Over the years, Energy Fairness has been very vocal about the need for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies. CCUS could be a significant step forward for decarbonizing our electricity sector. We’ve pointed out that CCUS has benefits beyond the electric industry as well. For example, CCUS could be used to decarbonize the cement and steel industries. Now, a team of Oxford University researchers have discovered an exciting new application for captured carbon dioxide.
The team at the Oxford Chemistry department, led by professor Peter Edwards, has successfully converted CO2 gas directly into jet fuel using an inexpensive iron-based catalyst. Previous successful attempts to convert captured CO2 into jet fuel have proved to be both difficult and expensive, making them unlikely to become a mainstream option for air travel. So what’s changed? The Oxford team believes their new process can eventually be a cost-competitive fuel option that will help eliminate the massive carbon emissions from air travel.
“As you can imagine, we are really excited about these results and the impact they will have on sustainable aviation fuel,” Oxford researcher Benzhen Yao told Forbes.com. “Under the pressure of climate change, our discovery will contribute significantly to worldwide sustainable fuel production processes.”
“The smaller number of processes inevitably leads to higher efficiency and lower cost,” Yao added, explaining that the iron compounds used were much less expensive than the cobalt compounds used in other processes.
The fuel produced by the Oxford team is functionally identical to the fuel currently used by planes, making it a viable alternative. But what exactly is the cost? Comparisons to current fossil-based jet fuels are difficult at the moment, but researchers believe that it could become cost-competitive in time as CCUS technology advances.
What’s next? Edwards and his team plan to begin collaborating with industry to build the world’s first net-zero emission aviation fuel demonstration plant. Having access to cleaner fuel could be fantastic news for both the aviation industry and carbon-conscious travelers, as well as in the battle to reduce global carbon emissions.
Back on our side of the pond, good news came for the carbon capture industry in the form of the Covid relief stimulus passed at the end of 2020. Tucked inside the bill was a provision by Congress to extend the crucial 45Q tax credits for carbon capture technology as well as $2 billion in new funding for six U.S. projects designed to demonstrate the real-world operability of innovative new CCUS technologies.
As the science behind CCUS technology advances, we are finding that there can be countless applications for captured carbon dioxide beyond the electric sector. Discovering a new, cleaner jet fuel could just be the tip of the iceberg, but with very positive implications in the global efforts to reduce carbon emissions.