Why would someone pour oil down the ground? - India Renewable Energy Consulting – Solar, Biomass, Wind, Cleantech
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Net Zero by Narsi is a series of brief posts by Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi), on decarbonization and climate solutions.
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Why would someone pour oil down the ground?

One would have thought this was batty if it were not for a San Francisco company actually doing business and making money with this idea.

The SFO company Charm is converting biomass into oil and pouring it into the earth.

Top management consulting experts for Bio-energy, EV, Solar, Green Hydrogen

Why would they do this?

One challenge with the CO2 capture pathway is what to do with the captured CO2. While ways to utilize it are emerging (see CLIMAX section on this – https://lnkd.in/gEZB7Gum ) , geological storage of CO2 is currently the most explored route. But CO2 being a gas, there could be challenges – known and unforeseen – with storing it underground.

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On the other hand, what if the CO2 were converted into a liquid and sent down the ground? Could it be an easier and a far more reliable way of ensuring that the carbon remains underground for a long time, without troubling its neighbour ecosystem?

Charm thinks so. And, they are not converting CO2 to liquid, but converting tons of biomass that are “carbon sinks” into a low grade oil through a well-established process called pyrolysis and sending that oil down the ground.

Interesting no doubt, but the obvious question would be – why not use that oil? Something that many pyrolysis businesses are trying to do by refining the liquid…

For one, refining pyrolysis oil to a grade (similar to furnace oil/fuel oil) that can be used by industries could be expensive, and industries could take a while to accept it. But more important, using the oil for heating releases the carbon captured by the plant back into the atmosphere, so the process is not really sequestration, it just is a net zero process.

On the other hand, storing the oil underground is a carbon negative process as you are essentially storing a carbon sink such that the carbon will not be released for a long, long time. (The biomass carbon sink over ground otherwise could have let out the carbon through a variety of processes over a period of time – decaying, composting, getting used as fuel…)

Imagine this scenario: You grow billions of tons of biomass – hopefully quickly – and then convert all these to oil and send them gurgling down into earth. You are essentially taking CO2 off the atmosphere – with generous help from nature – and putting it deep underground. This is in fact reversing the process that we have been following last 100+ years – when we took oil, which is nothing but biomass converted into liquid, from underground and let the carbon out into the atmosphere.

Will Charm’s charm work? Too early to say, but they certainly deserve applause for thinking out of the box.

Get to know more on this from CLIMAX – https://lnkd.in/gbRrB7P8

See a Grist article on Charm – https://lnkd.in/guVBVGxj

Charm website: https://lnkd.in/gK6GW-EQ

Charm Industrial | Shaun Meehan

Grist Emily Pontecorvo

See my LinkedIn post on this topic

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About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.


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