The omission was a blow to Britain, which wants to use state guarantees to help finance a nuclear plant to be built by France’s EDF…
    ***The industry exemptions cover 68 sectors in all.
    As European energy costs exceed those in the United States, where shale gas has reduced prices, Eurofer, the European Steel Association, complained that even with the waivers it faced a competitive disadvantage.
    (Additional reporting by Ben Garside in London; Editing by Dale Hudson)
    http://news.yahoo.com/eu-rules-energy-funding-phase-subsidies-renewables-134639321–finance.html

  81. michael hart says:

    I hope they remembered to weigh BOTH electrodes before and after the experiment.

  82. Gamecock says:

    bhiggum says:
    April 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    It’s not a perfect fuel, but it’s far better than depending on other countries for petroleum.

    ================

    Not a perfect fuel? It’s an inert filler, i.e., NO FUEL AT ALL. When they put 10% ethanol in gasoline, my mileage went down 10%.

    BTW . . . we’re still importing petroleum.

    In fact, the U.S. uses 365.65 million gallons of gasoline a DAY. DD making 30 millions gallons a year in Iowa is spit in the ocean. To make enough alcohol agriculturally to replace gasoline in the U.S. alone, you would need 600,000,000 acres of land. Nearly a million square miles. How is plowing up the country “far better than depending on other countries for petroleum?” It’s not desirable, looking beyond it’s not even possible.

  83. Mike T says:

    “Ethanol? Who needs it?” I do, for one. In Australia E10 is 95 octane and cheaper than 91, 95 and 98 octane “normal” unleaded petrol. I get better economy from E10 than the other fuels, and save up to 20 cents per litre. Considering that I cover 900km in a day sometimes, that’s a considerable saving. E10 fuel is uncommon in my part of Oz, however, in part because it’s not state-mandated (state as in NSW, WA etc) and ethanol is not produced, at least in any quantity, in my state of residence. Australia has a good number of in particular, turbocharged European cars, which require at least 95 octane petrol, E10 is a cheaper way of obtaining 95 octane fuel without the incurring sting of 95 or 98 octane unleaded, which can be 10-20 cents per litre dearer depending on location.

  84. lee says:

    ‘Oxide-derived copper, on the other hand, is made of copper nanocrystals that are all linked together in a continuous network with well-defined grain boundaries’

    What is the cost of producing the anode, on top of the copper cost?

  85. Alcheson says:

    Very nice, but pointless research at this time. Unless CO2 is a pollutant and we are out of inexpensive liquid transportation fuels, this is and will always be a horrible idea. Even with their high efficiency reaction, it will take almost twice as much energy to PRODUCE the ethanol than you will get out of it. So, it only makes sense if the energy source for this comes from nuclear or hydro and there are no cheap sources of hydrocarbon fuels available (as in we have already pumped it all out of the ground).
    Thus to reiterate, since at 400ppm CO2 is NOT a pollutant and we are not out of inexpensive hydrocarbon fuels…..

  86. Steven Mosher says:

    RIF

    “Ultimately, Kanan would like to see a scaled-up version of the catalytic cell powered by electricity from the sun, wind or other renewable resource.”

  87. Dermot O'Logical says:

    I think this has real potential.

    If we make the aim to stabilise CO2 levels, then the doomsday scenarios no longer apply. We would then be able to continue to use fossil fuels (discarding the finite resource arguments). The annual increase in global CO2 concentration is approximately 2ppm at this time. That’s the amount that needs to be sucked back out. No doubt that’s gigatonnes of ethanol, so it will be difficult (understatement).

    You use the unreliable (i.e. intermittent, unpredictable) power created by renewable sources, and dedicate them to this conversion of CO2 to ethanol. This ethanol is the ‘battery’ that stores the power from the renewables.

    You use existing power plants to provide reliable (i.e. constant, predictable) baseline power as at present. Maybe supplement their fuel with this ethanol (I’m not a chemist / chemical engineer – clever people may know / can figure out how to do this) or use the ethanol in cars.

    Bottom line – the fossil-sourced carbon is recycled, preserving existing reserves. Power generation is stabilised.

    No doubt many of us here will dismiss the need to do any of this to counteract AGW issues, but it does present many useful benefits that provide reasons to pursue the technology.

    /dream

  88. ferd berple says:

    TAG says:
    April 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm
    US Navy creates fuel from seawater.
    ==============
    Mother nature has been doing this for hundreds of millions of years. Turning limestone and seawater into “fossil” fuels using iron as a catalyst and the heat of the earth’s interior as the energy source. The result is methane.

  89. hunter says:

    1- Where do we get the CO without combustion?
    2- If CO2 is so bad, then perhaps it should be recalled that ethanol produces CO2 when it burns?
    3-Can this be run on a net positive energy basis at all?

  90. Kjetil Nesheim says:

    Read the text: It’s not CO2 they convert, but CO and that is not the same. There are allready many way’s to convert CO to fuel.

  91. Reblogged this on YFN Georgia LLC and commented:
    A very interesting breakthrough. If commercialised, it may dramatically reduce the acreage occupied by grain crops grown for ethanol, and consequently enhance global food security.

  92. lee says:

    Kjetil Nesheim says:
    April 9, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    ‘Kanan envisions taking carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere to produce carbon monoxide, ‘

  93. Victor Frank says:

    Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but Carbon Monoxide certainly is! If any of you are thinking about doing this at home, Carbon Monoxide is deadly.

  94. Steve says:

    The field corn used in ethanol production is already not a food crop for humans. The spent malt can be used as high-grade livestock feed, though.

  95. RonPE says:

    A solution looking for a problem.

  96. george e. smith says:

    “””””…..Gamecock says:

    April 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    bhiggum says:
    April 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    It’s not a perfect fuel, but it’s far better than depending on other countries for petroleum.

    ================

    Not a perfect fuel? It’s an inert filler, i.e., NO FUEL AT ALL. When they put 10% ethanol in gasoline, my mileage went down 10%……”””””

    Well what did you expect.

    Ethanol is Ethyl alcohol C2H6O often written C2H5OH but its just Ethane C2H6 + O or you can write it as 2(CH2)+H2O.

    Any alcohol is just n(CH2) +H2O

    So it contains water, which is about as low as you can get on the stored chemical energy scale. Well you can get a bit lower by adding salt; AKA seawater.

    And yes Ethanol gives you less energy than burning Ethane and by just the amount you get when you burn hydrogen to get water.

    So they literally are just adding water to the gasoline when they add any “oxygenate” to the fuel.

    And that is superfluous, because any ordinary automobile already contains a device for oxygenating the fuel.

    In most of these vehicles, the oxygenator apparatus is usually called an “engine”, or maybe a “motor”. Its sole purpose is to oxygenate fuel to create heat, which heats the working fluid often called “air” to produce rotary motion of some of the oxygenator parts.

    Ethers do the same thing as alcohols, but they don’t taste as good as ethanol.

    You can actually add your own water to the gasoline, without any ethanol or ether; and it actually works much better. You need to buy a water injector to fit on your rotary oxygenator to then add your own ordinary tap water, which is cheaper than ethanol.

  97. cnxtim says:

    Scientists ‘doing science’ how refreshing and novel.

  98. Twobob says:

    If stored in oak barrels for more than 3 years.
    Would it be Whisky or Whiskey?

  99. Berényi Péter says:

    Distributing carbon monoxide directly to homes while people are fast asleep is a more efficient way to reduce their carbon footprint. Still, converting a small amount of it to ethanol in advance and feed it to the general populace may prevent public disturbance over the process by making them unaware of the treatment, otherwise it might be considered inconvenient by some, inducing violent behavior.

  100. H.R. says:

    Where is their computer model and why aren’t we doomed?

  101. Jim Cripwell says:

    Rob, you write “Forgive me if I want to wait until they actually start producing commercially before I believe it.”

    Fair enough. There have, indeed, been too many failures. Let us wait until the end of this year, and then take a look at what has happened.

  102. Gamecock says:

    Dermot O’Logical says:
    April 9, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I think this has real potential.

    If we make the aim to stabilise CO2 levels,

    ===========================

    Well, sure, with that aim, many bizarre practices might become reality. But the aim itself is nonsensical.

  103. Jim G says:

    Probably been some redneck making shine back in the hills this way for a long time and these guys just stumbled upon it and made it more complicated than necessary.

  104. philjourdan says:

    Sorry Bhiggum – those are not “subsidies”. Oil companies get to use GAAP rules for expenses before declaring a net income. That covers costs and depreciations. They do not get money for being oil companies. And the last one? That is amusing, but that is called working the system – tax avoidance. indeed, even the IRS says that tax avoidance is a good thing. Yell at Apple for sequestering their profits off shore to avoid the confiscatory taxes of the US (highest in the industrialized world).

    The problem with so many jumping on the “Big Oil Subsidy” wagon is they hear the talking points and repeat them without understand what they are talking about. A “Subsidy” is when the government GIVES you money (or if it is a private subsidy, when a person does). NOT paying taxes is not a subsidy as the money never belonged to the government in the first place. At least not in the US – yet.

  105. Rud Istvan says:

    There are a number of these developments, all with promise and limitations. Bioengineering includes Sapphire (algae) and Joule (Cyanobacteria). To solve water [problem in high insolation] areas, need bioreactors. And need CO2 as feedstock . Synthesis route include from methanol, methane and carbon monoxide. This appears a hopeful step away from Fischer Tropsch methods. There is another synthetic catalyst company able to make diesel direct from methane that will have a pilot plant next year.

  106. Jim G says:

    Steve says:
    April 9, 2014 at 10:14 pm
    “The field corn used in ethanol production is already not a food crop for humans.”

    It is for cattle and hogs and wasting it for the dubious benefits derived from use as a gasoline additive still raises the price of food. Also, most crops are in many ways interchangeable economically, as land used to raise one cannot be used to raise another,simultaneously (some hay and some wheat crops excluded), like wheat or beans .

    For my part you could also put the lead back in gasoline and stop all of this foolishness.

  107. Phil. says:

    Berényi Péter says:
    April 10, 2014 at 2:06 am
    Distributing carbon monoxide directly to homes while people are fast asleep is a more efficient way to reduce their carbon footprint.

    Europe and the US did this for about 150 years but switched to methane in the 60s and 70s.

  108. Jake2 says:

    I’ve been wondering why we don’t use the next alcohol up in the chain for fuel – 1-propanol or propanol-2 (isopropyl alcohol). I’ve seen talk of using the next one, butanol (and I hear biobutanol REALLY stinks). Propanol holds more energy – can anyone tell me why we’re not using that as a fuel additive? Is it too expensive to make? Is it harder on engine parts than ethanol? Does it not mix well with gasoline?

  109. Phil. says:

    george e. smith says:
    April 9, 2014 at 11:22 pm
    “””””…..Gamecock says:

    April 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    bhiggum says:
    April 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    It’s not a perfect fuel, but it’s far better than depending on other countries for petroleum.

    ================

    Not a perfect fuel? It’s an inert filler, i.e., NO FUEL AT ALL. When they put 10% ethanol in gasoline, my mileage went down 10%……”””””

    Well what did you expect.

    Ethanol is Ethyl alcohol C2H6O often written C2H5OH but its just Ethane C2H6 + O or you can write it as 2(CH2)+H2O.

    Any alcohol is just n(CH2) +H2O

    So it contains water, which is about as low as you can get on the stored chemical energy scale. Well you can get a bit lower by adding salt; AKA seawater.

    And yes Ethanol gives you less energy than burning Ethane and by just the amount you get when you burn hydrogen to get water.

    So they literally are just adding water to the gasoline when they add any “oxygenate” to the fuel.

    And that is superfluous, because any ordinary automobile already contains a device for oxygenating the fuel.

    In most of these vehicles, the oxygenator apparatus is usually called an “engine”, or maybe a “motor”. Its sole purpose is to oxygenate fuel to create heat, which heats the working fluid often called “air” to produce rotary motion of some of the oxygenator parts.

    Yes George the volumetric energy content of ethanol is lower than gasoline, however it has a higher octane rating and so the engine can be run at a higher compression ratio or better ignition advance so that the efficiency will be better.

    Also the analysis you made is not quite correct.
    2(CH) + H2O contains 4C-H bonds available to produce energy
    whereas:
    ethanol contains 1 C-C, 5 C-H and 1 C-O available and has to create 1 O-H.

    C-C 347kJ/mole, C-H 413, C-O 358 and O-H 467

  110. Phil. says:

    Jim G says:
    April 10, 2014 at 6:26 am
    Steve says:
    April 9, 2014 at 10:14 pm
    “The field corn used in ethanol production is already not a food crop for humans.”

    It is for cattle and hogs and wasting it for the dubious benefits derived from use as a gasoline additive still raises the price of food. Also, most crops are in many ways interchangeable economically, as land used to raise one cannot be used to raise another,simultaneously (some hay and some wheat crops excluded), like wheat or beans .

    The product left from production of the alcohol is still used for feed only the starch is used, see:
    http://www.adm.com/en-US/products/feed/corn-co/Pages/default.aspx

    For example:
    Golden Gluten™ wet corn gluten feed

    - Cost-effective alternative to traditional feed
    - Protein- and energy-rich
    - Can make up 20 to 50 percent of dry matter in total ration
    - Fed with silage, alfalfa hay or haylage
    - Stimulates digestion in the rumen for better protein utilization and improved feed efficiency
    - Can help reduce sub-acute acidosis

  111. bhiggum says:

    Here’s what I said, philjourdan-
    if you want to call the RFS a subsidy, well, then you should also call the tax breaks the oil refiners get subsidies.
    I understand what subsidy is, and that’s why it irritates me to hear people say ethanol is subsidized. I completely agree that too many people hear talking points and repeat them without understanding what they are talking about.

  112. David Chappell says:

    “The field corn used in ethanol production is already not a food crop for humans.”

    Indeed, it’s fed to animals who convert it to meat, which, when last I looked, is a food crop for humans.

  113. Nylo says:

    jim2 says:
    April 9, 2014 at 1:38 pm
    There is already a company with a process to convert CO2 to ethanol, gasoline, and diesel. They are building a commercial plant.

    In which way is it “commercial”? They claim to have achieved a production of 8000 gallons/acre/year outdoors. How many people will need to be hired for the operation of the plant, per acre of extension? Because even if they sell the whole yearly 8000 gallons production directly at current market price for automotive gas, the revenue doesn’t cover one person’s salary. And I didn’t yet account for the other costs of the production. So even if it happens to be true that the productivity is several times higher than with other systems, I can’t say I’m impressed.

  114. more soylent green! says:

    I’m from Missouri, so you’ll have to show me the books when if this process ever makes it into commercial use. Will it be able to produce fuel at a competitive price without subsidies or mandates? Show me.

    A related question — While fossil fuels are highly-concentrated energy sources, it take energy to refine crude oil into gasoline. So how much energy does it take to produce a gallon of gas? I realize the quality of crude oil makes a difference, as does the efficiency of the refinery.

    And please, please don’t respond with specious arguments that Big Oil is subsidized, too. Big Oil is among the top taxpaying industries in this country and the net taxes paid by the industry far exceed the subsidies or special tax breaks.

  115. Kjetil Nesheim says:

    Rule off thumb is about 15%, but a more detailed descreption have a look her:

    http://gatewayev.org/how-much-electricity-is-used-refine-a-gallon-of-gasoline

  116. ATheoK says:

    blockquote> “Dermot O’Logical says: April 9, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I think this has real potential.

    That is one of the saddest comments thus far…

    Sorry Epi Not’Logical; Mankind is only responsible for a small portion of CO2. The earth and oceans are responsible for the majority of CO2 emissions; both past present and future.

    If you’re gonna be happy when you can keep, say 400ppm (parts per million!) CO2 than you better be ready to pump massive quantities of CO2 back into the atmosphere in a hurry when CO2 ppm levels fall.

    Any, in fact all warming attributed to CO2 is beneficial to mankind!

    Below a certain level, plants suffer for lack of sufficient CO2. The sheer fact that CO2 enhanced greenhouses grow faster greener and better plants is a hint that CO2 is already on the low side.

    Any cooling due to a lack of CO2 is detrimental to mankind! This is easily provable, (unlike CO2 warming alarmist claims), just by reading history! Cooling atmosphere is not good for man in the short or long run!

    /dream This ending leaves me truly puzzled.

    Is your post sarcasm?

    If so, I’ll ask nicely for you to please state so, bluntly. I’m one of those clueless males who needs hints applied via baseball bats or hockey pucks. I’d have said hockey sticks too, but since the mid nineties hockey sticks just aren’t worth the paper anymore.

  117. anticlimactic says:

    The problem with any energy production is the EROEI – or energy returned on energy invested. For corn ethanol it was proved that it takes 20% more energy to make than it produces.

    With the above process it will be the same or we have a source of infinite energy!

    If it takes less energy to produce ethanol from CO2 than it creates then the resulting CO2 can be re-input to the system in an infinite loop.

    It doesn’t seem likely! Much more likely it will need more energy to produce ethanol than the ethanol will create – so what’s the point?

  118. Bruce Cobb says:

    Mike T says:
    April 9, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    “Ethanol? Who needs it?” I do, for one. In Australia E10 is 95 octane and cheaper than 91, 95 and 98 octane “normal” unleaded petrol. I get better economy from E10 than the other fuels, and save up to 20 cents per litre.
    Fine, but ethanol needs to be able to compete on its own merits, without subsidies, without “carbon credits” and without mandates, and I highly doubt it could do so.

  119. ATheoK says:

    From (a href=http://www.usnews.com/opinion/economic-intelligence/2014/03/11/obamas-2015-budget-backs-costly-corn-ethanol-subsidies> US News “…Now for the bad news. Less than a month after signing the farm bill into law, the president proposed new subsidies for ethanol blender pumps in his FY 2015 budget proposal. The overall budget was released last Tuesday, with detailed back up documents following in the last few days. Buried on page 158 of the “Analytical Perspectives” document, released Monday, is up to $200 million in new advanced energy manufacturing tax credits for the “construction of infrastructure that contributes to networks of refueling stations that serve alternative fuels,” or in other words, more subsidies for corn ethanol blender pumps and other alternative fuel infrastructure projects. Such is the power of the corn ethanol lobby.

    The corn ethanol industry has received more than its fair share of subsidies over the past 30 years. Through federal tax credits, loan guarantees, grants and other subsidies, billions of taxpayer dollars have been squandered on an industry that relentlessly seeks additional special interest carve-outs. A nearly identical tax credit to the one proposed by the president – the “Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit” – has been available to gasoline stations dispensing 85 percent ethanol. It expired last year but has a history of being renewed in “tax extenders” packages. A federal Renewable Fuel Standard also mandates the use of 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol by 2015. While the biofuels industry as a whole was intended to help achieve American energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and spur rural economic development, the corn ethanol industry has fallen short of achieving these goals while spurring numerous unintended consequences and long-term liabilities that have resulted in more harm than good.

    All told, more than $3.3 million has been spent on corn ethanol blender pumps, in addition to numerous other federal subsidies. Instead of using the budget to reinforce one of the very few good policies in the farm bill, the administration is proposing to undo it and increase this amount by up to 66 times. Unfortunately, this time the bad news wins the day.”

    Congress has gone after the ethanol subsidies. POTUS and his shills keep trying to sneak them back in. Nonetheless, ethanol has received substantial subsidies over the last few decades.

    Ethanol may raise the octane slightly. As a fuel it works better for backpackers but not mountain climbers or for backpackers heading into arctic conditions.

    If it was so great for cars, then cars should be using alcohol with perhaps a gasoline additive.

    It used to be that people, especially those that are some distance from local pumps or those located in dense urban areas with price gougers, could install a tank and buy bulk gasoline.

    Not anymore. Ethanol not only has an OH as part of it’s formula it has a strong affinity to more OHs and collects HOH (H2O) from the atmosphere. The higher the humidity, the faster it collects.

    Water has a bad habit of not staying in suspension in gasoline or oil. When the H2O percentage reaches a certain level in the gas or fuel the water settles out and happily takes it’s ethanol pals with it.

    The fuels themselves degrade faster than prior to the ‘ethanol additions’. If a large tank of fuel isn’t used fast enough, engines really don’t like the fuels, nor do the engine owners who find themselves tearing down fuel systems, injectors, and somewhat less frequently engines.

    No if, ands or buts I get to rebuild all of my two cycles engines every other year and new seals for the carburetors every year. I have to pull out and replace all paper fuel filters several times a year as they get soggy.

    Diesel fuels get to enjoy ethanol infusions also…

    Those engines that like having water in their fuels are the ones where water in injected directly into the cylinders, not included as the fuel directly. Much like adding nitrous to a fuel system.

    If ethanol is so great for fuels, then there is no need for ‘Laws’ requiring ethanol usage!

    Therefore, any ethanol ‘mandated’ for inclusion into a fuel is technically a ‘subsidy’.

  120. Michel says:

    Seems to be one more announcement before proof of concept, as Nature is now getting us used to.
    What is the process to economically and safely produce Carbon MONOxide?
    What is the energy balance of the proposed process?
    How long does it take for these wonderful copper-oxide anodes to be clogged?
    Photosynthesis is a pretty inefficient way of “de-burning CO2″. And this one?

  121. philjourdan says:

    @Bhiggum – Thank you for the clarification. I jumped too quickly. I guess I was just getting antsy for that Big Oil Check. ;-)

  122. Michael J. Dunn says:

    I would make two points in addition to the ones already covered:

    (1) Just burn the CO to CO2. No fuss, no muss. The fact that it is the result of inefficient primary combustion raises the question of whether it makes better sense to improve that upstream process instead.

    (2) Everyone seems to accept the assertion that human CO2 production causes increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. I will assert that it has absolutely no effect. The atmospheric CO2 concentration is the result of a vapor pressure equilibrium between atmospheric and oceanic CO2. (I believe I have read in these webpages that the ocean contains about 70 times as much CO2 as the atmosphere, so the oceans rule.) It doesn’t matter what we do; the natural absorption and production processes will adjust to maintain the equilibrium condition, which is generally set by temperature. This is called Le Chatlier’s Principle, and it is covered in every first-year university chemistry class. (An interesting source might be the pools of liquid carbon dioxide that have been discovered on the sea floor.)

  123. george e. smith says:

    “””””….

    Phil. says:

    April 10, 2014 at 7:07 am

    george e. smith says:
    April 9, 2014 at 11:22 pm
    “””””…..Gamecock says:

    April 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm…..”””””

    Well Phil, I’m more than happy to let you dot the t,s and cross the i,s I simply went by the “hets of combustion numbers from old handbooks.

    People keep telling me how ethanol increases the octane rating, which lets you raise the engine compression ratio and increase the “efficiency” of the engine.

    I get all that. Believe me, I studied sports car design in great detail, and how to make high power engines.

    But the fact is, that California (regular) gas is still 87 Octane, with the ethanol, and it was 87 octane with the MTBE before we made them get rid of that, and it was 87 octane when it had tetra-ethyl lead in it, and it will still be 87 octane, after we get the ethanol out.

    As you well know, the longer carbon chain molecules give higher octane ratings. Octane is much higher than methane or ethane; just try running those in an ordinary engine.

    Also it is very well known that the increased power of high compression engines burning high octane fuels, is a direct result of increased thermal efficiency due to the MUCH HIGHER temperatures and pressures, found in high compression engines.

    Those higher temperatures and pressures, that give higher efficiency also are the conditions that result in the engine also burning the nitrogen in the air to make NOx, and it is for that very reason that high compression engines are banned in the USA.

    All cars sold in America must operate properly, on ordinary 87 octane fuel. Yes a lot of yuppie cars recommend that you use premium fuel. But they can’t require that you do so. They have to run properly on 87 octane fuel
    (in the USA)

    Those same combustion conditions, also result in an enormous increase in the bearing loads in the engine, so the standard Detroitosaurus maximus Vee-8 engine is sadly deficient in crankshaft bearings, when you try to run at high compression ratios.

    Superchargers run even lower compression ratios, and pressures, and temperatures, so they create less NOx, but are also lower thermal efficiency, so you end up with radiator cooling problems. But it can be made to work, by driving the supercharger from an exhaust gas turbo.

    Maybe ethanol is high octane. High octane gasoline is also high octane; but high octane gas has more carbon, and less hydrogen, than low octane gas, so you get less energy and more CO2, CO and unburnt C from high octane fuel usage.

    The reason, the yuppie cars recommend premium gas, is because the push the envelope a bit on compression, so their cars carbon up and start pinging sooner, So they perpetuate the myth of 50,000 mile tuneups, by recommending premium, so you don’t notice the pinging.

    There’s lots of ways to make high power cars; if you don’t mind the EPA knocking down your doors.

    My Subaru impreza, gets 50 +MPG at 60-65 mph on hiway 101, when construction bottlenecks let me actually drive at 60-65 mph.

    My long term overall average speed right now is just 18 mph. I have never driven at 18 mph in my life. It is road construction and traffic lights that eat up gasoline.

    They can raise the café standards to 100mpg, and it won’t change things one iota; the traffic lights breed, and more and ore incompetents, are given driver’s licences, and allowed to clutter up the roads.

  124. stas peterson says:

    It amazes me about the gullibility of people who should know better, Given the proper amount of energy you an make Gold. But you don’t get anything for FREE. All of man’s technology does is make useful products from other things by adding energy.

    You would have perpetual motion machines if you could manufacture fuel, burn it, and then reconstitute it on an energy gain basis.

    Unfortunately the world doesn’t work that way!

  125. Janice says:

    So, where do we find a bunch of water that is saturated with carbon monoxide? Because if there isn’t naturally-occurring carbon monoxide saturated water, then it has to be made, which takes energy, which means that this concept is like using the “free” energy from sunshine or wind.

  126. Matthew R Marler says:

    rgbatduke: Way cool.

    I agree.

  127. Matthew R Marler says:

    stas peterson: All of man’s technology does is make useful products from other things by adding energy.

    PV panels and wind turbines make electricity from sun and wind, more electricity than was consumed in their manufacture. Electricity powers catalysts to make CO from CO2; and electricity powers catalysts to make ethanol from CO. There is no perpetual motion machine involved in getting liquid fuel from sunlight and wind.

    The question is whether the manufacturing can be scaled up and prices reduced sufficiently to make a liquid fuel (and industrial feedstock) this way cheaper and more reliably than other sources of liquid fuel. After this invention announced today, it looks possible.

    Solar and wind are not the only sources of electricity of course, and in most places in the US not the cheapest. By running the base generating electricity power plants more at night, it might be possible now, following this announcement, to use these catalyzed reactions to make liquid fuel and industrial feedstocks cheaper than those based on petroleum. I don’t know, but it is clearly worth some investment to find out.

  128. Gamecock says:

    Matthew R Marler says:
    April 10, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Solar and wind are not the only sources of electricity of course, and in most places in the US not the cheapest. By running the base generating electricity power plants more at night, it might be possible now, following this announcement, to use these catalyzed reactions to make liquid fuel and industrial feedstocks cheaper than those based on petroleum. I don’t know, but it is clearly worth some investment to find out.

    ====================

    You are pretty free with Other People’s Money.

    If it’s your money you are talking about, pls accept my apology.

  129. theBuckWheat says:

    It is so foolish to use food crops as the feedstock from which to assemble molecules of vehicle fuel products when non-food feedstocks like coal could be used. At the very least, ethanol mandates tie the world price of food grains to the world price of petroleum.

  130. Cc says:

    Carbon Monoxide Questions and Answers | CPSC.gov
    https://www.cpsc.gov/…/Carbon-Monoxide…/Carbon-Monoxide-Questions-…
    Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, …

    So, take the output of coal plants as well as steam from cooling towers. Am I missing something here? What are you going to do for food and the loss of water used in the production of ethanol?

  131. ATheoK says:

    “Matthew R Marler says: April 10, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    stas peterson: All of man’s technology does is make useful products from other things by adding energy.

    PV panels and wind turbines make electricity from sun and wind, more electricity than was consumed in their manufacture. Electricity powers catalysts to make CO from CO2; and electricity powers catalysts to make ethanol from CO. There is no perpetual motion machine involved in getting liquid fuel from sunlight and wind.”

    Oh? What’s the payback schedule on your PV panels and wind turbines? I’d be surprised if you achieve payback before the productive lifespans of those generators are over. That’s with tender loving care and maintenance which only bring to costs higher.

    At this point in time the only reason PV panels and turbines make it seem worth utilizing are the subsidies.

    Replacing generation capabilities before they’re fully paid for means they cost more than the fuels they’re replacing. Both panels and turbine efficient productive lifespans are out there, without gloss, fluff or other sales pitches.

    “The question is whether the manufacturing can be scaled up and prices reduced sufficiently to make a liquid fuel (and industrial feedstock) this way cheaper and more reliably than other sources of liquid fuel. After this invention announced today, it looks possible.”

    Even with ‘this’ invention? This is a proposal, not a guaranteed solution! When they have a fully constructed set up producing cheap fuel without hidden tricks, then call us.

    Scale up? Prices reduced? Fancy talk. What does it mean? Explicitly! Forget the ‘dropped words’, glib phrases found in popular mechanics or other drivel. Explicitly state the terms necessary, the costs defined, exactly how and when scale is achieved and exactly how much prices will drop.

    “Solar and wind are not the only sources of electricity of course, and in most places in the US not the cheapest. By running the base generating electricity power plants more at night, it might be possible now, following this announcement, to use these catalyzed reactions to make liquid fuel and industrial feedstocks cheaper than those based on petroleum. I don’t know, but it is clearly worth some investment to find out.”

    More dreamy phrases, speculative words and with them you are still describing ‘perpetual motion’ machines and some irrational logic leap from bad energy efficiency concepts to competing with Earth’s millions of years carbon fuel accumulations.

    Then you follow that with a evanescent wisp of thought that you don’t know but it’s worth investment… Which, by investment, I suppose you mean our money.

    Not if I have any choice! As I mentioned above, when there is an operating, fully functional facility, then it is worth considering for investment. Before that point, you can be the philanthropist; though gambler is usually the term used.

  132. Dr. Strangelove says:

    This is just electrolysis. Why are these scientists impressed with 57% efficiency? Alkaline electrolysers used to produce hydrogen fuel from water have 80% efficiency, and water is cheap and abundant vs. carbon monoxide. Yet electrolysis of water is still expensive. This new technology will be even more expensive as you have to produce carbon monoxide. You want cheap fuel? It’s in your kitchen. Just remove the impurities in your used cooking oil. That’s biodiesel. It has 3x more energy than the explosive nitromethane fuel used in drag racing. Cooking oil can power a jet engine, instead of throwing it in the kitchen sink.

  133. Gail Combs says:

    bhiggum says:….
    Do you understand the difference between a tax break (you get to keep the money YOU EARNED) and a subsidy (You get to STEAL money from everyone else)?

    And I go along with the others. Corn is not a ‘nice plant’ It is a big feeder and needs a lot of room to grow. Translated that means it wears out the soil, promotes erosion and promotes run off of fertilizers/chemicals into rivers and streams. Also because of the demand, grass filter strips are no longer used and farmers are plowing from the edge of the road to the edge of the next road making erosion even worse.

    I refuse to rent my bottom land (next to a big river) to a guy who wants to plant corn for all these reasons.

  134. Matthew R Marler says:

    Gamecock: You are pretty free with Other People’s Money.

    If it’s your money you are talking about, pls accept my apology.

    Now that the catalyst has been invented (and assuming for now that others can repeat it), whoever can produce enough of it at a low enough cost stands to earn a lot of money doing so. I’d bet that the first people to give it a good try would be those large-scale users of industrial catalysts the oil refineries. Especially if they can make butanol instead of ethanol, a task that has already been carried out with different catalysts. Liquid fuels are right up their alley.

    Liquid fuels are made from carbohydrates, coal, natural gas and petroleum. This opens up a fifth way to make liquid fuel from abundant and widely distributed feedstocks. All of the methods of producing liquid fuel consume energy and labor. Whether this method becomes competitive remains to be seen, but the announcement makes it seem likely. And for what it’s worth, this method will still be available to us if the other feedstocks become rare or expensive.

  135. Matthew R Marler says:

    ATheoK: This is a proposal, not a guaranteed solution! When they have a fully constructed set up producing cheap fuel without hidden tricks, then call us.

    Scale up? Prices reduced? Fancy talk. What does it mean? Explicitly! Forget the ‘dropped words’, glib phrases found in popular mechanics or other drivel. Explicitly state the terms necessary, the costs defined, exactly how and when scale is achieved and exactly how much prices will drop.

    I agree wholeheartedly that those are pertinent points that need to be addressed. For examples that there is a possibility, consider the steep drops in the costs to manufacture other catalysts for fuel production (used in refineries), the steep drops in the costs to manufacture fiber-optic cables, communications satellites, cell phones, microprocessors and such.

    There is not a guaranteed solution! The only guarantee is that whatever is not studied will not be learned. Imagine if you will a nation with a large industrial infrastructure that imports liquid fuel. Can they make their liquid fuel cheaper with this new technology in 5 to 20 years or by continuing to import liquid fuel? There is only one way to find out. The answers will not be learned by the nations and companies that do not follow up on this development.

  136. Matthew R Marler says:

    ATheoK: More dreamy phrases, speculative words and with them you are still describing ‘perpetual motion’ machines and some irrational logic leap from bad energy efficiency concepts to competing with Earth’s millions of years carbon fuel accumulations.

    No perpetual motion machine is involved. I described a different way to make liquid fuel from coal, which might or might not be cheaper than the Fisher-Tropsch process, which is neither cheap nor efficient, and which requires large capital investments per installation.

  137. anengineer says:

    Demonstrated on the lab bench, now how about a pilot plant?

    90% of the ideas fail at each stage of scale-up. Bench to pilot, then pilot to small scale, and finally small scale to commercial, only 1 in 1000 actually works.

  138. Larry Butler says:

    More geniuses will end up murdered in the desert, not far from their lab, and the new technology that threatens the status quo will simply vanish like many others have in the past…..

  139. Larry Butler says:

    http://www.worldcarfans.com/111101237346/smart-cdi-wins-the-mpg-marathon-with-a-9924-mpg-rating
    Here in Ameristan, I’m not allowed to buy the Smart I wanted. I’m only allowed to buy the 36mpg Smart made for Ameristan with its 75hp, 3cyl, gas guzzling Mitsubishi engine that REQUIRES 93 octane gas, a requirement other posters have said is not legal in 87-octane Ameristan. Not true. Daimler-Benz has produced the Smart gas guzzler for Ameristan since 2008.

    On topic….Ameristan will never be allowed to have a vehicle that comes near 100mpg except the tiny percentage of electrics, which, if ever successful, will drive up the price of electricity to $5/KwH to support all the heavy recharging, making the pollution much worse, especially nuclear we have no idea what to do with its waste except bury it and pray.

  140. Big Mac & Chips says:

    Wait a moment folks…..
    “Kanan envisions taking carbon dioxide (CO2)
    from the atmosphere to produce carbon monoxide”

    So he “envisions” that does he, but I’m afraid that it
    will take rather more than an “envisioning” to accomplish
    such a process, and due to the conservation of energy laws
    it will of course cost energy and thus the “system” will not
    Create ANY energy, only Destroy some energy in every
    cycle of the process. If that were not the case, then the laws
    of Physics must have changed.

    How exactly will the “magic” process of creating all this
    required Carbon Monoxide actually work. I mean is there
    any valid process to do that, If we require Carbon Monoxide,
    usually we simply make it in a Coking Column, with COAL.

    I hope Kanan isn’t waiting for the so called “Sandia Reactor”
    which is supposed to be solar powered and produce vast
    amounts of CO from CO2, In 2007, the company stated that
    the reactor would be full operational “by the spring” (2008).
    By November 2009, more than two years later …
    “Sandia researcher Rich Diver tinkers
    with the CR5, a potential breakthrough”

    By May 2011, the “process” was still being described as an
    “Experiment”, which the Sandia team in New Mexico estimates
    that it “could make” diesel or jet fuel for roughly $10 per gallon.
    And after adding on distribution costs and a profit margin, who
    would buy this fuel, even supposing that they “could” make it ?

    On Sandia’s website TODAY, information about this Magic Process,
    hasn’t changed, since they updated a Dec 2007 press release in
    Nov 2012. In this press release, Sandia state that ….

    “To realize this concept, Sandia’s S2P team is addressing
    and solving complex chemical, materials science, and
    engineering problems for the prototype thermochemical
    heat engines and crucial enabling metal-oxide working
    materials. They must also demonstrate techno-economics
    of a full system (sunlight to liquid hydrocarbon fuels) are
    viable in a competitive market place. The team has proven
    the concept in the laboratory ”
    http://energy.sandia.gov/?page_id=776
    (Note Sandia is part of The US DoE)

    Alas “TheTeam” has not proven this IN REALITY !!!!

    No other potentially theoretically economically viable
    model of producing Carbon Monoxide from CO2 has
    even been proposed by anybody.

    Sandia’s main business is developing and using CO2
    in liquid phases as a gas coolant in nuclear reactors.

    Bah !

    ….. more stuff and nonsense

Comments are closed.