In September 2021, we covered a new “green gasoline” concept from Nacero, which involves building gasoline hydrocarbons by assembling smaller molecules of methane from natural gas. Then, in February 2022, the company signed a 20-year agreement with NextEra to supply wind power to the Penwell plant in Nacero with the aim of halving the life cycle carbon footprint of its gasoline with the potential to bring that number down to zero. In doing so, the company claimed that the four million drivers burning Nacero gasoline will deliver the equivalent carbon savings of swapping 11 million ICE vehicles for electric vehicles (!). We politely asked to see their calculations.
NORCO, LA – AUG 21: A gas flare from the Shell Chemical LP oil refinery lights up the sky on August 21, 2019 in Norco, Louisiana. Located about 10 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, the plant agreed to install $10 million in pollution monitoring and control equipment in 2018 to settle claims that the flares used to burn the emissions were operating in violation of federal law (the Clean Air Act). Many coastal parishes in Louisiana have a long and continuous history in oil and gas production, which is often at odds with the concerns of environmentalists. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
55% CO2 savings due to the production process
Nacero’s Penwell facility, with a capacity of 93,000 barrels per day, will generate a CO2 equivalent footprint* of 25 million metric tons per year over its life cycle (Scope 1-3). That’s a 55% reduction from the 56 million tonnes a typical crude oil plant would be allocated to produce an equivalent amount. This is mainly because refining gasoline by reducing the super long and complex hydrocarbons from crude results in all sorts of other heavier and dirtier by-products that you just don’t get when assembling gasoline. gasoline from smaller methane molecules.
*Litter 1 direct emissions figures from sources owned by Penwell; Litter 2 represents indirect emissions from purchased electricity, steam, heat and cooling; and Litter 3 covers all other emissions associated with a company’s activities (emissions from product use, transportation, waste generation and disposal, etc.).
8 million metric tons Not Included
Of this 25 million metric tons, 8 million is allocated to activities such as natural gas extraction and fuel transportation, which are the responsibility of other companies who can claim credit for carbon reduction. result, so to be on the safe side, Nacero’s calculations do NOT include these savings. This avoids the possibility of counting them twice.
Reset of the last 17 million metric tons
Nacero uses four lanes to clear most of the remaining 17 million metric tons:
- Carbon capture and sequestration before combustion (1.4 million tonnes of scope 1 emissions). This is accomplished using an absorption tower with a hot solution of potassium carbonate which collects CO2 which concentrates at the point where natural gas is converted into syngas before becoming gasoline.
- Post-combustion carbon capture sequestration (1.5 million metric tons of Scope 1 emissions) A chemical solvent removes CO2 from the flue gases generated by the heating stacks used throughout the facility, by using existing and commercially proven technologies. The captured CO2 is compressed and piped to a nearby oilfield for use enhancing oil recovery, which sequesters the CO2 underground.
- Use of 100% renewable energy (0.9 million metric tons of Scope 2 emissions) This is where the recently signed NextEra wind power agreement comes in.
- Use of renewable natural gas (11.8 million tonnes of Scope 3 emissions). The main sources of renewable natural gas today are landfills, animal manure and solid waste extracted during wastewater treatment, all of which are sources of waste produced continuously by current activities.
Arriving at this number of 11 million electric vehicles…
So, to recap, there are 31 million metric tons of CO2 savings right from the start of the refining process, plus at least 15.6 million metric tons from the four steps listed above. It’s 46.6 million metric tons. The U.S. Department of Energy gives a typical gasoline-powered vehicle a well-to-wheel CO2 equivalent rating of 11,435 pounds, while an electric vehicle charged to the national electric grid’s average carbon equivalency gets a rating of 3,932 pounds. Using these calculations, switching just under 13.7 million gasoline-powered cars to pure electric vehicles across the country would save an equivalent amount of CO2. Nacero has rounded up considerably to keep its 11 million EVs conservative.
Construction of the Penwell facility has just begun with a goal of partially opening in 2025, producing gasoline that justifies this 55% improvement over gasoline from crude oil. Although the company has started contracting for renewable methane, it would take 10 years to source enough to completely phase out this latest 21% improvement. And a cost per gallon hasn’t been set for gasoline yet, but it’s likely to be staggered. Nacero Blue gas is expected to be price competitive with crude-based gasoline (natural gas feedstock is much cheaper than crude), while Nacero Green will cost more to account for additional expenses related to the supply of renewable natural gas. It should be noted that gasoline cannot actually be made up of this gas, Nacero will simply contract to inject an equivalent quantity of renewable natural gas into the national network.