Gas conversion promises profitable climate change mitigation

A “relatively simple” new process of converting methane into carbon dioxide promises to be a counter-intuitive game change for the future decarbonisation of the world’s economy, a new report from Stanford University has found.

Published in Nature Sustainability, the counter-intuitive new method could potentially see a rapid decrease in the total levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

“If perfected, this technology could return the atmosphere to pre-industrial concentrations of methane and other gases,” said lead author Professor Rob Jackson from Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences.

The basic idea is that some sources of methane emissions – from rice cultivation or cattle, for example – may be very difficult or expensive to eliminate.

“An alternative is to offset these emissions via methane removal, so there is no net effect on warming the atmosphere,” said study coauthor Chris Field, the Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The whole process might take the form of a giant contraption with electric fans forcing air through tumbling chambers or reactors full of powdered or pelletized zeolites and other catalysts. The trapped methane could then be heated to form and release carbon dioxide, the authors suggest.

In 2018, methane – about 60 percent of which is generated by humans – reached atmospheric concentrations two and a half times greater than pre-industrial levels. Although the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is much greater, methane is 84 times more potent in terms of warming the climate system over the first 20 years after its release.

The paper can be found here

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