Our Big Idea Challenge (BIC) project titled “Achieving Sustainability and Negative Carbon Emissions in an Agro-Energy Producing Region” was designed to address the Global Grand Challenge of Mitigating Climate Change.
Anthropogenic emissions of CO2 have been the driving force for global warming and climate change which requires aggressive implementation of decarbonizing and negative emission technologies (NET). Our approach calls upon photosynthesis to fix atmospheric CO2 into biomass in Step A, thermochemical engineering to produce gases, a carbon-dense liquid, and a solid in Step D, and geological sequestration of the carbon-dense liquid product (i.e., bio-oil) in Step F. In this “cradle-to-grave” process, we aim to maximize the mass of CO2 that is converted into biomass and sequestered as CO2 -equivalent (CO2 -e) carbon while minimizing CO2 -e carbon emissions in Steps A–F.
Secondary products include a gas (e.g., H2 ) that can be harnessed for hydrogen fuel cells, carbon-containing gases (e.g., CH4 and CO2 ) that can be recycled, and solids (e.g., biochar) that can enrich soils for regenerative agriculture. All nuances of the “cradle-to-grave” process are examined within carbon life cycle assessments (LCAs) and techno-economic analyses (TEAs), which may allow for better management of primary versus secondary products and their end uses. For example, because the $/tonne value of carbon sequestration and $/gal of transportation fuel may both be dynamic, the most beneficial (socio-ecologically) end use of bio-oil may fluctuate or be market driven.