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Surrey team developing direct-air-capture CO2 to methanol process

Researchers at the University of Surrey (UK) are developing a process to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air and then use dynamic catalysis to create methanol—a valuable chemical that, made this way, could be carbon-negative. Its value could offset the cost of direct air capture.

The carbon negative chemicals synthesis directly from the air project has been awarded £250,000 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council through the Adventurous Energy Research for a Sustainable Net-Zero scheme.

Synthesizing methanol would constitute a significant advancement, coupling a presently expensive but necessary method of CO2 capture from the air, with the production of a substance that can bring some revenue to offset costs and further incentivize the scaling up of direct air capture.

The main challenge for our project will be reconciling the fact that commercial methanol synthesis takes place at high pressures (50-100 bar) and moderate temperatures (200-300 ˚C), while direct air capture is typically carried out in ambient conditions. We want to show that it is possible to produce methanol in mild conditions through dynamic catalysis.

—Dr Melis Duyar, project lead from the University of Surrey

If successful, the Surrey team will extend the project to show it is possible to synthesize other chemicals with a negative carbon footprint, such as sustainable fertilizer.

Pulling chemical building blocks directly out of the air can create a just-in-time process that will help us finally say goodbye to safety hazards such as storing large quantities of chemicals. Importantly, this process could boost the economy by spurring carbon-negative growth, as well as provide fuel security for the UK.

—Dr Duyar

The International Energy Agency has identified direct air capture and storage as one of the three biggest opportunities to achieve Net Zero and methanol production using hydrogen and CO2 as an important innovation gap.

One of the biggest advantages to direct air capture technology is that it does not rely on extensive land and water use, unlike alternatives such as biomass.

In 2020, the UK imported £145 million worth of methanol which amounts to 0.6-1.6 megatonnes of CO2, compared to 326 megatonnes total CO2 emitted by the UK that year.



Direct air capture is a huge waste of electricity


Indeed, you would be better off reducing the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation than using it in an inefficient manner to do this. people act like electricity will be free, or very cheap in the future, but it won't if you have to generate it from offshore wind or nuclear.
Some places may have very low solar, but the Uk isn't one of them (too far north, too many people / sq km).


@ durson; mahonj:
You're both so right but when a buck can be made, no matter how ignorant and stupid the procedure, there will always be a fool available to "step on stage". It doesn't matter how much energy is wasted in the due process, the only thing that matters is profit. This becomes overwhelmingly evident for the H2 process for mobility purposes.
Currently, the efficiency of electrolysis amounts to 70%. The efficiency of a FC reaches 60%. 60% of 70% ='s 42 %. That is already a loss of 58%.
Compressing the H2 for storage at a centralized point of H2-production at approx. 800 bar is achieved with a further penalty at 12%. The remaining efficiency is now at 30%.
The distribution of H2 from central storage to filling stations is accomplished via special tank trucks. Pumping the H2 from the storage tank to the tank truck penalizes efficiency with further 5% losses. The truck itself is propelled with either fossil fuel or an electric drive causing further efficiency losses dependent on the distance traveled. Upon arrival at the filling station, the H2 is pumped from the truck to the storage tank at the filling station lowering the overall efficiency once again.
Finally, the H2 at the filling station is pumped into the tank of a car via electric energy up to 800 bar and further lowering of the overall efficiency.
With lots of luck and a huge portion of optimism you may be able to achieve the overall 15% efficiency which I mentioned in my previous post. The improvement of the electrolysis process as mentioned in the article amounts to an approx. 5% increase when considering the overall "well to wheels" efficiency which is really nothing to brag about.
A BEV with an axial flux motor ( efficiency =/> 95%) with a Li-ion battery (newest SOA) easily achieves > 90% overall efficiency. Besides that, I wouldn't take an H2 vehicle as a gift, let alone buy one, because I wouldn't enjoy a ride atop an incendiary bomb. The corrective maintenance of those vehicles is ludicrously expensive because for safety reasons all piping in the car must be flushed with CO2 before initiating maintenance.


better off reducing the use of fossil fuels


@yoat, yes, H2 is very inefficient so it is better to use batteries where possible.
The question is - then what?
H2 - yeuch or
Diesel / Nat gas?
An idea I had is battery + catenary charging.
Thus, you have a bus or truck which can hook onto a pair of catenaries for charging (and propulsion) and longer parts of the run, and hook off and use batteries in city centres etc to avoid extra crossing cabling.
Could work in places where they already have trolleybuses.
Much easier to add extra lines or parts to lines with this system - as long as you can hook on and off without stopping (maybe slowing down a bit).


@ mahonj:
I'm placing my bet on the following.
Two American upstarts have successfully proven the principles as employed and explained under the above mentioned web-site. They used Deuterium and Tritium in their experiment. The disadvantage of those two elements is that they produce radioactive wastes. These wastes are rel. short-lived (approx. 50 to 100 years).
My preference is the HB11 fusion process because there are absolutely no radioactive results / wastes.
It'll take somewhere between 6 to 10 years for the clean version to be available for power production; the "dirty" versions have been announced to be available in the next 2 to 4 years.


Wow it's painful reading this [better if reduce fossil fuels] crap. Look at where you are, not where you wish you were. You're on Earth. The year is 2022. you can wish all you want. Might as well say "It would be better if we snapped our fingers and carbon magically was no longer an issue". That's about how successful this thinking is, in comparison to developing these nascent technologies, and using more nuclear, which are far
more viable in the short term.


@ GizBeat: Nomen est omen!
I'd suggest that if you have strong dislike for the posts appearing on GCC that you visit and read the Darknet which appears to be to your liking.

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