Frequently Asked Questions
Some of the commonly asked questions that will help you better understand our ECR technology and the science behind it.
What are the sources of greenhouse gas emissions?
The primary sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in particular CO2, are transportation, electricity generation, industrial production, commercial and residential, and agriculture. Most emisisions come from burning of fossil fuels neccesary for the operation of factories, homes, vehicles. A smaller amount of emissions come from leaks from industrial or agricultural processes.
How are greenhouse gas emissions reduced to reach net zero goals?
GHG emissions can be reduced by combining a range of strategies such as increasing the efficiency of existing fossil fuel-based power plants, using renewable energy sources (e.g. wind and solar) and nuclear energy, switching fossil fuels to biofuels and hydrogen, applying carbon capture and sequestration, improving operating practices of factories, reducing and recycling wastes, and adjusting the methods for managing land and growing crops. Promoting nature-based strategies such as reforestation or ocean fertilization can have a long-term effect. To reach net-zero goals, reducing emissions is not enough. It is estimated that hundred gigatons of CO2 need to be removed from the atmosphere by the end of the century to keep the temperature increase below 1.5 Celcius degree.
Is the technology from CO2L Tech a type of carbon capture and storage ?
The short answer is no. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is a technology that allows for removing CO2 from the emission sources before it enters the atmosphere. It is based on the use of an absorbent (e.g. potasium/sodium hydroxide or monoethanolamine) that converts CO2 into carbonate salts. CO2 is then released by heating the absorbent, compressed, transported and pumped to underground. This technology has been known for a century but only a handful of CCS projects are active due to the hefty cost of installation and operation. Direct air capture (DAC) is a similar technology to CCS but it is used to capture CO2 from the air instead of emission sources. Due to the low concentration of CO2 in the air (about 400 ppm), DAC is even more expensive than CCS. In both cases, the whole process of capture and sequestration is energy intensive. Burying CO2 by itself has no financial benefits. In addition, there are risks of CO2 escaping the storage site as well as potential negative effects on the environment. In our case, CO2L Tech's technology focuses on carbon transformation, alleviating the risk of CO2 re-emission to the atmosphere.
What is the main technology of CO2L Tech?
Our technology is based on the electrochemical CO2 reduction (ECR), which is considered one of the most promising strategies to fix CO2 in a clean and efficient way. The proposed solution not only reduces CO2 but also produces value-added fuels and chemicals.
How does ECR work?
ECR electrolyzers consist of three main components: a cathode, an anode, and a membrane. CO2 gas is reduced to a desired product at the cathode, while water is usually oxidized at the anode side to generate oxygen and protons. The cathode and anode are often separated by an ion-exchange membrane to help balance the ionic charge while preventing the migration of products to the opposite electrode. The efficiency of an ECR system depends on the kinetics of the reactions occurring at the two electrodes, the transport of ions through the electrolyte and the membrane, and the diffusion of reactants and products in the system. In a simple way, an ECR electrolyzer works like a tree, in which CO2 and water are taken in and transformed into organic compounds and oxygen.
We can plant trees. Why do we need ECR?
To make it clear, we always support tree planting as well as other CO2 reducing efforts. Forest are crucial line of defense against climate change. But relying and focusing only on trees can never reverse climate change, no matter how many trees we grow. It is well understood that trees absorb CO2. The question is whether planting enough trees should be able to take back all the CO2 we are dishing out. The idea seems nice and easy but the real math is not always simple as "take in CO2, release O2". First, trees need time to grow, and on average would take 10 to 20 years to fully mature. Second, trees are not simply a carbon sink. As they approach maturity, the uptake of CO2 is balanced by the release of CO2 through decay of leaves and wood, and the respiration within the trees themselves. Third, planting seeds is easy. But what really matters is how people keep growing and maintaining the trees afterward. When trees die or deforestration happens, most of the captured carbon in trees is released back to the atmosphere.
What are the applications of ECR products?
The main ECR products are ethylene, syngas, and formic acid, depending on which catalyst is used. Ethylene is widely used in the chemical industry, mostly for producing polyethylene (PE) - the world's most used plastic. Ethylene oxide is produced from the oxidation of ethylene and is a key material for making surfactants and detergents. It is also the precursor to ethylene glycol that is widely used as an automotive antifreeze. The halogenation of ethylene gives ethylene dichloride, the precursor to vinyl chloride that can be polymerized to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The alkylation with benzene produces ethylbenzene, the precursor to styrene. Polystyrene is used for packaging, insulation, and in rubber for tires and footwear. Ethylene is also widely used in agriculture to control freshness of fruits. Syngas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Syngas can be used in the Fischer–Tropsch process to produce diesel, or converted into methane, methanol, and others in chemical processes. Methane is used as a fuel in homes. In the liquid form that is combined with liquid oxygen, methane can be used as a rocket fuel. Formic acid is mainly used as a preservative and antibacterial agent in livestock feed, especially for cattle’s winter feed. It is also added to poultry feed to kill E. coli bacteria. Another major application of formic acid is in the production of leather and textiles. Formic acid is also used as a coagulant in the production of rubber. Several formate esters are artificial flavorings and perfumes. Formic acid fuel cells, in which formic acid is fed directly, is promising for uses in small, portable electronics such as phones and laptop computers as well as larger fixed power applications and vehicles.