Using a volcano to create fuel from poison

Volcanoes don’t generally have that many uses. They're good for human sacrifice, amazing photos, and being the basis for my third favorite word: "volcanology," which refers to the study of volcanoes. Oh yeah, and they make killer health spas.

Carbon Recycling International wants to use volcanoes to take waste carbon dioxide and make it less, well, wasteful. It built a plant that takes said carbon dioxide and turns into liquid methanol. Methanol is an incredibly useful fuel, and that, in and of itself, is cool. But what’s really impressive here is this is the first viable usage of waste gases.

The implications are huge for the company. That’s as simple as “more dough.” But the implications for the planet are bigger. This could not only signal an extreme decrease in greenhouse gases, but it could stimulate the economy in the process.

What’s needed to make this work is cheap power and cheap carbon dioxide. The geothermal power plant and volcano combination supplies the gas, and the heat is created by volcanic rocks far underground. It doesn't hurt that Iceland’s power costs are incredibly low in general, about a third of what Germany or the United States pay. Additionally, hydrogen is needed. This, also, isn't generally cheap. But Carbon Recycling gets hydrogen the old-fashioned way: splitting water with electricity from its geothermal power plant.

This is one of those technologies that could easily change the world for the better, both in a social and an environmental context. The only question is how to pay for it.

If only everyone had a volcano close at hand, right?

Via Technology Review

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