United States Patent Application: 0090130734

Since we've recently documented, as in:

West Virginia Coal Association | US Gov Hires Penn State Bugs to Convert CO2 to Methane | Research & Development; concerning: "US Patent Application 20090317882 - Electromethanogenic Reactor and Process for Methane Production; 2009; Assignee: The Penn State Research Foundation; Abstract: Biological processes for producing methane gas and capturing carbon from carbon dioxide are provided according to embodiments of the present invention which include providing an electromethanogenic reactor having an anode, a cathode and a plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode. Electrons and carbon dioxide are provided to the plurality of methanogenic microorganisms disposed on the cathode. The methanogenic microorganisms reduce the carbon dioxide to produce methane gas, even in the absence of hydrogen and/or organic carbon sources"; and, in:

West Virginia Coal Association | California Bugs Convert CO2 into Methane | Research & Development; concerning: "US Patent Application 20110171711 - Methods and Compositions for Production of Methane Gas; 2011; Inventor: Daniel E. Koshland, Jr.; (Presumed eventual Assignee of Rights: University of California at Berkeley); The present invention provides methods and compositions for sustained methane production from atmospheric CO2 and solar energy from the sun. In general the methods involve culturing cyanobacteria in a first culture vessel and collecting and diverting the photosynthesis products, including glucose or acetic acid, to a second culture vessel including methanogenic bacteria. The photosynthesis products are then used as nutrients by the methanogenic bacteria in the second culture vessel in the production of methane";

that, honest, competent and highly-respected institutions of higher learning are telling us the truth of the matter; which is:

Carbon Dioxide, as is co-produced in only a small way, relative to natural sources of emission, such as volcanoes, from our essential use of Coal in the generation of economical electric power, is a valuable raw material resource.

In the processes of the above two technologies, it can be reclaimed from whatever handy source, and, through the intercession of energy-leveraging microbes, be efficiently converted into Methane.

And, such Methane, as taught us by another institution of higher learning, perhaps nearer and dearer to our old Coal Country hearts, can then, as in:

WVU CO2 + CH4 = Hydrocarbon Syngas | Research & Development; concerning: "New Catalysts for Syngas Production from Carbon Dioxide and Methane; Mahesh V. Iyer; College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University: 2001; This project has demonstrated the performance of a cobalt tungsten carbide material as a catalyst precursor for methane dry reforming with carbon dioxide to produce synthesis gas. (Other concepts could be incorporated as extensions of this work, such as) feeding both water and carbon dioxide along with methane. This forms the combined reforming concept where both steam (H2O) and dry reforming (CO2) reforming can be achieved simultaneously. One advantage of this method is that H2/CO ratios ranging from 1-3 can be produced by tuning the CH4/CO2/H2O feed ratio";

be reacted with even more Carbon Dioxide, perhaps reclaimed from the emissions of a natural gas cleaning and compressing facility, with both gases being transformed through such reactions into a hydrocarbon synthesis gas blend of Hydrogen and Carbon Monoxide, suitable, as via the Fischer-Tropsch process, for catalytic chemical condensation, as WVU in the full text of the above reference specifies, into "long-chain hydrocarbons" and various alcohols.

In any case, since it has been demonstrated, on both sides of the North American continent, in "United States Patent Application 20110171711 - Methods and Compositions for Production of Methane Gas" and "United States Patent Application 20090317882 - Electromethanogenic Reactor and Process for Methane Production"; that, we know how to harness and train "bugs" to eat Carbon Dioxide, and, then, to excrete for us Methane, we document herein that knowledge of such technology has also been established and demonstrated more towards the center of the land mass we call home, as well.

As seen in excerpts from the initial link in this dispatch, with comment inserted and appended, to:

"United States Patent Application 20090130734 - The Production of Methane from CO2

Date: May, 2009

Inventor: Lauren Mets, Chicago

(Note: As we've separately reported and documented, US Patent Applications, at various stages of their process and publication, often do not specify or name the affiliations of the inventors, or, the ultimate assignees of rights to the inventions.

As can be learned via:

Mets Lab; the above-named inventor is an accomplished scientist working in the University of Chicago's Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology. It thus seems likely that the University of Chicago, or their intellectual property ownership subsidiary, will be the Assignee of Rights to any US Patent issuing from our subject, "US Patent Application 20090130734 - The Production of Methane from CO2". - JtM)

Abstract: A method of converting CO2 gas produced during industrial processes comprising contacting methanogenic archaea with the CO2 gas under suitable conditions to produce methane.

(For a little more background, have a look at:

The Earth Life Web, The Euryarchaeota; "Euryarchaeota (and) Methane Producing Archaea".

Further, the critters that can get the job done are thoroughly named and catalogued within the full Disclosure; but, the strings of Latinate titles are relatively meaningless to us mere mortals here, as we presume they would be to any non-students of microbiology among our readers. Thus, we won't be reproducing the names of those critters in our excerpts.)

Claims: A method of converting carbon dioxide produced during an industrial process to methane comprising:

a) preparing a culture of hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea in a bioreactor;

b) supplying an output gas from an industrial process to the bioreactor; wherein the output gas comprises Carbon Dioxide and between 0.02% and 6.7% oxygen; and:

c) wherein the hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea converts the output gas to continuously produce methane.

The method ... wherein the culture is a substantially pure culture of one hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea species. 

The method ...  wherein H2 is supplied in an amount to maintain a redox potential in the bioreactor (and) wherein no additional constituent other than the H2 gas is added to the bioreactor to maintain the redox potential in the bioreactor under -100 mV or less.

(Note that the addition of some elemental Hydrogen leads to an energy demand of "under -100 mV or less" for the production of Methane from CO2 and H2O, which is a pretty-darned low energy demand, and, likely makes getting the additional Hydrogen, perhaps via a process like those described in:

West Virginia Coal Association | Hydrogen for Coal and CO2 Conversion from Wind Power | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 7,199,482 - System and Method for Controlling Wind Farm Power Output; 2007; Assignee: General Electric Company; Abstract: A method for controlling variability in power output of a wind farm supplying power to a grid includes monitoring a power output level of the wind farm. The monitored power output level is compared to a target power output level. A command is issued to increase or decrease electrical power consumption by an electrolyzer system electrically coupled to the wind farm to maintain a net power output level by the wind farm based upon the comparison (and, which electrolyzer system) serves to produce hydrogen from a renewable energy resource (i.e.--wind in this case). Hydrogen thus produced by wind energy is directed to a hydrogen storage unit. The stored hydrogen may be subsequently sold, for example as vehicle fuel"; and:

Chicago Hydrogen from H2O | Research & Development; concerning: "US Patent 4,793,910 - Cell for Unassisted Photocatalysis; 1988; Assignee: Gas Research Institute, Chicago; Abstract: A multielectrode photoelectrochemical cell ... which ... contains two bipolar electrode panels for photoelectrochemical reactions such as water photolysis to produce H2 (and) O2"; and:

West Virginia Coal Association | Germany & Pennsylvania Hydrogen from Hydropower | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 6,864,596 - Hydrogen Production from Hydro Power; 2005; Assignees: Voith Siemens Hydropower Generation GmbH and Incorporated, Germany and York, PA; Abstract: A turbine installation configured for large scale hydrogen production includes a foundation structure separating an upper elevation headwater from a lower elevation tailwater. A generator is supported by the foundation and connected to the runner by a rotary shaft for generating electrical power as the runner rotates. An electrolyzer is electrically coupled to the generator for receiving the electrical power and producing hydrogen. A control system is capable of sensing the remaining hydrogen storage capacity and performing an economic comparison analysis to determine whether operating the turbine to produce additional hydrogen or to supply a utility grid with power provides the highest economic return";

an easy one to economically, maybe even profitably, accommodate and justify.)

The method ... wherein the industrial process is coal gasification, biomass gasification, or liquid fuel production by biomass fermentation.

(As we've previously noted, and, as affirmed above, the production of clean, "green" Corn ethanol, as in "liquid fuel production by biomass fermentation", entails the generation, through various processes, of copious quantities of Carbon Dioxide. As far as "coal gasification" goes, we've previously documented many, many times, as, for just one example, in:

Standard Oil 1953 Syngas from Coal, CO2 and Cellulose | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 2,644,745 - Production of Gases from Carbonaceous Solids; 1953; Assignee: Standard Oil Development Company; Abstract: The present invention relates to the conversion of carbonaceous solids into combustible gases. More specifically, the invention is concerned with the gasification of all types of coal (and) cellulosic materials ... to produce ... gas mixtures containing CO and H2 suitable for the catalytic synthesis of hydrocarbon and oxygenated compounds";

how and why we might want to conduct a little such "coal gasification".)  

The method ... wherein the hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archea species is selected from the group consisting of (dozens of known and specified microorganisms). 

The method ... wherein the conditions include a temperature of about 35C to about 37C.

(Not real hot, in other words. The energy required to maintain the temperatures wouldn't be much.)

The method ... wherein the conditions include a temperature of about 60C to about 65C (for other specific organisms, or) wherein the conditions include a temperature of about 80C to about 100C (for still others). 

A method of converting carbon dioxide produced during an industrial process to methane ... wherein the hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea converts the H2 gas and the CO2 gas to methane.

(And) wherein H2 is supplied in an amount to maintain a redox potential in the first reactor vessel under -100 mV or less, and wherein no additional constituent other than the H2 gas is added to the first reactor vessel to maintain the redox potential in the first reactor vessel under -100 mV or less.

(Again, note: The additional, elemental and molecular Hydrogen is required only to reduce the energy demands of the system. Much of the Hydrogen needed to form Methane will be extracted by the microorganisms from other constituents of their culture media, such as H2O.)

A cascaded bioreactor comprising: a first reactor vessel a second reactor vessel a culture of   methanogenic archaea which is present in the first and second reactor vessels; a source of an output gas from an industrial process comprising CO2 that feeds into the first reactor vessel; a source of hydrogen gas that feeds into the first reactor vessel; a gas feed from the first reactor vessel to the second reactor vessel; a feed to the first reactor vessel for providing fresh medium; a feed to the second reactor vessel for providing fresh medium; a feed to the first reactor vessel for removing the hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea culture; and a feed to the second reactor vessel for removing the hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea culture. 

The cascaded bioreactor ... further comprising: a third reactor vessel; a culture of hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea which is present in the third reactor vessel; a gas feed from the second reactor vessel to the third reactor vessel; a feed to the third reactor vessel for providing fresh medium; and a feed to the third reactor vessel for removing the hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea culture.

Background and Description: Energy self-sufficiency and sustainable energy systems with lower environmental impacts are critical national goals.

At present ethanol production from corn requires significant energy input from fossil fuels for distillation of the final product and for drying of fermentation residues for use in animal feed.

Present domestic ethanol production methods, therefore, are not energetically or economically competitive with ethanol produced abroad from sugar cane.

In addition, one third of the carbon in the corn starch is released as a concentrated CO2 stream during ethanol production.

The U.S. Department of Energy has identified that increasing the energy efficiency and reducing the CO2 emissions of the fuel ethanol production process is essential for increasing the role of ethanol in meeting our energy needs.

Currently, fuel ethanol production relies on federal subsidies for its economic viability. Therefore, it will be important to achieve greater economic efficiency in the ethanol production process if the industry is to be viable and self-sustaining.

The present invention provides a system that reduces the CO2 emissions from industrial processes ... by using a bioreactor system that uses the emissions to produce methane.

(Since "coal gasification" is specifically identified as one of the intended "industrial processes" from which we can utilize the "CO2 emissions", we'll presume that no one would object if we included plain old Coal Combustion, as takes place at a Coal-fired power plant, as well, as one of those "industrial processes" that can produce the valuable "CO2 emissions" which can, via the process of our subject, "United States Patent Application 20090130734 - The Production of Methane from CO2", be so efficiently converted into Methane.

Further, as seen, for just one example, in our report of:

Efficient Capture of Atmospheric CO2 | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 7,993,432 - Air Collector ... for Capturing Ambient CO2; 2011; Assignee: Kilimanjaro Energy, Inc.; Abstract: An apparatus for capture of CO2 from the atmosphere comprising an anion exchange material formed in a matrix exposed to a flow of the air. A process for removing CO2 from atmospheric air at a location remote from where the CO2 was generated";

if it makes more sense to locate an industrial facility operating the process of our subject somewhere "remote from where the CO2 was generated", to take advantage of available space, or locally-abundant sources of environmental energy, such as wind, hydro or solar, and thereby avoid parasitic demands on our Coal-fired power plants to drive or support this CO2-recycling, Methane-synthesizing process, then, given CO2 air capture processes such as that disclosed in "United States Patent 7,993,432 - Air Collector ... for Capturing Ambient CO2", such remote citing options would seem not only possible and profitable, but, downright attractive.)

Summary: The present invention provides a system that converts the CO2 into methane. The present invention utilizes CO2 produced by industrial processes. Examples of processes that produce CO2 are biomass fermentation to produce liquid fuels and coal and biomass gasification processes.

 

(Since they several times specify "coal and biomass gasification processes", it seems pertinent to remind you here, that, as seen in our above citation of "United States Patent 2,644,745 - Production of Gases from Carbonaceous Solids", and, for one more, and more recent, example in:

West Virginia Coal Association | Exxon Co-Gasifies Coal and Carbon-Recycling Biomass | Research & Development; concerning: "US Patent Application 20100083575 - Co-gasification Process for Hydrocarbon Solids and Biomass; 2010; Assignee: ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company; Abstract: A process for the co-gasification of carbonaceous solids (coal) and biomass ... to synthesis gas";

it is perfectly feasible to combine our abundant Coal with renewable Biomass, and, as in "United States Patent 2,644,745", "cellulosic materials", in just such "coal and biomass gasification processes", which might co-produce only a minor amount of Carbon Dioxide - - relative to the amount of Carbon Dioxide being indirectly recycled in the "biomass" and "cellulosic materials" - - with the "synthesis gas"; a concept which introduces an even greater note of CO2-recycling and sustainability into the CO2-recycling premise of our subject, "US Patent Application 20090130734 - The Production of Methane from CO2".

That, since, if you notice, throughout the Disclosure of  "US Patent Application 20090130734", as reflected to a certain extent in our excerpts, stipulation is consistently made for "removing", presumably excess, or overgrown, "hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea culture"; which "culture" would, no doubt, comprise a suitable "biomass", to be combined with Coal, in the above ExxonMobil process of "US Patent Application 20100083575 - Co-gasification Process for Hydrocarbon Solids and Biomass".)

Gasification is a process that converts carbonaceous materials, such as coal, petroleum, petroleum coke or biomass ... into carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. In the system of the present invention, CO2 industrial waste-gas streams, such as those formed during the production of ethanol or those produced by combined cycle coal fired energy plants, is combined with hydrogen and undergoes a microbial fermentation process catalyzed by methanogenic archaea, producing methane and water. Hydrogen gas may be produced from a variety of sources. In one embodiment, inexpensive electric power can be used to produce hydrogen from water via electrolysis. The integrated electrolysis/methane fermentation system can be viewed as converting an intermittent energy source (e.g. inexpensive off-peak electricity from power plants) to a stable chemical energy store, using hydrogen as an intermediate and methane as the final energy carrier."

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The immediately above "inexpensive off-peak electricity" relates again to excess electricity generated by a continuous process during regular, daily periods of lower demand, as in our above-cited report concerning: "United States Patent 6,864,596 - Hydrogen Production from Hydro Power".

And, again and finally, once we have the Methane, generated so efficiently for us by a tank full of bugs, known rather generically as "methanogenic archaea", out of Carbon Dioxide, we can use that CO2-derived Methane, in a follow-on process like that disclosed, again for just one example, in our report of:

Standard Oil 1954 CO2 + CH4 + H2O = Syngas | Research & Development; concerning: "United States Patent 2,676,156 - Preparation of Synthesis Gas; 1954; Assignee: Standard Oil Development Company;

Abstract: The present invention relates to the preparation of a gas comprising carbon monoxide and hydrogen. In accordance with the present invention, carbon dioxide, steam and a light hydrocarbon gas such as methane (are reacted) to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen in proportions suitable for employment in the hydrocarbon synthesis process. By manipulation of the quantities of CH4, H2O and CO2 to be reacted, desired ratios of H2 to CO in the product may be obtained";

to consume even more Carbon Dioxide, recovered from whatever sensible source, in a reaction that produces a blend of Hydrogen and Carbon Monoxide, a "hydrocarbon synthesis gas" of controllable and specifiable composition, suitable for subsequent catalytic chemical condensation, as via, for one example, the now nearly-ancient Fischer-Tropsch "hydrocarbon synthesis process", into a full range of badly-needed liquid hydrocarbon fuels.


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