With skyrocketing global temperatures, increased natural disasters, and rising sea levels, never has humanity felt the wrath of today’s natural environment. Experts have pointed to global environmental and climate patterns that could spell an apocalyptic scenario if humanity seeks to continue living the way it is now. Despite the various opinions about climate change that exist within human societies, the global community is in unanimous consensus that there is a dire need for the people of the world to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the world begins to adapt to this new reality, inventors have been hard at work trying to find new ways for human communities to live with the energy needs that they have, while leading a carbon-neutral lifestyle.
Recently, some of the cutting-edge work being done with Power-to-X (PtX) technologies has had promising results. PtX technologies are ways or processes which turn carbon dioxide and energy into useful products and materials. The first stage of the PtX process involves the conversion of water into pure hydrogen. Then carbon dioxide is used to convert hydrogen into a gas or a liquid hydrocarbon. After this process is complete, the final product can include methane, kerosene, or other types of unharmful chemical products or fuels.
If producers are looking to use surplus energy to produce a gaseous final product, then Power-to-Gas (PtG) would be more than ideal. During this process, pure hydrogen is extracted from water, then liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), methane, or other gaseous products can be produced. It’s a technology that LPG producers would find lucrative with the ability to produce their fuel without demanding onsite fieldwork. From the environmentalist’s point of view, PtG would be an essential component to improving the planet’s atmospheric health through its use of renewable solar and wind power as an energy source.
Did you ever wonder what the future power source for transportation will be? It may not be long till passengers flying planes or enjoying a long-distance luxury cruise will get to enjoy their trip using a mode of transportation that runs on a Power-to-Liquid (PtL) technologies. This process has been proven to be ideal for the production of high energy density liquids, such as ammonia, methanol, and oxymethylene ether (OME); but it doesn’t stop there!
For the production of waxes and liquid fuel, methane gas can also be used as a carbon source in a process known as Gas-to-Liquids (GTL). GTL uses the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, which involves converting natural gas (in most cases, methane) into pure hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide, producing a mixture called syngas. Syngas then goes through a process where it is purified from water, sulfur, and carbon dioxide. Having ensured that the syngas is safe from any catalyst contamination, pure hydrogen is then combined with carbon monoxide to form liquid hydrocarbons, which can then be refined so that they can be used as gasoline, fuel, or diesel. According to the US Energy Information Administration, many leaders in the global energy sector have taken full advantage of this new technology by opening GTL plants, such as Shell which has GTL facilities both in Malaysia and Qatar. Sasol also operates a GTL facility in South Africa and another one in Qatar which is operated in cooperation with Chevron. Currently, the world’s GTL plants have production capacities ranging from 2,700 barrels per day (bbl/d) to 140,000 bbl/d.
PtX technologies are a potential opportunity that natural gas and fossil fuel producers can make use of to improve the environment while achieving impressive revenues, since there will always be a need for a carbon source. Though PtX technologies are widely accepted in the scientific community as something that might help realize the dream of carbon neutrality, it has still become the victim of criticism from those who have reservations about the use of fossil fuels and natural gas during any stage of the process. Many have pointed out that in order for these technologies to have a lasting effect, strict sustainability standards must be enforced. Nonetheless, experts have been diligent in reassuring environmentalists that the benefits would most certainly outweigh the costs.
With the advancement of environmental science and engineering, there’s no end to the possibilities that research can explore for humanity to live a more environmentally responsible future. Though the dire need for immediate change exists, so does the will to find a solution for humanity to live a prosperous life which is in harmony with its natural environment. PtX technologies represent only one of many revolutionary changes that the scientific community has or will witness in the near future.