Synthesis of Green Hydrocarbons Using the AIR TO FUELS™ Technology

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Senior Design Reports (CBE)
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Biochemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Chemical Engineering
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Our AIR TO FUELS™ project is based off a process designed by Carbon Engineering by the same name which seeks to synthesize liquid fuels from capture carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere. The need for reduced greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is more urgent than ever and becoming more dire by the day. Still, our society’s reliance on liquid fuels like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel is deeply rooted in our infrastructure and certainly not changing quickly or soon. The AIR TO FUELS™ process seeks to tackle both of these problems by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in order to produce 2000 bbl/day of liquid fuels that work with our vast existing petroleum-based infrastructure. This AIR TO FUELS™ plant can be easily segmented into four different portions of the process, each accomplishing an integral step in the production of synthetic fuels. Perhaps the most important is the carbon capture step, making use of the patented Direct Air Capture technology to strip carbon dioxide from the air and purify it to the level needed for the production of syngas via the water-gas shift reaction. Syngas is then converted to alkanes using the nearly century old Fischer-Tropsch process and these alkanes are purified with a network of flash drums and a distillation column. Products generated from this final step are heavy alkanes (waxes and lubricants) to be sold, light gases to be burned in lieu of fuel gas in several of the gas-fired heaters used in the plant, and pure gasoline and diesel range alkanes, to be sold to refiners who will then blend these alkanes into usable fuels. Due to this final step necessitating the cooperation of oil refineries, it is germane to locate the AIR TO FUELS™ plant near large concentrations of these corporations, which indicates that the Gulf Coast of Texas is a suitable choice. This agrees with other factors such as high humidity, subsidies for renewable energy, and large swathes of available land, and as such, the area near the city of Corpus Christi, Texas is considered ideal. While the science and engineering behind our AIR TO FUELS™ process design are solid, its economic prospects are not. We hope to sell our product as green synthetic crude oil at $72/bbl, charging a 1.2x premium for both its cleanness (free of heavy metals, NOx, and SOx) and greenness. The total capital investment of our project exceeds $2.2 billion, including $812 million in solar panels to ease our 500 MW electricity costs, $378.5 million in electrolyzers to generate hydrogen, $300 million in catalysts and normal chemical processing equipment, and $6.8 million in high capacity fans for our carbon capture system. On top of the massive capital investment, the daily operating costs of our design far outweigh our daily revenue, guaranteeing our project to be unprofitable. These daily costs come mostly from the utilities - the replenishment of our CO2 absorbing solution and its salts costs $86.74/bbl, and the cost of the remaining utilities (cooling water, steam, refrigerant, etc.) is $55.75/bbl. We hope that the ongoing development of solar panel and electrolyzer technologies alongside improvements in the efficiency of our design could one day make our AIR TO FUELS™ process profitable.

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