SpaceX’s Elon Musk enters carbon capture business

Human-caused climate change, created by the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is an obsession with many both in government and in the media. Musk’s proposal has interesting implications for the question and the accusations that he wants to ditch Earth and go live on Mars. The project will not only help mitigate climate change on Earth, but also contribute to Musk’s desire to build a colony on Mars. Making rocket fuel with CO2 is the easy part of the proposition. A century-old process invented by a Nobel Prize-winning chemist named Paul Sabatier combines CO2 with hydrogen and a catalyst to create methane and water. Musk’s rocket developed by SpaceX in Boca Chica, Texas, uses engines that burn liquid methane and liquid oxygen. NASA uses the International Space Station‘s Sabatier System (ISS) to create water for the crew. The methane is evacuated from the ISS.

The first part of Musk’s plan, sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere, is likely to be more difficult. The idea that capturing carbon from the air would reduce the Earth’s greenhouse gases and thereby mitigate climate change is controversial. One such project, reported by Techcrunch, is being carried out by a company called Climeworks in Iceland. So far, the company has spent between $ 600 and $ 800 removing a ton of carbon dioxide, which is considered prohibitive. Climeworks wants to reduce the cost to between $ 100 and $ 200 per metric ton (also known as a ton) to make the project more economically feasible. If and when a direct air capture solution is obtained, a win-win result will have been obtained. Human civilization will have one or more technologies that will go a long way in solving the climate crisis. Musk will have a source of CO2 to make his own rocket fuel and will continue to pursue his grand design of building a colony on Mars, not to mention the return of humans to the moon and a number of other goals.

Musk funded a $ 100 million X-Prize to encourage the development of carbon capture technologies, noting that “to win the grand prize, teams must demonstrate a working solution at a scale of at least 1000 tonnes removed. per year ; model their costs at the scale of 1 million tonnes per year; and lead the way to achieve a scale of gigatons per year in the future. A rocket whose engines burn liquid methane and liquid oxygen will create water and CO2 in its exhaust. But a world with technology capable of capturing carbon from the atmosphere will likely be more than capable of handling the situation.

Either way, Musk wants to develop both air carbon capture and Sabatier technologies for his Mars implantation project. The idea is to capture CO2 from the Martian atmosphere, hydrogen from water ice, and then convert it into rocket fuel for spacecraft returning to Earth from the Red Planet. Another form of carbon capture is to sequester CO2 directly from power plants. NET Power has a pilot plant a few hours drive from Boca Chica in La Porte, Texas. It burns natural gas but saves and stores CO2 emissions. Could Musk buy the CO2 he needs from the NET factory or a similar source? Perhaps, but never an environmentalist, the Musk might be reluctant to ship gas to Boca Chica by diesel tanker. Is Tesla interested in developing an electrically powered tanker truck?

Mark R. Whittington is the author of studies on space exploration “Why is it so hard to get back to the moon? As well as “The Moon, Mars and Beyond” and “Why Is America Returning to the Moon?” He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDivision reigns over Jan.6 DNC staff votes for unionization Democrats paused on Biden’s climate, social spending program MORE (I-Vt.) Denounced carbon capture as a “false solution”. But the delicious irony is that while Green New Dealers concocts plans to deal with climate change that involve the destruction of the fossil fuel industry, billionaire capitalists like Musk are developing solutions that don’t involve economic calamity too. heartbreaking. Musk and people like him are more likely to succeed where politicians and activists are certain to fail. Musk promises to save Earth and go to Mars.

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