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Carbon Sciences Developing Technology to Convert CO2 to Fuel

Carbon Sciences is developing a biocatalytic process to convert CO2 to low-carbon hydrocarbons. Click to enlarge.

Carbon Sciences, Inc., the developer of a CO2-to-carbonate technology that converts the gas into precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) for use in the production of paper, pharmaceuticals and plastics, is developing a process to transform CO2 into low-carbon hydrocarbons (C1 to C3) for subsequent upgrading into higher-carbon fuels such as gasoline and jet fuel.

Conventional processes for the conversion of CO2 to fuel include direct photolysis which uses light energy to break off the oxygen atoms in CO2; and chemically reacting CO2 with hydrogen to create methane or methanol. These processes require large amounts of energy due to high pressure and high temperature chemical processes, says Carbon Sciences, which reduce their economic viability for creating transportation fuels on a large scale.

A full CO2-to-fuels plant. Click to enlarge.

In contrast, Carbon Sciences says that it has developed a multi-step biocatalytic process that occurs at low temperature and low pressure, thereby requiring less energy than other approaches. The biocatalyst employed in each step of the process serves to create an intermediate carbon-infused compound that can be acted on by the next step with less energy. At the end of the process, the various carbon-infused compounds are assembled into basic hydrocarbons such as C1 (e.g. methane), C2 (e.g. ethane) and C3 (e.g. propane).

A complete CO2-to-Fuels plant would include the following components:

  • CO2 Flue Gas Processor: Crude purification of CO2 stream to remove heavy particulates. The Carbon Science process does not require high purity CO2, and so can use lower cost CO2 capture and processing.

  • Biocatalyst Unit: Regeneration of biocatalysts for the CO2 conversion process.

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

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

  • Conversion and Polishing: The output of the Filtration stage contains low hydrocarbon fuels. These hydrocarbons can be processed into higher fuels, such as gasoline and jet fuel, through commercially available catalytic converters.

Carbon Sciences says that it will be able to configure the CO2-to-Fuel process to produce a variety of hydrocarbon fuels by customizing the conversion and polishing stage and biocatalytic formulation.

Speaking in Cambridge, UK at the Entrepreneurship for a Zero Carbon Society conference, organized by CambridgeClimate and hosted by Cambridge University, Derek McLeish, Carbon Sciences CEO said:

Carbon Sciences has been working for some time on using CO2 as the feedstock for production of high value products. Since the world is highly dependent on the existing transportation and fuel delivery infrastructure, we view fuel to be the ultimate high value product.

In June, Carbon Sciences, Inc. signed a joint research agreement with Abo University, Finland to research carbon mineralization technologies. The company also announced the appointment of Dr. Naveed Aslam as Chief Technology Advisor.

Dr. Aslam has more than 14 years of research and hands-on process engineering experience in the petrochemical, organic and fiber manufacturing industries. For most of his career, he was a senior process engineer for Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At SABIC, his duties included responsibility for all aspects of process engineering during the preliminary and detailed design phases of a 125,000 tons per year ethylene manufacturing plant.

Most recently, Dr. Aslam served as a Research Fellow at the University of Texas, Houston, and Florida State University, Tallahassee, where he received the Outstanding Research Associate Award.


The Scoot

Don't we have something that does this already? Uh... what are they called again? Um... Oh, yeah!

Chlorophyll producing plants.


Synthetic Propane might be a better automobile fuel than Methane since Propane is not considered to be a greenhouse gas and it can be stored at a lower pressure in aluminum containers - propane powered forklift trucks.


The petrol industry is one of the worst emitter of co2. If they capture it in extraction and refining and make additionnal fuels with it then it will increase their fuel output while decreasing their pollution emissions.
We live in a 3rd world planet ruled by incompetants everywhere, especially u.s, japan, europe, goverments.
Who is breating polluted air and pay too much for gasoline, it's me so it's normal for me to tell goverments what to do. Do algae farming and this new method where co2 is emited to depollute and make fuel, use the sewage too. Do natural fertilizer with green algae farming, it will help to depollute water everywhere in north-america.


Converting concentrated CO2 versus dilute (PPM) atmospheric should be much more efficient.


The trick is getting all the H2 to do this. Concentrated solar thermal multilayer PV with SOFC electrolysis could help, but using CO2 for algae and plants seems more cost effective on a large scale.

Henry Gibson

Yes we will eventually capture CO2 and change it back to liquid fuels. It takes energy any way you do it. No process can be more than twice as efficient as converting the CO2 to CO and H2O by adding hydrogen and then running the CO and extra H2 though the catalysts needed to produce liquid fuels. Right now the US should install large methanol factories at coal mines where CO and H2 can be made from coal or natural gas. Nuclear power can make gasoline from CO2 and water at less cost right now than gasoline costs.

This company is proposing to make powdered limestone, but it can be mined out of the hills at less cost to make identical fuels. This is just another way of increasing the CO2 level in the air from the earth. This company is trying to make it sound like they can get nearly free fuel out of CO2. Oil shale is a much better deal, as there is net carbon energy for use in an oil shale rock. The rock is actually burnt in steam power plants in some places. Every power plant could be refitted for concentrated CO2 recovery that could then be piped to nuclear power plants to turn back into fuel. Propane is a much better automobile fuel than gasoline or hydrogen. DME, dimethyl-ether, can also be stored and used like propane but diesel engines can burn it. Diesel engines can also burn high levels of propane added simply to the intake air. ..HG..


You hit the nail on the head!
The funny thing about the company's website is that they do not indicate the source for hydrogen. Converting CO2 to fuels requires energy and/or a source of hydrogen (H2, water, etc.). [For ex: The "photolysis" processes mentioned react CO2 and water using light and a suitable substance absorbing the light and then transfer the energy to CO2 and H2O.]

A very interesting feature of the Carbon Sciences process is the use of relatively dilute CO2 streams, which means that they would save powerplants a load of money in CO2 concentration (amine absorption) costs.
About the algae, GreenFuel ( already does this, but I do not know what the scale-up potential is.

richard schumacher

If they start with flue gas then they're still part of the problem: fossil carbon still winds up in the air as CO2. Starting with coal is worse. Using atmospheric CO2 takes more energy but it's the only carbon-neutral way to make liquid hydrocarbon vehicle fuels.


Henry Gibson says: "Nuclear power can make gasoline from CO2 and water at less cost right now than gasoline costs."

No one knows what nuclear power really costs since we still don't have a method of waste disposal in the US. When the fully amortized costs of waste are considered, fission-based nuclear power will almost certainly be a colossal financial loser.

If you have any doubts about what I'm saying, just Google "Yucca Mountain."

stas peterson

Typical insanity sold as an environmental improvement to gullible green fools. Only green idiots believe that it would be economic to take fully oxidized Carbon and deoxidize it. So they can re-oxidize it once again, and then come out ahead on that deal. Too bad the Second Law of Thermodynamics gets in the way.

@Black Sun,

Please know that Nuclear is and was cheaper than all other electric power generation and has been for a long, long, time.

Back in the '60s it was the choice of Utilities managements whose full time job was to select the lowest price methods of generation. That was long before the fossil price rises due to OPEC, in the 70s.

All the so-called "renewables" are excruciating expensive, excluding cheap hydro which for some reason in now not a renewable, according to the "green" community.

The only reason they are built is politics. No utility management would do so in their right mind, other than to assuage the green fools. They are, by far are the most expensive sources and can't live without subsidy, even in today's high fossil price environment.

Those calculations were made by people betting real money and vast sums; not monopoly paper money by academics. Nor some fool green who can't count to eleven without taking off his shoe.

The extraordinary costs created by mindless greens purposely inflating costs, changed that temporarily, for thirty years. Finally reformed laws make such stalling and cost increases illegal to do, so we return to genuine costs.

Lo and behold, the Utility managers have appeared, not two years after the final reforms were enacted, and suddenly three dozen new nuclear plants are in various stages of acquisition.

So the measure of cost has been re-established, by those actually paying the freight, now that synthetic stalling costs are made illegal. All this is spite of no construction allowances in the rate base as promoted by "consumer advocate" demagogues, buying elections with phony promises of immediately lowered rates. In return for much higher rates after plant construction is completed.

The Utilities have already included the cost of waste disposal; have billed the costs to their users, as required by law, and have paid that that fee to the federal government, as required by law too. Some are now threatening to sue the government to provide the service for which they have paid.


"We live in a 3rd world planet ruled by incompetants everywhere, especially u.s, japan, europe, goverments."

Yes it true. And here in far east we have competent, not corrupt party that leads glorious big industry. Even now we have more CO2 than anyone but put it to end with powerful pollution control. Watch out west your pollution not winning!

The Utilities have already included the cost of waste disposal; have billed the costs to their users, as required by law, and have paid that that fee to the federal government, as required by law too. Some are now threatening to sue the government to provide the service for which they have paid.

Stan, the utilities have paid some arbitrary amount for disposal set by the government, which is "supposed" to cover waste disposal. But that doesn't mean we have any clue as to what it will ultimately cost.

Government is notorious for setting fees on a political basis. It's pure speculation. We don't know what it will cost to get Yucca Mountain open, and given likely restrictions and conditions, we don't even know what it will cost to transport the waste there if or when the time comes.

Plus, Yucca Mountain will be filled to capacity with just the backlog of existing waste.

What we have are hundreds of operating nuke plants that are also semi-permanent above-ground waste repositories. Until and unless this situation changes, nuke advocates are ignoring the elephant in the room.

Stan, your smear "green fools" pretty much discredits you with regard to even being able to discuss issues of sustainability. If not through green tech and green policy, what's your plan for closing loops and dealing with unpaid externalities economy-wide?


Black Sun,...
I have worked int the nuclear industry for over ten years now. I primarily work refeul outages. So the topic of storage/ waste disposal/ recycling comes up quite frequently. None of you have even touched on the recycling issue. Long ago in this country our more ecologically sensitive componenets as well as our politically correct factions lobbied heavily for the end of recycling of nuclear feuls. The European commonwealth did not do this and are " reusing " their nuclear feuls by processing them in breeder reactors there by getting even greater energy release and avoiding the need for expansion of uranium mining at its present rate. The idea that all the isotopes currently in spent feul pools or in on site storage areas ( that is where nearly every spent feul rod in america is .... at the very site it was expended on) will eventually fill up yucca mt. with a backlog still to come is at the very least pemature. The simple legalization of the breeder reactor process would allow for a reduction in environmental impact,.. slow the need for mining and its impact, ... as well as allow for recovery of energies that are currently untapped in feuls we already have secure in tightly controlled circumstances which lend themselves to a very well known and available "old technology process" if you will. Just as deregulation has jumpstarted the building of new reactors so will deregulation turn all of what is currently " waste" into a renewable energy source. Once we reuse all the feul currently sitting in storage we will also have had more time to consider and construct ( or finish construction) of appropriate sites and facilities.

stas peterson

@Gary and Black Sun,

American peace-niks decided to "set an example" in non proliferation, by a futile gesture in not reprocessing reactor fuels. This costly decision solved nothing, and accomplished zilch, except to get weeks worth of newspaper headlines, forty years ago.

It makes the waste disposal issue even bigger. Reprocessing to get the unused fuel out and reused, cuts the load on Yucca mountain by 90%, making it unlikely Yucca would ever be outgrown. It is better to get out the non-used fuel that is still in them, even though no one made a bomb from recycled fuel rods.

No one followed. Everyone else burns MOX and we are edging in that direction too, the sooner the better. Provided that the fools don't continue in office at the green establishments.

We need to burn fissile materials and transmute Transuranics to close the Fuel cycle, as Black Sun notes, even if he does not understand how to do it.

Getting rid of the Transuranics, Plutonium, Americium, etc, would make Yucca waste safe in a hundred years or so instead of thousands, and cut the quantities by 90% or more. But the enviro "leadership" would rather have radioactive materials lying around for some reason, rather than deal with the issue and solve it. Perhaps they thought this would prevent the Nuclear Renaissance, Sorry about that. And 19 have progressed enough to be seeking Combined Construction and Operating Licenses from the NRC.

Four have signed contracts to be constructed by the Utilities, meaning that the financing was arranged and in place. The thirty- five plants in the pipeline, up from zero in two short years, will raise our non-Carbon generation to over 33% from nuclear by 2016, less than a decade from now. They will provide the power for the fleets of Electrified cars that are coming.


Non existent Breeders not due until the late 2020s, are not the best Transuranic Actinide Burning plants. The still non-existent Fusion plants due a decade or so there after will be better. The Fusion neutrons @14 MEV, are energetic enough to "crack" any transuranic atom. Encapsulating Transuranics in containers in the Lithium breeding blankets are easy to do, and will add little complexity to a Fusion plant, except to make it more economically rewarding to construct.

I see few ways that breeders can be made as safe as the GEN III+ LWR designs, now abuilding. Nor the real benefit from designing or building them, except for one or two dedicated as Actinide Burners, perhaps built and operated by the TVA for the DOE. But one-offs are always very expensive. If Fusion were still a hypothetical concern, then breeders represent a backstop alternative; but Fusion is a certainty now. The last two major plasma instabilities have been conquered (RWM and ELM). All the advances that have been made while the debate about ITER took place, makes it only a a full scale confirming rather than a needed advance. After ITER, the next step is the first Commercial Fusion Demonstration plant, that will add electricity ot the grid.

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