Published on March 11th, 2013 | by Mridul Chadha


UK Scientists Plan To Recycle Power Plant Emissions Into Fuel

March 11th, 2013 by  

Scientists of the Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh are working on photo-catalytic reduction technology which would recycle carbon dioxide emissions from power plants into liquid and gaseous fuels for the domestic and transport sectors.

Another positive aspect of this conversion process is the use of solar radiation.

A team of scientists led by Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer is working to generate ethanol, methanol and methane from emissions of power plants. The team is working on the next generation photo-catalytic reduction process that will yield higher quantity of fuels compared to the technology available at present.

West Burton Power Station, Nottinghamshire, UK

West Burton Power Station, Nottinghamshire, UK (Credit: Richard Croft | Public Domain)

The fuels products can be used for district heating in the domestic sector and as transport fuels in aircraft. While the domestic sectors are currently excluded from probably all emission reduction targets around the world, the international aviation industry is currently contemplating mechanisms to reduce emissions. Thus, successful production of liquid fuels from this technology may help the airlines reduce their carbon footprint.

A number of companies are working on such technology to recycle GHG emissions from industries. In 2009, the Arizona Public Service received $70.5 million in stimulus funding for a project to convert carbon dioxide emissions from a coal power plant into biofuel using algae.

One such company working specifically in the aviation fuels market is LanzaTech. The company uses a biological process to treat flue gases from steel plants, oil refineries, and other chemical industries. Through the process of fermentation the company plans to produce aircraft grade biofuel which can be used to power aircraft.

LanzaTech’s original technology works with carbon monoxide emissions but through an agreement with PETRONAS the company plans to extend the technology to include treatment of carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas wells to produce acetic acid, a high value chemical with applications in the polymers and plastics markets.

The technology of recycling emissions from energy-intensive industries could give birth to the next-generation of carbon mitigation across the developed world as well as developing countries. Such technologies can help shipping and airline sectors to take immediate steps to reduce carbon emissions. They would also enable developing countries support low-carbon economic growth and help curb their carbon emissions.

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About the Author

currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

  • Otis11

    That BBC article linked is some MAJOR GREEN WASHING.

  • Otis11

    While this may be a practical stop-gap solution, unless they plan on using GHGs already in the environment it is not a practical long term solution as the GHG is still emitted at the end.

  • Hans

    Smells like windowdressing. The same algae could produce biofuels using CO2 from the air.

    By the biofuels are a very inefficient way to use solar energy.

    • Hans

      Oops typo:

      By the way: Biofuels are a very inefficient way to use solar energy

  • Andrew

    This is a new idea hope so its successful on future.But its really a
    strange and unbelievable idea. so i have no surety that is it good or

    Industrial Waste Recycling

  • Andrew

    This is a new idea hope so its successful on future.But its really a strange and unbelievable idea. so i have no surety that is it good or not.

  • jdavies

    I don’t see this as very positive. This is still taking fossil carbon out of the ground and putting it into the carbon cycle, meaning an increase in carbon in the cycle. This is the opposite of what we need to be doing and not what I would hope ‘promising’ new technologies would be aiming to accomplish.

    It might displace some fossil fuel use, and so marginally slow the rate of increase of carbon into the cycle, but if it somehow makes all these old fossil fuel burners seem more viable, then it could have a net negative impact on our shift to renewables.

    Get the power stations burning renewable fuels, then it will be something to get excited about!

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