The Answer to Climate Change & Carbon Goals? Carbon-Neutral Synthetic Fuels for Electric Power Plants

Porsche has announced that they plan on building a carbon-neutral fuel refinery in Chile. Thanks to Chile’s sunny, windy climate, Chile makes for an ideal location to generate carbon-neutral fuels.

How does it work?

Well, you can capture CO2 from the atmosphere and hydrogen from water to make almost any hydrocarbon you can think of. It’s just a matter of chemical processing and some input energy to do the work. If you have carbon-free energy from wind and solar, you’re able to produce carbon-neutral (maybe carbon-negative) combustible fuels.

The original idea was to replace crude oil-based automotive fuels

And that’s a good idea. It may turn out that it’s a lot easier and perhaps less expensive than conventional oil drilling and oil refining. It’d be hilarious if it turned out to be the case, because honestly, this concept and science aren’t new. The only thing that’s somewhat new is solar, which means we could have been making this fuel in the 1980s.

But why not run conventional electric power plants with these fuels?

To me, this is the most immediate need. Most conventional power plants on the West Coast of the U.S. burn natural gas to make electric power. Why not swap that out with carbon-neutral synthetic fuels (or syngas)?

Many cities and states have carbon-neutral goals that are coming down the pipe. This might be the quickest way to achieve those goals. Electric power plants provide the base load consistently to their customers and users. Wind and solar are great, they just provide consistent power and most of the infrastructure just isn’t in place. But if you want to hit carbon goals quickly, a carbon-neutral fuel makes the most sense since you don’t have to create smart grids, or build hundreds of square miles of solar panels. Just switch fuels.

Let’s hope that the U.S. government puts some emergency pressure on getting this technology going ASAP.

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