I received an interesting note from the Mantra Venture Group the other day. It had some really interesting things in it. One of their subsidiaries, Mantra Energy, has acquired the intellectual property for a process developed at the University of British Columbia called ERC (short for electro-reduction of carbon dioxide). What ERC does is much different than other carbon sequestration projects you may have read about. Mantra Energy’s ERC process takes carbon dioxide and water, combines it with electricity, and turns it back into methanol or other useful chemicals such as formic acid, formate salts, ammonium formate, and oxalic acid. As the Mantra Energy website explains, ERC doesn’t treat carbon dioxide as the problem, instead it uses its chemical properties as part of the solution. Since there’s so much carbon dioxide being released by fossil fuel combusion, the ERC process converts that carbon dioxide to “useful, financially profitable products.”
Right now these chemicals are produced by thermochemical processing of fossil fuels, but the ERC process has a big advantage. The current process must be performed at high temperatures usually obtained by the burning of fuel. However, the ERC process operates at near ambient temperatures and is driven by electricity that can be supplied by the electric power grid. Mantra Energy feels that the ERC process is a perfect complement to fuel cells, since Mantra’s process can use the carbon dioxide that’s created by non-hydrogen fuel cells and convert it back into the fuel for the cell. They provided an 8 page pdf file that makes for some fascinating reading.