Ask Carbyon Anything
Why is carbon removal important?
Suppose we can stop all excess CO2 emissions by 2050, then global warming will continue for another 300 years as a result of the CO2 released into the atmosphere over the past 150 years. IPCC reports indicate that we will fail to achieve the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement without solutions to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
It’s like with the oceans: it is not enough to stop dumping plastic waste in the oceans, we also have to tackle historical pollution to prevent marine life from being destroyed. It is the same with the atmosphere: we will have to tackle the historical pollution with CO2 in order to stop global warming. What The Ocean Cleanup wants to do with the plastic waste in the oceans, Carbyon wants to do with the CO2 waste in the atmosphere.
- If this is not an excuse for the use of fossil fuels: everyone can continue to pollute, because Carbyon will take it back from the atmosphere.
Our goal is to stop the use of fossil fuels. By combining green hydrogen with CO2 from air it is possible to make any fuel or chemical for which today fossil oil and gas is needed. So CO2 from air is the missing piece to finally stop the use of fossil oil and gas.
Unfortunately , we cannot do everything with electric batteries. Batteries have a very high weight per amount of energy. This makes it impossible to apply in the transport sector unless for smaller passenger vehicles.
Large parts of the transport require energy carriers that contain a lot of energy per volume and weight. Only chemical compounds of H2 and CO2 offer this possibility.
No, you should use H2 for those applications for which H2 is suitable as an energy carrier. But H2 is not easy to store – it has to be pressurized to limit its volume. That makes it unsuitable for applications such as aviation. Such applications must have an energy carrier that occupies 10 times less volume than H2 .
But both technologies support each other: the production of renewable fuels obviously requires first producing renewable H2 . Large-scale installations for the production of renewable fuels will lead to an increase in scale of the electrolysers for the production of renewable H2 and thus to a reduction in the price of renewable H2 .
Renewable fuels are much cleaner than fossil fuels. They only contain what you put in them: H2O and CO2 . So no sulfur or other polluting components that you find in fossil fuels.
When you burn it, you simply get back H2O and CO2 , the 2 components with which you made the renewable fuel. The only drawback is that upon combustion a residual fraction of NOx is created but this can be perfectly be neutralized with catalysts by means of an after-treatment.
CCS technology is necessary to reduce current CO2 emissions , but CCS technology does not help to develop an alternative to fossil fuels. If you were to make new fuels with the CO2 that you capture when using fossil fuels, then that new fuel is not renewable because in that scenario you still continue to add fossil CO2 to the atmosphere.
The principle is that the loop must always be closed:
The fossil loop: if you use fossil fuel, you need to recover the CO2 and store it underground to close the CO2 loop. Only in this way you can avoid the release of CO2 into the atmosphere as a result of the use of fossil fuels . This is at most a temporary situation as long as there is no alternative to fossil fuels.
The renewable loop: use renewable electricity, water and air to produce fuel. This can be done in an infinite cycle without adding CO2 to the atmosphere.
Is this not too expensive?
No, that’s exactly what our innovation is all about. We have reduced energy consumption by a factor of 5 to 10 compared to the first generation technology. To give you an idea: a solar panel located in a sunny region like the Middle East will generate about 15 MWh during its lifespan. With Carbyon’s technology, this is enough to remove 15 tons of CO2 from the air, which is the annual emission of the average Dutch person. So, an annual investment of one solar panel per person provides enough energy to make this person CO2 neutral.
- Are renewable fuels not very inefficient: you lose 50% of the energy in the conversion of renewable electricity from a renewable fuel.
Energy transition is about economics, not about efficiency. If we can produce affordable renewable fuels, it will help to stop the use of fossil fuels.
The problem is not the lack of renewable energy. There is a thousand times more energy from the sun reaching the earth every day to power the energy needs of humans over an entire year. What we need is right incentives to build solar farms and wind farms to capture that energy. The production of renewable fuels is a strong incentive for the industry to build solar farms and wind farms dedicated for the production of renewable fuels.
Certainly, but that is technologically not possible. Currently 20% of our energy consumption is electric. We may be able to bring that to 50% in the long term, but those are just about the most favourable predictions.
In any case, you will have to convert part of the electricity to another energy carrier : H2 or a combination of H2 and CO2 .
What about biomass?
We should do that, but it is an illusion that we will solve the climate problem with it.
A tree needs time to grow. During the first 20 years, trees remove little CO2 from the air . Trees that we are planting now will therefore only be able to make a contribution within a few decades, and that is much too late.
A tree is only a temporary storage of CO2 . When the tree dies, you have to process the wood in such a way that you can capture the CO2 and still put it underground. You usually do this by burning the wood and capturing the CO2 with CCS technology . This is called BECCS. So there is much more to it than planting trees.
Biofuels are currently the only affordable alternative to fossil fuels, even though they are twice as expensive as fossil fuels . But the downside is that it requires a lot of land and that leads to aberrations such as large-scale monocultures that displace natural rainforests worldwide.
That is why Europe has now imposed a maximum on “conventional” biofuels. From now on biofuels must come from waste flows, but of course there are not many of them. A recent study by the DENA institute has shown that biofuels can only make a limited contribution for this reason.
Risks of underground storage
Underground storage of CO2 will take place in depleted oil and gas fields. These are geological layers in which oil and gas have naturally remained locked up for many millions of years and are therefore ideal for the storage of CO2 . In fact, you send the CO2 back to where it came from. The underground storage of CO2 in depleted oil and gas fields has been extensively researched worldwide and there is broad consensus that this does not pose any safety risks.
That is also the reason why the Netherlands has now also started to expand storage capacity in depleted gas fields under the North Sea.
With the totality of all oil and gas fields in the world, there is a gigantic storage capacity for CO2 . That is not the problem. But you do have to get the CO2 to the oil and gas fields. This may pose a problem for the capture of CO2 from flue gases (CCS) as the major industrial plants that use fossil fuels are usually far removed from the oil and gas fields. Just think of all industrial sites in Western countries that run on oil and gas from overseas extraction areas. The transport of CO2 is very expensive and it will not be feasible in practice to transport the CO2 that we capture in the west to the Middle East or other places in the world where our oil and gas came from.
This is possible however with a technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. In that case, you use air as the means of transport for CO2 and place machines near the empty oil and gas fields to remove the CO2 from the air and put it underground on the spot. This saves you an expensive CO2 transport infrastructure.