As part of a $125,000 grant from the Connecting through Research Partnerships (Connect) Program, UTSA and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) have initiated a collaboration bringing together two catalytic processes into a single reactor with the goal of recycling carbon from CO2 for the production of low-cost hydrocarbon fuels.
Grant Seuser of SwRI’s Powertrain Engineering Division and Gary Jabobs of UTSA’s College of Engineering and Integrated Design are at the helm of the project which hopes to deliver cleaner power generation. The collaboration is especially significant given studies that show greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise by approximately 17% by 2040 —the result of increasing energy and transportation needs in the developing world.
Through a process called carbon dioxide (CO2) hydrogenation to produce cleaner renewable liquid hydrocarbon fuels for transportation, Seuser and Jacobs intend on building a single reactor with the ability to perform two chemical processes in a single step. The catalytic process known as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is a tested process that dates back nearly 100 years.
“Fischer-Tropsch synthesis was discovered in Germany about a century ago and is still used in places like South Africa and Qatar to convert coal and natural gas into liquid hydrocarbon fuels,” Jacobs explained to UTSA Today. “Plant capacities (are) ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of barrels of fuel per day. It will be an interesting challenge to integrate this catalytic technology into a process that uses CO2 in the feed.”
The research potentially is a game-changer that would lend itself to finding solutions for critical issues such as the climate crisis, “Reducing the complexity of converting CO2 into hydrocarbon fuels would have a big impact,” Seuser said. “Finding a way to produce low-carbon fuels and maintain our current energy infrastructure is critical to avoid further increases in Earth’s temperature.”