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Methanol economy (Rev #2, changes)

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More importantly, methanol can also be produced from CO2 by catalytic hydrogenation of CO2 with H2 where the hydrogen has been obtained from water electrolysis. Methanol may also be produced through CO2 electrochemical reduction, if electrical power is available. The energy needed for these reactions in order to be carbon neutral would come form renewable energy sources such as wind, hydroelectricity and solar as well as nuclear power. In effect, all of them allow free energy to be stored in easily transportable methanol, which is made immediately from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, rather than attempting to store energy in free hydrogen.

CO2 + 3H2 → CH3OH + H2O

CO2 +2H2O + electrons → CO + 2H2 (+ 3/2 O2) → CH3OH

The necessary CO2 would be captured from fossil fuel burning power plants and other industrial flue gases including cement factories. With diminishing fossil fuel resources and therefore CO2 emissions, the CO2 content in the air could also be used. Considering the low concentration of CO2 in air (0.037%) improved and economically viable technologies to absorb CO2 will have to be developed. This would allow the chemical recycling of CO2, thus mimicking nature’s photosynthesis.

For more details, see the Wikipedia references and especially:

  • George A. Olah, Alain Goeppert and G. K. Surya Prakash, Chemical recycling of carbon dioxide to methanol and dimethyl ether: From greenhouse gas to renewable, environmentally carbon neutral fuels and synthetic hydrocarbons, Journal of Organic Chemistry, 74 (2009), 487–498.

category: energy, carbon