In September 2021 we covered a new “green gasoline” concept from Nacero, that involves constructing gasoline hydrocarbons by assembling smaller methane molecules from natural gas. Then in February 2022 the company inked a 20-year deal with NextEra to supply wind power to Nacero’s Penwell factory in a bid to halve the lifecycle carbon footprint of its gasoline with the potential to take that number to zero. In so doing, the company claimed that the four million drivers burning Nacero gasoline will deliver the equivalent carbon savings of swapping 11 million ICE vehicles for EVs(!). We politely asked to see their math.
NORCO, LA – AUGUST 21: A gas flare from the Shell Chemical LP petroleum refinery illuminates 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 allegations that flares used to burn off emissions were operating in violation of federal law (the Clean Air Act). Many of the coastal parishes in Louisiana have a long and ongoing history in oil and gas production, which is often at odds with concerns of environmentalists. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
55-Percent CO2 Savings from the Production Process
Nacero’s 93,000-barrels-per-day Penwell facility will earn a lifecycle (Scope 1-3) CO2 equivalent footprint* of 25 million metric tons per year. That’s a 55-percent reduction from the 56 million tons that a typical crude-oil plant would be assigned for producing an equivalent amount. This is mostly because refining gasoline by cutting down super long and complex hydrocarbons from crude results in all sorts of other heavier, dirtier byproducts that you simply don’t get when assembling gasoline from smaller methane molecules.
*Scope 1 figures in direct emissions from sources owned by Penwell; Scope 2 is indirect emissions from purchased electricity, steam, heat, and cooling; and Scope 3 covers all other emissions associated with a company’s activities (emissions from the use of the product, its transportation, waste generation and disposal, etc. ).
8 Million Metric Tons Not Included
Of that 25 million MT figure, 8 million are assigned to activities like natural gas extraction and fuel hauling, which are the responsibility of other companies who can claim credit for the carbon reduction they bring about, so to be conservative, Nacero’s calculations do NOT include these savings. This avoids the potential for double counting them.
Zeroing Out the Last 17 Million Metric Tons
Nacero uses four pathways to offset most of the remaining 17 million metric tons:
- Pre-combustion carbon capture and sequestration (1.4 million metric tons of Scope 1 emissions). This is accomplished using an absorber tower with a hot potassium carbonate solution that collects the CO2 that concentrates at the point where natural gas is converted to syngas on its way to becoming gasoline.
- Post-combustion carbon capture sequestration (1.5 million metric tons of Scope 1 emissions) A chemical solvent scrubs CO2 from flue gas generated by heater stacks employed throughout the facility, using existing, commercially proven technologies. The captured CO2 gets compressed and piped to a nearby oil field for use enhancing oil recovery, which sequesters the CO2 underground.
- Use of 100 percent renewable power (0.9 million metric tons of Scope 2 emissions) Here’s where the recently inked NextEra deal for wind energy comes in.
- Use of renewable natural gas (11.8 million metric tons of Scope 3 emissions). The major sources of renewable natural gas today are landfills, animal manure, and solid waste extracted during wastewater treatment—all sources of waste that are continuously produced by present-day activities.
Arriving at that 11 Million EVs Number…
So to recap, there’s 31 million metric tons of CO2 savings right off the bat from the refining process, plus at least 15.6 million metric tons from the four steps listed above. That’s 46.6 million metric tons. The US Department of Energy assigns a typical gasoline vehicle a well-to-wheels pounds of CO2 Equivalent rating of 11,435 pounds, while an EV charged at the national-average electric grid’s carbon equivalence gets a rating of 3,932 pounds. Using that math, switching just under 13.7 million gas cars to pure EVs across the country would save an equivalent amount of CO2. Nacero rounded down considerably to make its 11 million EVs claim conservative.
When and How Much?
Construction on the Penwell facility is just getting underway with a target of partially opening in 2025, making gasoline that warrants that 55-percent improvement over gasoline from crude. While the company has started arranging contracts for renewable methane, it’s expected to take 10 years to source enough to fully eliminate that last 21 percent improvement. And a per-gallon cost is yet to be set for the gasoline but it’s likely to be tiered. Nacero Blue gas is expected to be priced competitively with crude-based gasoline (the natural gas feedstock is way cheaper than crude), while Nacero Green will cost more to account for the added expense of sourcing renewable natural gas. Note that the gasoline may not actually be constructed of this gas, Nacero will simply contract to have an equivalent quantity of renewable natural gas injected into the national grid.
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