Iceland is known for its beautiful landscapes, with people from all over the world visiting to bathe in the waters of the Blue Lagoon. What some people might not be aware of is that the warm pools contains the waste water of the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station. The plant supplies hot water and energy to the community. It’s been announced that the plant will be supplying carbon dioxide to help power UK cars.
The CO2 is turned into methanol, with 23,000 litres of it set to arrive in the UK. The methanol will be blended with gasoline, which will be enough to power nine cars for a year. Although this may not seem like a lot, the Icelandic methanol would help to limit damage to the environment. The initiative is being overseen by Carbon Recycling International (CRI), which is powered by a volcano.
With companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint, every bit can help. Jamie Turner, professor of engines and energy systems at the University of Bath has a positive attitude about CRI’s method.
“The fuel market in Europe is enormous – and any company that gets 3% of the fuel market would be a huge revenue earner. From the European gasoline blenders point of view, they need to supply fuels with certain renewable credentials to show that they are doing their bit to decarbonise road transport fuel. So, renewable methanol made in that way is a pretty valuable commodity for a refinery or a blender because it allows them to comply with regulations.”
How does the Icelandic carbon recycling work?
The Svartsengi power station receives superheated steam through a vent to power electrical turbines. Before this can happen, the planet needs to separate steam from the mix of CO2 and hydrogen sulphate. Then, the plant splits the CO2 from the mixture and sends the hydrogen sulphate back. Pure hydrogen is then added to the CO2, which is produced using electricity from the plant to split water. This process creates around 4000 tonnes of methanol a year.
Can the CO2 recycling reduce emissions in the UK?
CRI’s head of business development Benedikt Stefansson is confident that CO2 recycling will be a beneficial resource in the future. “I’m quite happy how the UK government went about this. They commissioned several studies and have come to the conclusion that making fuels from electricity is something that is probably an expanding industry in the future – and that it was perfectly competitive with the best biofuels. So they wanted to give it the best incentive to be used by the companies in the UK.”
Stefansson believes that the recycling is renewable, given how much CO2 is produced. Combined with the abundance of Icelandic volcanoes, methanol containers could theoretically be shipped to the UK on a regular basis. Stefansson also plans to invest in wind and solar energy. “We will be buying wind and solar energy for the process to make it in the same way as we are doing here, because the carbon footprint of the energy has to be very low, or zero. In the tank of your car, the energy that you will be extracting from the fuel should be exactly the energy that went in to make it.”
The UK government’s deal with Iceland is an interesting one and there is potential for it to help with reducing vehicle emissions in the future.