Climate Change Techno-Activist

Life on earth is threatened by greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere. Climate scientists have been sounding this alarm for many years. In 2015, representatives of  196 countries met in Paris and pledged to take abatement measures. But the targets set are not close to being met.  Environmental groups are urging people to become activists to save the planet. Generally, what is meant by that term is a person who strives to achieve a certain outcome by attempting to influence governments to do this and ban that. There is no doubt that that kind of activism is needed.

I invite you to become a different kind of activist; one that actively promotes technologies that can help solve the problem. Be a Climate Change Techno-Activist. There is no better place to start than by promoting Pass-through Distillation (PTD).

Industrial processes use one-third of all the world’s energy. Distillation accounts for one third of that or roughly 10% of all the energy used for any purpose. It all comes from steam generated in boilers burning fossil fuels. In many applications, PTD can replace conventional distillation using much less energy. This by itself is sufficient reason to to promote it.

But PTD has an even more powerful GHG reduction lever.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has modelling software that can predict global temperature rise under various assumptions. They have discovered a few scenarios under which disaster is averted. All of these scenarios include liquid transportation fuel made from biomass. This elevates cellulosic ethanol from the status of “failed commercial experiment”  to “existential imperative”.

But cellulosic ethanol needs an economic breakthrough if it is to proliferate. That breakthrough could be a production technique known in some quarters as “CARAF”, which stands for Concurrent Alcohol Removal And Fermentation. Since the 1970’s this technique has been shown in laboratories to bring about remarkable benefits which, if implemented at plant scale, would bring about large improvements both in capital costs and operating costs. But removal of ethanol from a fermentation broth demands a low temperature separation technique. Conventional distillation is a hot process that kills the microbes that carry out fermentation. The removal techniques used in the lab are not feasible at commercial scale. And so despite its promise, CARAF has not yet been implemented in a commercial ethanol plant.

Pass-through distillation is a scalable separation technology that operates at low enough temperatures to keep yeast alive and well. This fact has recently been demonstrated experimentally at Lambton College in Sarnia Canada.

So Cellulosic Ethanol saves the world, CARAF saves the cellulosic ethanol industry and PTD enables CARAF to work. That’s the essence of the story. Explore this website to learn the details. Hopefully you will become a techno-activist and do what you can to promote the dissemination of knowledge about PTD.

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