Efficiently Producing Fuels from Waste CO2 and Off-peak Wind or Other Renewable Energy

Updated 8/6/2012

WindFuels Overview

While almost no one noticed, the economics for producing clean fuels and hydrocarbons from water, waste CO2, and wind energy improved by a factor of ten between 2002 and 2008. Over the past five years, we have applied for patents on the scientific and technological basis for another factor-of-two improvement in the economics. We have shown that it will be possible (as soon as the plants can be built) to profitably produce high-purity carbon-neutral gasoline, jet fuel, alcohols, and many other hydrocarbons in volumes that cannot be matched by any other renewable avenue, from off-peak wind energy, waste CO2, and water.

Our breakthroughs permit production of gasoline, diesel, and other fuels and chemicals from waste CO2 and water on wind farms at twice the efficiency that was thought likely just three years ago.

WindFuels Concept

First, water and renewable electrical power are fed into an electrolyzer, which produces the hydrogen needed.

Then waste CO2 (from coal power plants) and the renewable hydrogen are piped into our novel Renewable Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis (RFTS) plant. There, they are converted into fuels and chemicals (including gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel).

• These fuels may then be readily stored and distributed by conventional means – pipelines and tanker trucks.

• The electrolyzer also produces a huge amount of oxygen, which may be sold if market conditions warrant, or it may be utilized in novel processes to improve the efficiency of the RFTS plant.

• There has been steady progress in the development of Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) processes for production of fuels and chemicals of all types over the past 30 years. Within the past 5 years, many of the needed advances have been demonstrated.

• We have pending patents and proprietary technology advancing the remaining key technical pieces. Our RFTS process is compatible with variable renewable energy sources, particularly wind energy, for producing alcohols and hydrocarbons from waste CO2 and water at maximum practical efficiency.

• We show that WindFuels has numerous economical and environmental advantages compared to all other renewable fuels that have been proposed.

Wind energy is by far our most competitive renewable energy resource. There is enough wind energy (in class 4 sites and higher, mean wind speed above 16 mph) to supply ten times the world’s current total electrical energy usage. The perceived challenge is getting wind energy from good sites to where and when it is needed, both for the transportation sector and for the power grid. Efficient conversion of off-peak wind energy into ultra-clean, stable, liquid fuels solves both the energy storage problem and the grid stability problem. In doing so, it allows wind energy to continue to grow rapidly at least through the middle of this century.

A Major Cut In CO2 emissions.
Many have said increased fuel efficiency in the transportation sector is the greatest opportunity for reducing CO2 emissions. However, even a very aggressive plan to that effect would reduce global CO2 emissions by under 5% compared to expected market forces over the next three decades – partly because cars have an average lifetime of over 17 years and because market forces alone will lead to improved fuel mileages at about the maximum practical rate of a few percent per year.

The only possibly viable option that has been on the table for dealing with climate change is CO2 separation (capture) and sequestration (CCS). Real-world experience over the past five years at several different sites suggests the cost for the sequestration alone – not including the cost of CO2 separation from the exhaust of coal plants – will be at least $30/ton of CO2. (A new DOE 1-million-ton sequestration demonstration project will cost $300/ton.) There is also still uncertainty about long-term stability and safety of CO2 sequestration on the scale of 10,000 times the current experimental level. Several studies have shown CCS is likely to stimulate earthquakes, and that much of the CO2 would leak out much faster than most have thought. In about 3 decades, WindFuels will eliminate the need for CO2 sequestration by recycling the CO2 from power plants (we do agree that sequestration should be implemented at new coal plants in the meantime).

Some might argue that WindFuels are not ideal because they don’t immediately eliminate fossil CO2, but economic realities are also essential. When WindFuels are burned, fossil CO2 is released at that point into the atmosphere (assuming it was made using CO2 from fossil-fueled power plants), but it has displaced the use of oil. We can use the CO2 from coal plants as a tool to eliminate our use of petroleum and natural gas (which together account for over 60% of our CO2 emissions) on a timescale that cannot be matched by any other option. At the same time, we will prevent coal-to-liquids from competing.

WindFuels eliminates the need for expensive CO2 sequestration by recycling the CO2 from power plants.

• WindFuels will be cheaper than heavy-oil products or cellulosic ethanol.

• WindFuels could be a one-trillion-dollar market in 18 years.

• WindFuels is the “greenest” transportation fuel solution yet proposed: Converting CO2 into gasoline, ethanol, diesel, jet fuel, and plastics – by the gigaton.

• WindFuels will be competitive with petroleum within six years, and WindFuels are scaleable globally in less than four decades to the 10 TW level because they are 80% based on systems currently in commercial production at the multi-billion-dollar level. Each terawatt of renewable power used in the advanced RFTS process will produce 4B bbl/yr of fuels and other high-value chemicals – which would likely be worth over 1.5 trillion dollars per year in less than 20 years.




"WindFuels Overview
" pdf Presentation

For those that are not scientists, or engineers or are not very familiar with chemical engineering, we have a WindFuels Primer to help you get started.
How are WindFuels carbon neutral?
No new fossil carbon is required. WindFuels use wind energy, waste CO2 (from coal power plants), and water to make clean alcohols and other fuels.
An average acre of land in the Dakotas, Kansas, or Wyoming will produce 4 to 15 times as much fuel from wind, water, and waste CO2 as an average acre of land in fertile farming areas devoted to biofuels – and do it much more cost effectively and with less societal and environmental impact
What is FTS?
Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis is a controlled chemical reaction involving carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2). The CO and H2 pass through a catalyst at high temperature and pressure, which causes the gasses to combine to form various hydrocarbons. If you run across the acronym “RFTS”, that’s merely an FTS process that is fueled through renewable sources – so it’s a Renewable FTS process.
The scalability of liquid WindFuels over the next four decades exceeds that of cellulosic ethanol by at least a factor of 5, and there are no major adverse environmental concerns.
The global growth rate in wind energy has averaged 22% for the past 17 years. Converting the off-peak wind energy (beyond that needed for the grid) to liquid fuels will allow this growth rate to continue unabated for another 20 years.

Installed global (peak) wind energy projection based on a fourth-order fit to the data from the past 17 years.
$$$ CO2 sequestration will be at least $30/ton. (A new DOE million ton sequestration demonstration project will cost $300/ton.) $$$
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