Imagine a HVAC system that captures cardon dioxide and water from the air to be converted into renewable hydrocarbon fuels that can take the place of fossil fuels.
This futuristic approach is a reality today, although on a small scale with little impact – for now. The challenge is to scale up the processes to create a “circular” CO2 economy that uses chemical processes to create renewable synthetic oil that substitutes for non-renewable fossil-based oil, while eliminating emission of CO2 and its impact on global warming.
retrofitting air conditioning systems
A technical approach to decentralized synthesis of hydrocarbon fuels based on CO2 is possible today by retrofitting air conditioning systems in houses, apartments and office buildings to capture CO2 and H2O from the air. Electrolysis of H2O can produce hydrogen (H2), which can be combined with captured CO2 to produce hydrocarbon fuels via Fischer-Tropsch catalysis or related approaches.A technical approach is possible today by retrofitting air conditioning systems in houses
A paper published in the journal Nature Communications highlights the possibilities under the title “Crowd Oil Not Crude Oil.”
The paper includes a preliminary technical analysis for three practical use cases – the Frankfurt Fair Tower office building, a typical grocery store and low-energy houses.
The idea could be deployed in individual production units in a home or business; an alternative would be larger crowd-owned production facilities for a whole neighborhood.
The paper states: “This analysis impressively demonstrates that air conditioning systems already in place, if equipped with the appropriate technology, could capture a very significant amount of carbon dioxide.” The envisioned model of “crowd oil” from solar refineries “enables people to take control and collectively manage global warming and climate change, rather than depending on the fossil power industrial behemoths.”Companies have already commercialized technology to capture CO2 directly from the air
Companies have already commercialized technology to capture CO2 directly from the air, for generating H2 electrochemically from H2O, and even for synthesizing gas by converting H2 and CO2 into hydrocarbon or oxygenated fuels. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and expanding to a wider market.
CO2 capture functionality
Adding CO2 capture functionality to an air conditioning system is not difficult and has already been patented as a way of lowering energy requirements.
Using AC to make hydrocarbon fuels, if adapted globally, could be the “AC 2.0” of the 21st century.
In fact, the direct conversion of solar radiation, CO2 and water into hydrocarbon fuels may become a competitive approach in the future.
Local generation of chemical energy sources is especially attractive in regions with underdeveloped infrastructure, such as remote locations and difficult-to-reach islands. Avoiding the need to transport energy sources over long distances also saves energy and costs.There may not be a public appetite for storing renewable hydrocarbon fuels in empty spaces
There are possible drawbacks and obstacles on the way to realizing this approach. For example, there may not be a public appetite for storing renewable hydrocarbon fuels in empty spaces, such as depleted oil wells. Possible contamination of nearby water supplies would need to be investigated. Collective action would also be required among diverse societies around the world.
However, there is appeal to using technology to empower people to become energy independent while helping to solve problems such as greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change.
For the HVAC market, the idea suggests one of many possible ways the industry could be radically different in coming decades. It may seem visionary, but the current rapid pace of technology development suggests the future may come sooner than we think.