Consortium aims to convert carbon dioxide to diesel fuel

Paul Boughton
An alliance of industry, academic and government organisations has been formed to commercialise technologies that will utilise concentrated solar energy to convert waste carbon dioxide into diesel fuel. The alliance team members include Sandia National Laboratories, Renewable Energy Institute International (REII), Pacific Renewable Fuels, Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne (a United Technologies Division), Quanta Services, Desert Research Institute and Clean Energy Systems. In addition, commercial partners have signed on to advance work on the first round of commercial plants. The project team has received a first phase of funding from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to demonstrate these technologies.
Total CO2 emissions in the USA have increased 17 per cent from 1990 levels and, left unchecked, will continue to grow at about 1 per cent per year. To address the challenge of climate change, the USA has set targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The solar reforming technology platform will be located next to industrial facilities that have waste CO2 streams, such as coal power plants, natural gas processing facilities, ethanol plants, cement production facilities and other stationary sources of CO2.
Dennis Schuetzle, president of REII, states: "The alliance team members believe that the best way to accomplish CO2 reduction goals is to commercialise platforms that will utilise CO2 as a carbon feedstock for the production of valuable products, such as diesel fuel."
Close to 60billion gallons of diesel fuel are used in the USA every year, much of which is derived from imported oil. Domestic production of diesel fuel will jointly help the USA improve energy security while utilising waste carbon dioxide.
Ellen Stechel, recycling CO2 program development lead for Sandia National Laboratories, comments: "Sandia began working on research, development and demonstration of solar reforming technologies more than 20 years ago. We are pleased for the opportunity to extend these concepts in a public/private partnership that we expect will accelerate commercialisation to accomplish our joint goals of CO2 emissions reduction and domestic fuel production."
A solar reforming system is currently being demonstrated in Sacramento, California, and demonstrations will continue both at Sandia's facilities in New Mexico and at a power plant project site in Bakersfield, California. Planning for the first round of commercial plants is under way at several locations in the USA. The project team anticipates that deployment of the first commercial plants can begin in 2013.
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