Harnessing Harmful Gas Emissions for Good

Posted on Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Three wind turbines on a sunny day.
In Canada, wind energy produced almost 20 times more electricity in 2016 than it did in 2005. Yet, only 17% of Canada’s energy is generated from renewable sources.

Carbon dioxide and steam may be used to convert poplar wood into renewable energy source.

The world’s energy demands are ever-increasing with the growing population and urbanization. Renewable energy sources have great potential to meet this demand; however, fossil fuels remain the primary source of energy worldwide. The carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are released from burning fossil fuels are harmful to our health and contribute to climate change. Thus, finding a way to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere could help to minimize the effects of climate change and improve air quality.

University of Guelph engineering professor Animesh Dutta and his research team examined the use of gasification, which uses steam and CO2 to convert poplar wood into syngas (i.e. synthesis gas). Syngas is a fuel-gas mixture, consisting of mainly hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO), that is used as a fuel source in a variety of industrial processes. However, the usefulness of syngas depends on its ratio of H2 to CO. The research team used computer software to simulate how different gasification conditions changed the ratio of H2 to CO. They found that adding atmospheric CO2 helped bring the H2 to CO ratio to the desired levels.

“Recycling CO2 to create fuel from renewable resources may be one step towards solving our global CO2 emissions problem,” says Prof. Dutta, “Here we have shown that CO2 emissions can be used as an additive in the gasification process to achieve syngas with the ratio of H2 to CO required to make it a useful fuel source. This means that instead of releasing CO2 emissions to the environment, they can be captured and reused in industrial processes. Using this technique may help reduce emissions and ensure carbon negativity.”

This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Salaudeen SA, Acharya B, Heidari M, Arku P, Dutta A. Numerical investigation of CO2 valorization via the steam gasification of biomass for producing syngas with flexible H2 to CO ratio. J. CO2 Util. 2018. doi: 10.1016/j.jcou.2018.07.003


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