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back to article Carbon capture to biofuel process gets go-ahead

An Australian company is planning to install a carbon capture system that will turn a coal-fired power station into a biofuel production facility. The company, Algae.Tec, still has some fund-raising to do, but it's signed an agreement with Macquarie Generation to build its facility at the 2,640 MW Bayswater power station in the …

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MJI
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A sensible idea at last

This new comment editor is a bit pants.

But a vey good idea using the exhaust as plant food.

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Energy, Energy, Energy!!!

While from an Eco-MENTALIST, point of view this sounds great, less CO2.

However, converting this CO2 into fuel, takes energy, so where is this energy coming from?

The Algae will help the situation, which indicates solar, but as the information on the process is so limited it's hard to tell.

This system would work well if it can use the waste heat from the generation, (i.e. increasing the efficiency of the plant), but there is no mention of how it works, so...

Agree with above, the new Comment editor is rubbish, Tabbed view for the icons doesn't work.

Suggest a check box with Show/hide icons (default setting saved to login) that way those who use icons can and those who don't, don't have to look at them.

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How does this reduce CO2 emissions?

Doesn't sound like it reduces emissions at all. Instead of emitting the CO2 straight into the atmosphere they are passing it through algae first. But the CO2 still ends up in the atmosphere ultimately when the algae fuel is burned. If it isn't being stored (locked away) then it isn't reducing emissions. You still have a flow from locked away coal into the carbon cycle.

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How does this reduce CO2 emissions?

It's best thought of as an efficiency measure. The carbon gets burnt twice, so you get approximately twice as much useful energy per tonne of CO2. So the CO2 emission per unit energy is cut in half.

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Meh

Re: How does this reduce CO2 emissions?

Cut *nearly* in half: there are still losses to take into account such as building the new infrastructure and transporting the biofuel. But yes you are both right: yes it is an efficiency measure, and the carbon will move from locked in the ground to unlocked in the atmosphere. Not ground-breaking but better than nothing.

What would be better would be a system which grows algae which are then burned in the power station, the emissions from which are then used to grow algae, which are then burned in the power station, the emissions from which are then used to grow algae, which are then burned in the power station, the emissions from which are then used to grow algae, which are then burned in the power station, the emissions from which are then used to grow algae . . . sunshine input and electricity output (but would it just be easier to build a PV array?).

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Facepalm

"How does this reduce CO2 emissions?"

Easy - they turn it into algae.

What happens after that is completely irrelevant... It gets made into a REPLACEMENT fuel... It's not like people will drive their trips twice if they use this fuel. Think about it.

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Holmes

I have my doubts...

It is very hard to get an algae specie that can serve as both food for cattle and bio-fuel maker. Perhaps they are using genetic engineering? Or even worse the whole thing is a scam to take the hopeful coal industry for a ride, or even worse yet - they already know it isn't going to work, but have to scam the government to get an expansion to the plant. Governments aren't happy about supporting coal plant expansions in the US unless they are natural gas powered. This is not carbon neutral, but will at least stem the tide of carbon explosion in world wide energy needs.

I hope they are right, and I hope the feed stock at least equals what natural gas brings to the table, and reduces the emissions to near methane burning exhaust levels. The bio-fuel would at least slow the introduction of carbon into the atmosphere, and after all - it is better than no carbon filtration. I think they need to concentrate on a method and specie of algae that can grow explosively and efficiently and simply ship that back to the coal mine in the coal car train. The cars are empty all the way back to the mine, so this at least gives the load a useful mission. They could bury it in the mines for the next iteration of coal burning several thousand years from now - if in fact dry algae doesn't burn almost as good as coal to begin with?

Come to think of it dairy farms are already powering their operations with cow farts and poop methane, so even what carbon is not locked in the cow's (or our bodies for eating them), will serve another purpose in generation of power. Even putting algae underground may cause methane to build up in unused mines. They may have to build explosion proof robots to deposit the load in the abandoned mine; but vents can tap off the methane produced. As I said before - not carbon neutral but at least carbon complicated! HA!

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Carbon is the building block of life

There was a story on Landline (abc.net.au/iview) about this very process of turning captured carbon into algae. They discovered the most efficient species for doing this are found in Australia and the carbon dioxide can be used to produce a number of different species, some which produce stock feed, others various forms of beta-caratine used for supplements and natural food colourings amongst other things which is profitable in itself, plus a by-product can be used to make biofuels which improves the bottom line even further and is icing on the cake, as the scientist put it.

Obviously, a good proportion of the stock feed passes through the other end of the cow as manure which is then collected and sold to the gardening trade as soil improver where it stays locked up as carbon-rich bio-matter. We still have cows farting and belching, but that's another problem for which someone else has to find a solution. Which reminds me of some other research where Aussie scientists are working on transplanting bacteria from a kangaroo's gut into a cow. Apparently this roo bacteria is much more efficient at breaking down feed without producing much methane in the process.

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