Solar reforming waste CO2 to diesel fuel

By | May 19, 2010

Posted June 2, 2010

An alliance of industry, academic and government organizations, formed to commercialize technologies that will utilize concentrated solar energy to convert waste carbon dioxide (CO2) into diesel fuel, was announced June 1.

The alliance team members include Sandia National Laboratories, Renewable Energy Institute International, Pacific Renewable Fuels, Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne (a United Technologies Division), Quanta Services, Desert Research Institute and Clean Energy Systems. In addition, commercial partners have signed on to advance work on the first round of commercial plants.

The project team has received a first phase of funding from the National Energy Technology Laboratory to demonstrate these technologies.

Total CO2 emissions in the U.S. have increased 17 percent from 1990 levels and, left unchecked, will continue to grow at about 1 percent per year. To address the challenge of climate change, the U.S. has set targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The solar reforming technology platform will be co-located next to industrial facilities that have waste CO2 streams such as coal power plants, natural gas processing facilities, ethanol plants, cement production facilities and other stationary sources of CO2.

"The alliance team members believe that the best way to accomplish CO2 reduction goals is to commercialize platforms that will utilize CO2 as a carbon feedstock for the production of valuable products, such as diesel fuel," said Dr. Dennis Schuetzle, president of REII.

Close to 60 billion gallons of diesel fuel are used in the U.S. every year, much of which is derived from imported oil. Domestic production of diesel fuel will jointly help the U.S. improve energy security while utilizing waste CO2.

"Sandia began working on research, development and demonstration of solar reforming technologies more than 20 years ago. We are pleased for the opportunity to extend these concepts in a public/private partnership that we expect will accelerate commercialization to accomplish our joint goals of CO2 emissions reduction and domestic fuel production," said Ellen Stechel, recycling CO2 program development lead for Sandia National Laboratories.

A solar reforming system is currently being demonstrated in Sacramento, Calif., and demonstrations will continue both at Sandia's facilities in New Mexico and at a power plant project site in Bakersfield, Calif. Planning for the first round of commercial plants is under way at several locations in the U.S. The project team anticipates that deployment of the first commercial plants can begin in 2013.

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