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Physcial Sciences Division
Research Highlights

July 2018

Invited Article Reviews the Current State of Fuel Production from Waste Carbon

Bob Weber, John Holladay, Ellen Panisko, and Lesley Snowden-Swan, portraits
Robert (Bob) S. Weber (top, left), Johnathan Holladay (top right), Lesley Snowden-Swan (bottom, left) and Ellen Panisko (bottom, right) and a team from across the U.S. reviewed ways to increase the value of waste carbon. Enlarge image

City garbage dumps, sewage plants, and stranded natural gas deposits are all sources of carbon that may be converted into liquid fuels. In the U.S., these sources of waste carbon could replace about 10 percent of petroleum imports. However, these sources are geographically dispersed, heterogeneous, and of relatively low economic value. Capturing and converting such sources economically requires a new approach distinct from the centralized refineries that have been envisaged for producing biofuels.

Robert (Bob) S. Weber at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) along with PNNL researchers Johnathan Holladay, Ellen Panisko, and Lesley Snowden-Swan and a team from across the U.S. reviewed ways to increase the value of waste carbon. They estimate that the now-wasted carbon can be converted into a fuel precursor that equates to about 420 million barrels of petroleum a year. This is enough to satisfy around 15 percent of the combined annual demand of the nation's automobile fleet. In the review, the authors evaluated the technological developments needed to produce fuel economically and proposed a roadmap to create the necessary refineries.

The authors were invited to write this review article because of their diverse expertise. The lead author (Weber) conducts research activities in heterogeneous catalysis in PNNL's Institute for Integrated Catalysis and manages the business sector for PNNL's Physical and Computational Sciences Directorate.

The article appears in WIREs (Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews) Energy & Environment. It is an authoritative resource on science and technology, energy policy, and climate and environmental impact.


Sponsors: This review summarizes discussions from a workshop funded by the Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office and the Bioeconomy Institute of Iowa State University. The article was written with funding from sources including Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Institute for Integrated Catalysis and Chemical Transformations Initiative.

Reference: R.S. Weber, J.E. Holladay, C. Jenks, E.A. Panisko, L.J. Snowden-Swan, M. Ramierez-Corredores, B. Baynes, L.T. Angenent, and D. Boysen, "Modularized production of fuels and other value-added products from distributed, wasted, or stranded feedstocks." WIREs (Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews) Energy & Environment. Early online. DOI: 10.1002/wene.308

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